Vins, Canonbury: restaurant review

Between Dalston and Islington is a still somewhat unexplored glut of pubs, shops and venues waiting for you to discover, and wine bar and restaurant Vins is the pick of the bunch

What's the draw

Canonbury is one of those London neighbourhoods that's probably best known by the people who live there. But given its proximity to Dalston, Islington, Newington Green and the surrounding area – not to mention a wealth of genuinely great pubs and restaurants – it's high time you spent some time there, too. First on your list should be Vins, a charming neighbourhood wine bar and the brainchild of Vinny Burke, formerly of the sadly departed, modern Ashkenazi Jewish brasserie Jago in Brick Lane. Yes, it's natural-leaning wine and small plates, but there's enough ingenuity flowing out of the tiny kitchen and cosy room to make it seriously worthy of a visit.

What to drink

You know the score here: order an aperitif wine to start and a couple of glasses of white and red as lighter dishes turn to heartier ones. We started with a crisp Blanquette de Limoux crémant from the Languedoc, all grapefruit and pear drop on the palate. Then, with mains, the 2015 'Plenus' passerina from winemaker Marina Palusci in Abruzzo, Italy provided gentle oak, with kiwi fruit notes and a gentle haze characteristic of the kind of low-intervention style favoured in these parts; while the Stella Luna 'Small Fry' 2016, a blend of cinsault and grenache from the Barossa Valley in Australia, was a big-hitting blend of big tobacco notes, lively redcurrant and soft but assertive tannins.

What to eat

In make-up, dinner here feels more like grazing than feasting, but regardless there are some great dinner-worthy dishes on the menu: there's a big hit vinegar on pickled beets that's counterbalanced by creamy labneh and the bitterness of winter leaves; a confident little square of potato and celeriac gratin with a slick of celeriac purée is pure winter comfort food without going overboard on the indulgence factor; and a rolled lamb belly – cooked super-hot and then low and slow, blistered fat and tender flesh, is made all the richer with a stew of herby caramelised onion underneath. Small plates they may be, but they're filling, so we skip dessert in favour of a sliced fig and honey dish, whose measured thyme and salt pulls it back from the brink of dessert territory (but which makes a great gateway dish nonetheless).

Wine from £8.50 by the glass; small plates from £4. 93 Grosvenor Avenue, N5 2NL;