London's best cafés and coffee shops

  • Central | North | South | East | West


    • Photo for A Little of What You Fancy A Little of What You Fancy

      A Little of What You Fancy

      464 Kingsland Rd, London, E8 4AE (020 7275 0060/ Dalston Junction Overground or 67, 242 bus.

      As its name suggests, there's a bit of tweeness going on here – and it's all quite British. Set up by two friends, Lola Coone and Elaine Chalmers, ALOWYF is pitched into the all-day café market, serving breakfast and brunch through to lunch and dinner. In the slow afternoons, a bevvy of cakes come out – walnut and olive oil, say, or pistachio and lemon. A very good all-rounder in the heart of Hackney. Read more

  • Allpress Espresso

    58 Redchurch St, London, E2 7DP (020 7749 1780). Liverpool St tube/rail or Shoreditch High St Overground.

    Redchurch Street sees another huge coffee launch (the first being the dearly missed Penny University) as New Zealand's Allpress Espresso opens its first outlet in Europe. An impressive selection of coffee beans are roasted in-house. The brews are offered alongside a quirky (but excellent) food menu which includes the sublime cake, gateaux basque. A great place to refuel before braving the crowds on Brick Lane on Sundays. Read more

  • Cà Phê VN

    Broadway Market, E8 ( Bethnal Green tube or London Fields rail or 26, 48, 55 bus. Saturdays 11am-5pm.

    The metal stools and foldaway tables of this market stall evoke the charm of streetside caffs in Ho Chi Minh. Husband-and-wife team Rob Athill and Tuyen Hong dish out cup after cup of Vietnam’s finest coffee. Made using the drip-filter method, its strength is not for the faint-hearted; though in the traditional Vietnamese way, the espresso can be lightened with sweet and sticky condensed milk.

  • Climpson & Sons

    67 Broadway Market, E8 4PH (020 7812 9829/ Bethnal Green tube or London Fields rail or 26, 48, 55 bus.

    Macchiato, piccolo, zola, gibraltar... you can have it all at this excellent coffee shop in the middle of Broadway Market. The baristas are mostly antipodean, and all do an exceptional job at pulling the perfect shots. Their quest for self-improvement is continuous, in the form of new latte art, or the investment in naked La Marzocco portafilters (which allow baristas to see whether or not they’re pulling the perfect shot). Such coffee geekiness is charming. Read more

  • Container Cafe

    The View Tube, The Greenway, Marshgate Lane, E15 2PJ (07530 274160/ Pudding Mill Lane DLR.

    Come 2012, perhaps this café (as well as its sister, Counter Café) will be on the map proper thanks to its proximity to the Olympic stadium. But for now, it remains the preserve of some very lucky locals thanks to its ‘where-the-hell-is-it’ elusiveness. Apart from some outdoor tables and a hint of a coffee cup or a half-eaten muffin, the café is well integrated into its industrial surroundings – the View Tube, a building made from vivid green-painted shipping containers. Make the trip before it becomes overrun by lost Olympic tourists. Read more

  • Counter Café

    Roach Rd, E3 2PA (07952 696388/ Hackney Wick tube/rail or bus 488.

    This isn't the first bit of London you'd think of when looking for a buzzy café, but this once-unloved brick bungalow is terrific. Like its sister, Container Café (see above), a mere 15 minutes' worth of cycling away, this is a place worth making a journey for. The lucky locals often come down for breakfast or brunch, which is what the Counter Café really excels in. Sunny poached eggs atop potato cakes and smoked salmon, say, or spiced Mumbai scrambled eggs make a great start to the day accompanied by freshly squeeze orange juice and a smooth flat white. Read more

  • Hackney Pearl

    11 Prince Edward Road, London, E9 5LX (020 8510 3605/ Hackney Wick rail.

    It may be a wee bit out of the way, but few have come and left with regrets. A buzzing community atmosphere is fuelled by good food and drink and friendly staff; it's no wonder this humble place won our award for Best New Café in the Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards 2010. By day, the coffees and cakes are sublime. By night, the Pearl (as it's known by locals) serves up deliciously substantial meals, from roast dinners on Sundays to Turkish mezze plates or sweetcorn fritters. Guest chefs tend to do stints here, too, so keep up to date by visiting their website. Read more

  • Leila's Shop

    17 Calvert Avenue, London, E2 7JP (020 7729 9789). Shoreditch High Street overground.

    Leila McAlister's eclectic deli-café has been a favourite of the Shoreditch crowd for years. Come for the people watching and much talked-about egg brunches – one of our favourites is served stylishly in skillets and topped with ribbons of serrano ham. Read more

  • Nude Espresso

    26 Hanbury Street, Whitechapel, E1 6QR (07804 223590/ Liverpool St tube/rail.

    This Kiwi-run café is staffed with Aussies, and the result is quite often textbook-perfect flat whites – perfect with the antipodean treats called friands (small cakes made with ground almonds; here, they come studded with blueberries). The counter tops host big, doorstop sandwiches and fat slices of cake and golden tarts. Brunch is served too, with various eggy preparations or crepes available alongside sweetcorn fritters and french toast. Read more

  • Pavilion Café

    Victoria Park, Crown Gate West, E9 7DE (020 8980 0030). Bethnal Green tube/Hackney Wick rail/bus 26, 277.

    Between an Australian and a tea merchant, you’re bound to get an excellent café, but is the coffee up to scratch? As we, and its legions of fans will attest, yes. Brett Redman and Rob Green have created a community focal point in the resplendent Victoria Park, where the flat whites are carefully constructed with Monmouth coffee and creamy Ivy House Farm organic milk. Everyone, from the area’s local families to be-fashioned Hackneyites lounge harmoniously side by side, enjoying the legendary fry-ups and organic dishes in the welcoming surroundings. Read more

  • Prufrock Coffee

    140 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JE

    East London: stomping ground of the coffee connoisseurs. No-one should pass through Shoreditch without a pilgrimage to Prufrock, the winner of our Best Cup of Coffee award in 2010. There are no seats (save for a bench just outside the shop), but you can linger around the counter for some quality coffee talk. Read more

  • Railroad

    120-122 Morning Lane, London, E9 6LH (020 8985 2858/ Hackney Central Overground.

    Cobbled together from a former barber shop and a Nigerian wine bar, Railroad is oh-so-Hackney. It's got great pedigree, too, being owned by Lizzie Parle and her partner (Lizzie's brother is Stevie, the young chef behind the commendable Dock Kitchen in Ladbroke Grove). The food and drink have proven to be draws – the tiny kitchen is ambitious enough, serving dishes such as breaded quail with fish sauce, or chorizo and lentil stew with own-made bread. In the day, sit down to some excellent coffee (served in cups made by Lizzie's mum) and banh mi (Vietnamese baguettes), which (according to their blog) have proven to be popular with the Vietnamese locals. Read more

  • Taste of Bitter Love

    276 Hackney Road, Hackney, E2 7SJ ( Bus 28, 48, 55.

    Perhaps the most charming outfit on a depressing Hackney thoroughfare, Taste of Bitter Love is a small (with barely enough room for more than ten people) but effective. The motto? 'Really, really good food and coffee' – you can't get much better than that. The beans are from Square Mile, while along with the own-made cakes and pastries, there are some sweet treats bought in from Clarkes. Read more

  • Towpath

    42 De Beauvoir Crescent, N1 5SB. Liverpool St or Old St tube/rail then 67, 149, 242, 243, 394 bus.

    This towpath café is not on the most picturesque stretch of the Regent’s Canal – it overlooks the rather bleak backsides of industrial warehouses and workshops that line the waterway. But its unassuming location and slightly dishevelled surroundings is part of the illusion, because this is one of the best cafés we’ve been to this year. It's best during the warmer months, though they've been providing vintage blankets for huddling under in cooler weather. It’s modestly decorated with rustic details, placing more attention on the simple, ingredients-led menu: olive oil cake, celeriac soup, Eton mess and grilled Montgomery cheddar sandwiches. Lingering is encouraged, whether it be on flour sack-covered seats, a perch at the large communal table, or the garden furniture lining the exterior walls, metres away from the waterside and fowl. Oh, and did we mention who conceived this brilliantly-executed, daylight-hours café? None other than Italian food writer Lori De Mori and her husband, food photographer Jason Lowe. Keep it under your hat. Read more

  • Wilton's

    63 Wilton Way, Hackney, E8 1BG (020 7249 0444). Hackney Central overground or rail.

    East London is not short of great cafés, and this newcomer to the scene is gunning to be one of the best. With beans roasted by locals Climpson & Son's, ingredients for breakfast and café snacks sourced from esteemed suppliers (Neal's Yard Dairy and Brindisa, say), a great look and creative vibe, Wilton's is small but already ahead of the pack. Read more

Central | North | South | East | West