London's best cafés and coffee shops
On the hunt for a classier caffeine kick? Here's Time Out's guide to the latest wave of London coffee shops creating a buzz
There’s more to London’s coffee shops than just great brews. The last few years have seen an explosion of coffee culture in the capital, and these are the places to check out this creative community. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
This nice little place opened in November 2011 and it’s a big hit with young locals. It’s easy to see why they come. From the copper lamp fittings to the quirky decor to the massive windows giving a full view of the street scene, this is very pleasant place to while away an hour or two. There’s just one coffee on offer, Union Coffee Roasters’ Revelation blend, and it’s well handled with just one complaint: the cup wasn’t hot enough, so inevitably the brew wasn’t, either. The food ranges from cooked breakfasts to sandwiches, baked spuds and a daily soup and salad. Plus the inevitable baked goods, most of them made on the premises.
The Bottom Line: Well-made bakes and brews in a quirky Archway caff
- 37 Junction Road, N19 5QU
The famous adage about the three keys to success in retailing – ‘location, location, location’ – might have been coined with this place in mind. It shares a building with Central St Martins, and right on its doorstep lies the vast King’s Cross development. The huge stripped-industrial space, originally a grain storage facility, was doing a roaring trade on a wet Thursday lunchtime. And it wasn’t all thirsty students: there were families, suits, tourists. The offering duplicates that of the original Caravan in Exmouth Market: a large, eclectic menu majoring on brunch and breakfast classics, small plates on the main menu, and reasonable prices; a drinks list where wine and cocktails are taken equally seriously; and, of course, the coffee, which is roasted in plain view. The food is terrific; so is the coffee. A textbook espresso (fabulously fruity blend) and a beautifully feathered flat white. The noise-averse might have problems. Everyone else will love it. This place is great.
The bottom line: A brilliant success on all fronts – this caravan’s an oasis in the King’s Cross concrete desert.
- Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, N1C 4AA. King’s Cross.
Opened in February 2013 by a refugee from high finance, Camdenites are embracing the Coffee Jar enthusiastically. There’s seating for just ten people, with minimal decor based on large quantities of reclaimed scaffolding board. The house beans come from Monmouth, with a changing roster of guest. Our espresso came from the hand of a barista who worked meticulously, right down to warming the cup with a puff of steam to ensure a properly hot shot. The food offering is sharply focussed: a few sandwiches, plus baked goods both bought in and produced on-site. Add on friendly service and you’ve got a winning formula. We can see why most of the customers during our visit were regulars.
The Bottom Line: A minimalist caff in Camden with beans from Monmouth Coffee
- 83 Parkway, NW1 7PP
The Fields Beneath is a classic of local history written about Kentish Town by long-time resident Gillian Tindall, and the name is appropriate for this coffee bar: TFB has a real neighbourhood feel. It isn’t surprising that K-Towners have taken to it enthusiastically since it opened late in 2012. The place is tiny, with just one long(ish) table for communal sipping, but ample space for the takeaway crowd (many emanating from the Kentish Town West overground station next door). Beans are rotated fortnightly with Roundhill, Notes and Butterworth all making a regular appearance. An espresso made using beans from the Roundhill Roastery was flawless, with an especially fine crema. But you could easily come here just for the food. A monster cookie, dense with dark chocolate, was sublime and sizeable. Even better is their beef donut, braised shin inside a lightly sweet bread case. On our visits we have watched the crowds come in search of sandwiches to take away, while our table companions chatted merrily to each other and to the staff. TBF already feels like part of the KT family. Let’s hope the love continues.
The bottom line: A tiny operation, almost brand-new, which has already won the hearts and minds of Kentish Town.
- 53 Prince of Wales Rd, NW5 3LR. Kentish Town West Overground.
Sungjae Lee learned to love good coffee in his native Seoul. Since moving to London in 1988 he’d thought about opening a coffee bar. Late in 2012, after a year of planning, building and training, he achieved his ambition. The tiny space (table seating for 10) used to be part of Mr Lee’s estate agent office, which he still operates next door, just 30 seconds or so from the tube station. There are a few pastries from Gail’s Bakery and a good set of teas and a few soft drinks. But mostly there is espresso and its derivatives, made with beans from Monmouth. And what we tasted was exemplary: great beans perfectly brewed to give a beautiful crema with the rounded sweetness that makes Monmouth’s espresso blend so distinguished. Finchley Road is not exactly crowded with great places for coffee, and that makes this diminutive spot not just unusual but very welcome.
The bottom line: Miniature in size but mammoth in quality, a welcome addition to drab Finchley Road.
- 4 Canfield Gardens, NW6 3BS
Other great places to drink coffee in north London
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What about patisseries and coffee shops in the suburbs - Yvon's artisan Patissier in Ealing Broadway has excellent coffee and pastires and cakes and good service.
Great article! Love the idea with the tube map. There are a whole load of NonProfit cafes in East London that could be added, especially on Brick Lane, Kahaila Cafe has great coffee and cakes! Keep up the good work TimeOut. Cheers
I've placed all the cafes reviewed in central London on a map. I did it because I'm doing my own bit of research. The reviews on here have been very useful, thank you TimeOut. I hope this map can be of use to others. http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid= 205388326386877886143.0004f1be3d59d4b47621f
For the east of London, there is a new place that should be mentioned, Stepney City Farm, not only sells beautiful coffee, (using Climpsons and Sons beans) Tea, (from Joes Tea Company) and hot chocolate (from Jaz and Juls).But it is a little peice of something else, set in the middle of a city farm, where you can watch the donkeys and goats while enjoying your drinks! The food is pretty spot on too, and its all localy sourced! Truly the only place in london to get an 'Affa-goat-to'
You need to check out The Urban Chocolatier in Whitechapel. This chocolate coffee shop is amazeballs!
What must be London's tiniest coffee shop - a minuscule battle waged between this slip of a place and the hole-in-the-wall that is StArt coffee on Columbia Road - opened today in the coffee mecca that is Fitzrovia (... it is said that all barista's tampers in London are positioned to face towards this arabica-dense area). In yet another unorthodox venue - wedged, Senkaku-like, in between a Chinese and a Japanese restaurant - Fitzrovians can yet again sate their desire for an espresso and a chat in non-conventional environs. With Attendant having opened on Foley Street only months ago, the wise money is on the next coffee shop opening between floors 16-20 of the BT Tower, the daily menu scrolling across its expansive LED screen for your convenience. Ridiculousness aside, this place pulls a decent shot from some serious kit (Nude's 'East' blend via a La Marzocco), the flat white I ordered providing a muted citrussy-zing and finish of toasted nuts. The interiors of the place could best be described as following TAP's deconstructed flea-market-chic vibe (which arguably 'fits' this particularly small space better than a full-sized cafe), with two stools optimistically placed outside for those braver and more garrulous than myself. The man behind the operation, a smiling, personable chap whose name I didn't manage to obtain, assures me he's here for the long-haul (as opposed to filling a gap in an under lease or similar) and seems pleasingly bullish about his chances in the area. When I mentioned the quality of the competition in the area, his response was "I know... good, right?". Excellent stuff. This said, to assume direct competition with the likes of Kaffeine, TAP etc would be to miss the point: GSE fills a different, smaller niche (if you'll indulge the metaphor) - and I'm sure the passing commuters and residents of the area will appreciate this newcomer for what it is.
Went to FreeState Coffee after reading this guide yesterday. Coffee, and staff very good, but no toilet!!! How can you put a cafe without a toilet on this list???? Another (subjective) point that I didn't like was that it is relatively small but with an enormous glass facade, so very hard to feel you have escaped the 'hustle and bustle' which is what I look for in a cafe.
Disagree with Barossa. Customer service is absolutely abysmal. Food is nothing to write home about and venue is small and not well laid out. Afraid to say it but the coffee was not on par - I sent mine back and my mates forced theirs down. Don't waste your time. Pop over the river to Grind instead.
DISAGREE entirely re: Lola& Simon (Kings Road) - coffee is *not* great. Barely good, and not even enough to elevate the cafe into the great coffee places. This list also managed to omit several obvious west London independents within striking distance, all making great coffee: Hummingbird (Oaklands Place), Artisan (Kings Road), and Lavelli (Askew Road). Your reporters didn't actually do any work for this list.
Tomtom coffee house on Elizabeth Street is by far the best coffee in London. It's a relaxed atmosphere and everything is top quality standard.
NOT a REAL HONEST LIST... it s shocking you missed 'Caffettino' from your south London List!!!! already on many guides and on the top 50 independent coffee shop in London by Evening Standard! Amazing Quality Coffee and the best food ever!!! ... no comment... go and check it out: www.facebook.com/pages/Caffettino/125150564235231