Food writers are the unsung heroes of the culinary world. They can inform and inspire, delve into the cultural history of cuisines and bring some back from the brink of extinction. They bring us timeless recipe books that read like novels, or shine light on cuisines we barely knew existed. They encourage us to get back in the kitchen – or to just eat more. And where there's a writer, there's usually a trusted café to retreat to when deadlines need to be met. Here, five food writers share their most beloved spots in London to work in.
Anna Jones's top three
With books like 'A Modern Way to Eat' and 'A Modern Way to Cook', Anna Jones has put the flavour back into vegetarian cooking. Her Guardian Cook column showcases the vibrant, sumptuous possibilities of meatless cooking – most of which you don’t realise are vegetarian until you have saved £10 and feel lighter than air.
'When it's sunny there is no better place to work. Surrounded by herbs and vegetable beds, this Dalston gem is a real community resource. In the summer local kids do pizza-making classes in one corner, but this place is big and so there is still always a quiet corner. The downside is there is no wifi and no plugs so you have to charge up before you leave, but for writing when I welcome a day without distraction, it is perfect. It serves tea, cake and wine but you can also bring in your own food and there is a wealth to choose from on Kingsland Road nearby.' 13 Dalston Lane, E8 3DF
'I've been using the Southbank Centre as a spot to work in since I went freelance seven years ago. I take out a yearly membership which allows me to use the member’s area on the top floor which has a stellar view over the river and loads of light. It’s set up as a workspace so there are desks and plug sockets but it has become really popular so you have to get there early for a good spot or take your chances. Working there takes me out of my daily loop in Hackney, and I get to meet other creative people. Lunch can be eaten watching life on the Thames. Looking out over the river always reminds me how much I love our city.' Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
'This is my favourite place for a working brunch. Writing and talking about food never ceases to make me hungry, which can be a problem as I do it all day long! So I try not to snack while I write but make sure I have a proper breakfast or brunch. Tucked away near Caledonian Road and Barnsbury, this place has a sunny garden and one of those menus where I want to eat everything. Recent highlights have been roasted harrissa carrots, courgette fritters and cornbread. It’s a pretty ideal situation.' 169 Hemingford Road, N1 1DA
Oliver Rowe's top three
Chef and food writer Oliver Rowe has just released 'Food for All Seasons' – a culinary journey through the calendar. Drawing on his life’s work, he paints a tender portrait of seasonal, local ingredients. As well as an array of residencies and pop-ups, he also runs a seasonal supper club once a month at the London Cooking Project in Battersea.
'Another purveyor of Square Mile coffee, a great ham cheese and pickle toastie and good music – bijou and full of bustle, with the best signage ever. Love the story behind the name too.' 52a, Prince of Wales Road, NW5 3LN
'I love the upstairs at Quo – many a word written over an Americano (the alcoholic sort) and a grilled chicken sandwich. And those chips! It’s all change there now so I’ll be without one of my favourite spots for a little while – but I’m sure they’ll make it beautiful.' 26-29 Dean Street, W1D 3LL
'Quite an obvious choice and only just gets in over Clerkenwell classic Look Mum No Hands!, but this place is really set up for working away from home, and has a very good selection of cake – essential fuel for freelancers.' 7 Upper St Martin's Ln, WC2H 9DL
Meera Sodha's top three
Celebrating the flavours of her Gujarati roots, Meera Sodha’s first cookbook 'Made in India' was named The Times’ book of the year in 2014. 'Fresh India', her latest book, is hot (and spicy) off the press, exploring the endless varieties of vegetarian Indian food. As well as conjuring up mouth-watering recipes in her books, Meera writes for a host of national magazines.
Ambrose Café at Heals
'Tucked away amongst the cushions and rugs upstairs at Heals is a fabulous brasserie-style café. To one side, a big wooden table is set up with discreet freelancer-friendly plugs, the food is good and there’s table service so there’s no fear about losing your place for a cup of coffee.' 196 Tottenham Court Road, W1T 7PJ
'This bright and airy café just off Leather Lane market serves superb coffee. Although it tends to fill up with freelancers during the day, it’s big and airy enough to feel spacious.' 23-25 Leather Lane, EC1N 7TE
'A joyful buzzing spot packed full of lots of tables and benches, espresso-drinking, Lycra-clad cyclists and gorgeous old cycling memorabilia. It’s a happy place to while away work time.' 49 Old Street, EC1V 9HX
Jordan Bourke's top three
With 'Our Korean Kitchen', the book he co-wrote with fashion-designer wife Rejina Pyo, Jordan Bourke has demystified Korean food once and for all. Noticing a tragic lack of authentic restaurants in London, Jordan began learning the techniques of Korean cooking from Rejina’s mother, bringing them back to England in the form of supper clubs and articles for national papers.
'This great little organic health food store and café is just around the corner from me, so I always end up coming here for forgotten ingredients. It has a small bar counter with stools at the window that is great for alfresco working when I get cabin fever at home.' 8 Crescent Road, N22 7RS
'This is such a lovely spot in the heart of Crouch End (they have another café in Stoke Newington). Great for long weekend breakfasts while you mull over your week ahead.' 22 Middle Lane, N8 8PL
'This is a really cool spot in Haringey. I love coming here to all the amazing Turkish shops, and then chilling in the window seats at Blend. They are very serious about their coffee and also sell some seriously aspirational Scandi crockery and candles.' 587 Green Lanes, N8 0RG
Felicity Spector's top three
When she’s not covering stories on some of the country’s most accomplished chefs or sharing dishy photos with her 30k-odd Instagram followers, you can find Channel 4 News’ programme editor at work choosing the country’s finest food as a judge for the Great Taste Awards. Which sounds like a ghastly job.
'Light, airy, and an outside terrace in summer. Beyond the crowded lunch hour, this is a real haven of calm. Plus, excellent soda bread.' 1-4 Sutton Lane, EC1M 5PU
'I love a good hotel lobby. This one is not only comfortable and spacious, but has reliable wifi and excellent coffee.' 100 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JQ
'For those moments when you don't need more caffeine and only the prospect of dozens of selected teas will do.' The Bower, 211 Old Street, EC1V 9NR