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.
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.
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). 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
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