MARCH 2020: We've removed all the closed cafes (sad times) but made it easier to find dedicated coffee shops, by moving them into their own dedicated feature.
London’s obsession with cafés is showing no signs of slowing. Across the city, cafés and tiny, hole-in-the-wall joints are constantly popping up, serving up perfectly executed flat whites, espressos and cold-drip Americanos to the masses. Whether you’re after a cup to go, a space for brunch or somewhere to linger with your laptop – London’s cafés are little havens. We’ve sipped our way around the city to round up the very best.
Watch our video below on five lovely locations for a spot of coffee:
London's best cafés
This easy breezy mini chain of Aussie cafés has three locations, in Richmond, Kew and Putney. Pop in to any one of the above (we especially like this Kew branch) for smashing breakfasts and consistently good coffee, plus fresh juices, smoothies and boozy brunch cocktails.
On a mission to bring some Melbourne magic to the streets of Hammersmith, this cool Antipodean café brews up some terrific stuff. They use Square Mile’s Red Brick beans for espresso and serve inventive brunch-style food – their kimchi and cheddar toastie is a best-seller. Just add some ace Aussie craft beers.
The owners of this gorgeous-looking Clerkenwell joint want us all to ‘make friends with food’ – and we’re certainly sold on the place, with its low-key backstreet vibe, pretty plants in pots and nutritionally balanced gluten-free cooking. Top marks for AFC’s luscious cakes and on-message drinks too.
With branches in Ealing, Putney and East Sheen, Artisan is on the up and this Stamford Brook outlet is a credit to the neighbourhood with its pleasant vibe, enormous windows and down-home furnishings. Close your eyes and you could be in Shoreditch as you sip a perfect espresso made with Allpress beans.
As effortlessly chilled as they come, Birdhouse is the Clapham coffee bar of your dreams – everything is intended to soothe, staff are lovely, the sandwiches are great, and their warm banana bread is nigh-on irresistible. Partnered with a perfect espresso, it’s a guaranteed cure for those rainy-day blues.
Formerly a pop-up espresso bar in a converted taxi, this now-permanent café by the Thames has a coffee roaster in its dining area constantly pumping out beans. The menu offers much more than java, though – try the spicy iced chai (you can add a shot of vodka, if you like). There’s a proper brunch menu, too.
Fulham’s chattering classes have a new HQ in the shape of Boys ‘n’ Berry – a bang-on-trend café focusing on wholesome food and coffee, with plenty of cake on the side. They specialise in double-shot organic brews (from espressos upwards) with matcha lattes and almond milk offered as diet-sensitive alternatives.
From the quirky décor to the massive windows giving a full view of the Archway scene, B&B is perfect if you’re looking for a leisurely break. There’s just one blend of coffee on offer, but it’s decent enough – especially with back-up from cooked breakfasts, sandwiches, salads and home-baked cakes.
In the courtyard of Dalston’s creative hub, this Aussie-owned gem mixes cosy industrial/studio vibes with a serious attitude to coffee. House beans are sourced from Alchemy, guest names appear on rotation and there’s an equally alluring Antipodean-style menu, plus there are ceramic exhibits and weekend brunch/yoga sessions for the wholesome extroverts.
A serene Antipodean hangout (with some Scandi-chic add-ons), Bühler & Co is a brunch beacon for the baby-toting denizens of Walthamstow and a popular stop-off for coffee too. Good provenance also abounds across the sodas, booze and excellent veggie/vegan menu – welcome to the wholesome ‘good life’.
North Hackney’s latest Instagram paradise is achingly stylised but incredibly well curated – it’s a pastel-toned brunch-based photo op complete with retro furnishings and a Miami-themed menu. Their strawberry pop tarts and waffle burgers (heart-shaped, of course) are a standout, while Workshop coffee comes with cute sugar ‘cubes’.
The least formal foodie offering at the gargantuan Ned hotel in the City, this plush Parisian-style spot has a simple menu of baguettes, quiches, omelettes and salads, plus some decent wines for lush lunchtime meals. Despite its grand surroundings, it’s still very much a café: you can be in and out in 40 minutes.
Home-grown and home-produced is the mantra at Stevie Parle’s Greenwich shrine to all things Craft. The setup includes a swish restaurant and cocktail bar, but the bright ground-floor café is our favourite bit, with lunchtime salads plus sourdough breads, pizzas and cakes from the oven to go with excellent Craft-roasted coffee.
If the very idea of ‘healthy eating in Notting Hill’ fills you with dread, fear not: this branch of the cute café mini-chain from Aussie-born ‘farm girl’ Rose Mann is a little ripper. Colourful interiors and non-stop sunny service are matched by a healthy menu bursting with vibrant, zingy ingredients. Coffee and cake is a bit different too.
Forget beachcombing, this oddly named Antipodean-style café by Wandsworth Common is all about healthy eats and artisan drinks. Expect everything from coco-melon bircher muesli to ‘chorizo scramble’, alongside cakes, pastries, Allpress coffee, tea by T2, turmeric chai and matcha lattes, Karma colas and much else besides.
Venue says Passionate about coffee? We hold fun, evening 'barista basic' courses each month. Find out more and book your spot via our website.
It’s all about tea and cake at Highness Café, a homely spot in Highbury with mismatched wooden tables and a menu that’s written on a chalkboard above the counter. Expect the likes of thick peanut butter brownies, iced blood-orange cakes and plump sultana scones.
This tiny café on Caledonian Road is like the ‘Cheers’ of King’s Cross: everybody knows your name and most of the customers are regulars. There are eccentric patterns on every surface and a small menu that’s packed with Moroccan-inspired delights, like excellent falafel wraps, super juices and lots of smoothies. The veggie quesadilla is ace, too.
Another Antipodean spot smashing out coffee and brunches, Milk Teeth is the light-and-bright younger sister to Balham’s much-loved Milk. Trendy breakfast dishes are the name of the game, like the fancy eggs benedict, made with sourdough and topped with buttery smoked eel. Just brilliant.
A legend on Borough Market and beyond, family-run Karaway is now selling its incredible award-winning rye breads and Eastern European cakes in a tiny café tucked away in Westfield Stratford. The choice is bewildering, but sampling is encouraged and it’s all backed up by decent coffee and sandwiches.
Whether you’re on two wheels, four wheels or on foot, this friendly Old Street hangout attached to a bicycle repair shop is ‘wheely’ good – sorry! All-comers park up here (especially at the weekend) and the whole place is a joy with its ample food and knowledgeable baristas.
A tiny, eccentrically decorated place with total commitment to quality across the board, Lowry & Baker on Portobello Road is a local godsend. Food is served on a delightful jumble of unmatched crockery, but the perfectly brewed coffee – with beans from Monmouth – comes in well-warmed white cups.
Maple & Co’s King’s Cross branch promises two floors of healthy satisfaction – order downstairs, eat upstairs. Well-made caffeine brews and sweet stuff from the gluten-free bakery quell those ‘coffee and cake’ cravings; otherwise, it’s all about feelgood salads and lunch boxes, backed by cold-pressed juices, smoothies and new-age drinks.
Megan’s by the Green is a popular spot in Parsons Green loved by yummy mummies and dogs; colourful and family-friendly inside, the menu has loads of great Levantine-style food like deconstructed kebabs and lamb meatballs with garlic butter.
An oasis of calm in frenetic Soho, this cool wood-lined café is a fantastic under-the-radar pitstop for pretty-looking Scandi-style sandwiches and sweet treats – especially squishy, sugary butter buns (and their legendary cinnamon ones). The food goes down equally well with manually filtered coffee, a double-shot latte or a bottle of Nordic’s blueberry cordial.
Notes has been here since 2011, peddling its house-roasted single-estate coffees to an eager crowd who pile in to the attractive room for excellent caffeine fixes backed by pastries, salads, charcuterie and Euro-style small plates. With Trafalgar Square just minutes away, Notes is well worth bookmarking.
London’s love affair with Scandi bakeries continues with this outpost of Danish chain Ole & Steen – and what a feast it promises! Inside, it’s super-slick and definitely not hygge, although the food is the star: wonderfully dark chocolate swirls, apple pie, savoury rolls and – best of all – wickedly seductive cinnamon slices.
With tropical-chintz detailing, a veritable canopy of foliage and enough skewed pastels to give Wes Anderson palpitations, Hackney’s now-famed Palm Vaults might seem like Instagrammable fluff, but appearances can be deceptive. Ok, dedicated caffeine nerds may baulk (lavender latte, anyone?), but the kooky photo-op drinks and vegan food are great.
A laid-back Soho haven with some of the nicest staff around, Rapha proves there’s more to the cycling/coffee pairing than Lance Armstrong-style performance enhancement. The café occupies half the space in a smart cycle clothing shop, with ample seating and a menu that’s a cut above – don’t miss their elaborate ‘super smoothies’.
Connected to swish dining room Rochelle at the ICA is a much more casual café, where the staff are super-friendly and the food is spectacular. Wash down a huge cheese toastie stuffed with sauerkraut with a coffee from Caravan roasters. (Hot tip: book a table and you won’t have to pay the gallery’s £1 entry fee.)
A lovely neighbourhood café housed within West Hampstead’s Grade II-listed St James Church, the Sanctuary is now part of a community hub that includes a post office, gift shop and debt-advice centre. Coffee and cakes are all bang on the money. Note: on Sundays, the church is used as a church.
This relaxed mini chain (with two cafes in Fitzrovia and another on Wardour Street) gets the formula spot-on: buy good coffee beans and treat them with respect; employ staff who know that a smile means a lot; charge reasonable prices for your sandwiches, salads and cakes. Tap’s so satisfying, you won’t want to leave.
This super homey café in Hackney is popular with locals, and for good reason: the food is delicious and the staff are lovely. You’ll find café classics like smashed avocado on the menu, but the specials board is where it’s at: you can’t go past the never-fail soup of the day.
The all-day restaurant at Whitechapel Gallery is a breezy café by day and an atmospheric wine bar by night. Before the cheese and charcuterie comes out to play expect fresh salads, pastries, sandwiches and loads of sweet treats: perfect to break up your stroll through the gallery.