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November 3, 2022

Angelina: A Weird but Wonderful East London Star

Restaurant of the Week: This eatery fuses the distinct cuisines of Italy and Japan to gratifying effect.

By Kim Ayling

Angelina first opened in the east London neighborhood of Dalston in 2019, but considering the impact of the past few years on the hospitality industry, the restaurant could stake a good claim as a relative newbie.

Headed up by Joshua Owens-Baigler – formerly of London institution The River Café – and Amar Takhar, Angelina belongs to the new wave of fusion restaurants and deftly mixes the food of Japan and Italy. While this might seem at odds to begin with, one or two dishes in and the compatibility of the two cuisines becomes clear.

The two young restaurateurs cite their time traveling through both countries as the catalyst for Angelina, and while they don’t claim to know the food of Italy or Japan inside out, their homage to them is considered, careful and beautifully executed.

[See also: The Emerald Isle Welcomes Terre at Castlemartyr Resort]

Joshua Owens-Baigler and Amar Takhar
Joshua Owens-Baigler and Amar Takhar / ©Anton Rodriquez

The restaurant gladly admits that it wants to challenge its guests and challenge it does. There are no promises that you’ll enjoy every dish, but we can all but guarantee you’ll be intrigued by each – and you definitely love most of them.


While Angelina is the brainchild of Owens-Baigler and Takhar, the running of the kitchen falls on the shoulders of head chef Usman Haider. Haider grew up in the Kashmir region of India, but like the restaurant’s founders, it was his travels around the world, particularly Pakistan and Bahrain, that sparked his passion for food.

Counting the likes of Yottam Ottolenghi’s celebrated NOPI and the beloved Polpo on his resume, Haider is no stranger to London’s melting pot of restaurants. He joined Angelina as sous chef in the summer of 2019, but by the following year, he had taken on the role of head chef. Under his lead, the restaurant’s unique cuisine has gone from strength to strength.


angelina doughnuts dish
The Kaiseki menu begins with a spread of small, snack-like dishes for the table / ©Anton Rodriquez

Angelina offers two menus: a ten-course Kaiseki offering or a more compact four-course Omakase menu. Each rotates every five weeks to reflect the seasonality of ingredients. While each new menu is entirely different from its predecessor, favorite dishes do tend to crop back up now and then, with each holding true to that intriguing fusion of Japanese and Italian flavors.

Our visit in late October revealed a menu just beginning to adapt to the bounty of fall ingredients, with a few remnants of late summer still lingering. The Kaiseki option kicked off with a spread of small, snack-like dishes for the table. There was a slab of classically Italian focaccia with a shiso-spiked caponata; slices of sweetbread sandwiched between bouncy Hokkaido milk bread and finished with a drizzle of sweet tonkatsu sauce, and slightly charred piadina breads topped with a gooey slice of gorgonzola and Japanese eel. We were off to a weird but wonderful start.

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The ‘raw’ course follows a similar vein, with a selection of small but perfectly formed dishes. Italian sushi isn’t common, but beetroot wrapped up in nori and served with a fig umeboshi dipping sauce works better than you could imagine. Razor clams with honey-sweet Japanese persimmon and pops of pomegranate are equally as delicious.

[See also: Decimo: Three Years On and Still London’s Coolest Restaurant]

angelina restaurant crudo
Angelina offers two menus: a ten-course Kaiseki offering or a more compact four-course Omakase menu / ©Anton Rodriquez

Later in the menu, the larger dishes definitely take on a more Italian feel, with just a hint of Japanese influence. A giant raviolo that slices to reveal an oozing smoked egg was an undisputed highlight, as was the delicate plate of quail leg, served with a spoonful of tart blackberry sauce and a dollop of pureed pumpkin, and finished with a sprinkling of hazelnuts.

While the menu broaches continents, the wine list is firmly Italian. The selection is long and varied, but every bottle proudly champions only indigenous grapes. Angelina’s sommelier – who conveniently hails from Piedmont – is also mixing things up with a few low-intervention orange wines, too.


angelina restaurant interiors
A long, squishy banquette sits in front of the enormous window that bathes the restaurant in natural light / ©Anton Rodriquez

Angelina’s recent refurb didn’t result in any drastic changes, but more a subtle upgrade of its lovely dining room. Designed by Owens-Baigler’s mother Anna Owens – of interior firm Anna Owens Designs – the space is a vision of simplicity.

A long, squishy banquette sits in front of the enormous window that bathes the restaurant in natural light, with a cool gray color scheme (black ceilings are a bold but well-executed touch) offset by the oversized fig tree that sits in the middle of the room.

Satisfyingly spaced-out tables mean nabbing a reservation is tricky with just a handful of seats, but a large terrace out front provides extra space come summer. It’s heated and covered in winter, but still probably only best for a drink. The cozily lit dining room is the place to be once the colder months hit. Every table has a view of the open kitchen, but for a front-row view of the action, book one of the bar seats.

Angelina, 56 Dalston Lane, London, E8 3AH,

The Elite Traveler Holiday Gift Guide launches on November 2 with over 100 ideas across 10 categories. Visit the Elite Traveler Holiday Gift Guide here.

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