Four Legs at The Compton Arms, London N1: Restaurant Review

Four Legs at The Compton Arms, London N1: restaurant review

Try asparagus in XO sauce, spicy clams with aubergine and pork, and mezcal negronis at this beloved Islington pub.

 Four Legs in a nutshell

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Umami-laden European and Asian plates at a hidden-gem neighbourhood boozer.


Who’s cooking?

Chef duo Jamie Allan (Hill & Szrok) and Ed Mcllroy (BAO), aka Four Legs, recently took over the kitchen of The Compton Arms, serving up sharing plates with eclectic culinary influences and an emphasis on seasonal British produce.


What’s the vibe?

Former local George Orwell liked this north London watering hole so much that he used it as inspiration for his essay ode to the perfect pub, The Moon Under Water. Located on a serene backstreet minutes from busy Highbury Corner (though it’s so quiet you’d never know), The Compton Arms is one of those understatedly lovely urban boozers that Londoners treasure. Owner Nick Stephens took over the place in 2018 (he also runs The Gun in Hackney) and though the space has had a respectful refresh (think charcoal-hued panelling, cream walls and wooden floors), it still feels very much like a traditional pub – you’ll feel entirely at home perching at the bar with a pint. Staff are winningly friendly, and efficient.

A pub
Though the space has had a respectful refresh (think charcoal-hued panelling, cream walls and wooden floors), it still feels very much like a traditional pub

What’s the food like?

The pithy, regularly changing menu hops all over the globe, from China to Italy and plenty in between. Dishes – they arrive swiftly – are confident in their simplicity, and pack in masses of punchy flavour.

Meaty wedges of the sweetest tomato are slicked in grassy olive oil, with pungently garlicky croutons and fragrant drifts of fresh dill, chives, basil and mint.

a plate of tomatoes and green leaves
Meaty wedges of the sweetest tomato are slicked in grassy olive oil

Next up, a plate of vivid-green asparagus spears slink in a shallow pool of salty, fishily intense XO sauce (order E5 Bakehouse bread to mop up the remnants of the rusty-hued oil), topped with delicate rings of sweet shallot.

A plate of asparagus
A plate of vivid-green asparagus spears slink in a shallow pool of salty, fishily intense XO sauce

Golden, plump cheese and herb fritters are airily light yet rich, while spicy clams with pork and aubergine are a moreish Asian take on surf and turf, the meaty vegetable soaking up the briny broth of the shellfish, the rich pork and sweet yet savoury clam meat an umami dream pairing.

A plate of clams
Spicy clams with pork and aubergine are a moreish Asian take on surf and turf

We finish with the cheeseburger – a departure from the elegant sharing plates that preceded it, but one to choose if you’re in the mood for some classic pub grub. And it is worth ordering – glossy, squidgy brioche bun, a caramelised yet juicily dripping patty, tangy diced gherkin and onion, and a blanket of oozy cheese.


And the drinks?

Order a pint at the bar, or choose from a simple wine list – we enjoyed a velvety pinot noir and juicy malbec. There’s also a fun roster of cocktails, from mezcal negronis to margaritas made with Stellacello – a grapefruit liqueur produced in Bethnal Green.


olive tip

If you’re coming for dinner, avoid Arsenal match days, when the pub gets busy.

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comptonarms.co.uk