London’s best cafés and coffee shops

On the hunt for a kick-ass cup o' Joe? Have a read through Time Out’s guide to the coolest London coffee shops and cafés

Whether you’re after caffeine, cake, or just a spot to plug in your laptop – London’s cafés and coffee shops are little havens. From Indian chai, to brunch-time yoga sessions, to drip fed Chemex filters – it's all here. We’ve sipped our way around the city to round up the very best. 

Best coffee shops in central London

Apres Food Co

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.

Farringdon

The Association

Not far from the Gherkin, Association is the gem in the City’s caffeinated crown – a superlative spot noted for its surprisingly hip industrial interiors and patterned table-tops. Coffee comes from Workshop and Square Mile (where else?), and the place is also famed for its ace Portuguese custard tarts.

Aldgate
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Attendant

Occupying a former men’s pissoir, Attendant’s coffee wakes you up before you go-go. Aromas of roast arabica and scented candles waft up from the subterranean cavern, which still boasts the original Victorian urinals. Beans are house-roasted and there are made-to-order sandwiches, hot snacks and decidedly decent cakes too.

Fitzrovia

Catalyst

A mere 10 minutes’ stroll from Leather Lane’s caffeine mecca, Catalyst is a serene and stripped-back Scandi-style drop-in with all-day appeal. Coffee-wise, they know their stuff and there’s good food too (sweet and savoury combos). What’s more, Catalyst opens early and closes late on cocktail-fuelled Thursdays and Fridays.

Farringdon
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Coffee Island

Betwixt Seven Dials (food heaven) and Leicester Square (food hell), Coffee Island is the first London outpost of a deceptively decent Greek chain. They’ve done their homework where it counts, with five coffees on offer via a host of brewing variations – note the line-up of gadgets and home-barista gear.

Covent Garden

Curators Coffee Studio

Seating is limited to just six people and it isn’t strong on comfort, but this is a City spot to cherish if you value well-curated coffee beans and expert brewing. The house espresso blend (dubbed ‘Exhibition’) comes from Colonna, and guest beans feature regularly. Food is simple but carefully done.

Aldgate
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Department of Coffee & Social Affairs

DC&SA now has branches all over town, but this is the stripped-back original  – a place that gets rammed during the week and chills out at the weekends. All the coffee begins as espresso and it’s always well made, while the food is basic but of high quality – assorted sandwiches and moreish baked goodies.

Farringdon

Espresso Room

Capacity doesn’t make it far into double digits at this small but perfectly formed shrine to straight caffeine. Choice may be minimal too (espresso-based coffees, soup, a few sandwiches and cakes), but we love Bloomsbury’s ER – especially when we can sit outside in fine weather. Smiling staff show off their technical skills with modesty.

Bloomsbury
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Exmouth Market Grind

Much of the emphasis is on the restaurant and cocktail bar, but Grind’s dedicated espresso bar is a shoo-in for Exmouth Market’s caffeine heads. Slip in for weekday breakfast or weekend brunch, pump up your afternoon or enjoy a post-work warm-down over a long black or flat white.

Clerkenwell

Look Mum No Hands!

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.

Old Street
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Best coffee shops in north London

Bread and Bean

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.

Upper Holloway

Brunswick East

Venue says: “Speciality Coffee shop and all round brunch destination in the heart of Dalston”

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.

Stoke Newington
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Coffee Jar

Venue says: “We drink coffee. We bake cakes. We do breakfast, lunch and treats! Come visit us in Camden!”

With seating for ten people, minimalist interiors involving reclaimed scaffolding boards and house beans from Monmouth, the Coffee Jar is a Camden favourite. The brews are spot on, and the food is focused: sandwiches, brunch plates, cakes and pastries. Just add friendly service and you’ve got a winner.

Camden Town

The Fields Beneath

It isn’t surprising that this tiny set-up has won the hearts and minds of Kentish Town’s coffee brigade. Inside, there’s just one long(ish) table for communal sipping, but ample space for take outs. Beans come from dependable sources, but you could easily come here just for the vegan food.

Kentish Town
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The Flour Station

Feeling frazzled after trying to shop at Camden Market? No worries. This comforting café from Flour Station’s pastry traders will soothe and satisfy with its pleasing sarnies, cups that cheer and sensible lunches – do try the soups and charcuterie boards.

Chalk Farm

Loft Coffee Company

Diminutive in stature but huge in quality, this dinky coffee shop from Seoul-born Sungjae Lee right by Finchley Road tube is all about well-sourced espresso and its brewed derivatives, backed by a modest assortment of pleasing pastries and other edible bits ’n’ pieces. Stop press: Japanese lunches are incoming!

Frognal
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Maple & King's

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.

King's Cross

New Roots Café

More than a veggie haven, New Roots Café on Cally Road is also a community-minded space that donates all profits to two homeless shelters – so you know where your money is going. The food’s local, while drinks include real Indian chai, hand-roasted filter coffee and mint tea. Prices are rock bottom, but the quality’s sound.

Barnsbury
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The Sanctuary Café

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.

West Hampstead

Vagabond

This ‘back to basics’ stalwart of London’s caffeine scene has swapped Stroud Green for Holloway Road, but the set-up remains the same – think rustic industrial-salvage interiors and a dedication to the art of coffee. Flat whites are served in glasses, alongside home-baked cakes, breakfasts, sarnies and deli stuff.

Lower Holloway
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Best coffee shops in east London

46b Espresso Hut

With just five tables inside and a few seats out front, 46b in Homerton is small and homespun, although it comes with bags of charm and very good coffee. Espressos are skilfully made with Square Mile’s beans. E5 Bakehouse supplies the bread for sandwiches and toasties, while cakes are baked in-house.

Homerton

Allpress Espresso

Enduringly popular for its unhurried atmosphere, lovely service and great food, Allpress also makes terrific coffee – from textbook espresso-based brews to various filter concoctions. Outstanding baked goods and imaginative sandwiches add to the all-round appeal of this popular corner spot – a fixture of the Shoreditch scene.

Shoreditch
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Bernstein's Bar

It might focus much of its attention on cocktails, booze and a mish-mash of Israeli/Levantine food, but this late-night Clapton corner café also has spotless caffeine credentials. Suppliers are conscientiously sourced, small-scale or local, making Bernstein’s a superlative address in an area already flush with hip little hubs.

Lea Bridge

Buhler and Co

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’.

Walthamstow
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Café Miami

Venue says: “Now serving milkshakes and ice cream sundaes!”

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’.  

Hackney

Climpson & Sons

Brown, buzzy and never overheated, Climpson’s on Broadway Market has the same qualities as its excellent flat whites, while helpful blackboard notes on the blends from its own roastery ram home the message: coffee first, conversation second. With retro cakes and avocado on sourdough also available, it’s perfect for Saturday nights and Monday mornings.

South Hackney
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Karaway Bakery

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.

Stratford

Nude Espresso

Quality and consistency are the reasons why crowds descend on Nude in Spitalfields – even at off-peak times. Some serious attention to food has broadened its appeal, but you can still drop by for pastry and a cup of coffee based on the signature East Blend. Also, check out the Roastery next door.

Spitalfields
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Ozone Coffee

A major hit with office workers around Silicon Roundabout, Kiwi-owned Ozone made a big deal of its food from the very start and it’s got more serious with time – although we also like its coffee (brewed, ‘slow-brewed’ or espresso). Popularity has risen stratospherically – crowded upstairs, easier downstairs.

Shoreditch

Palm Vaults

Venue says: “Independent cafe and catering company.”

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.

Hackney
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Best coffee shops in south London

Birdhouse

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.

Wandsworth

Browns of Brockley

Hit this diddy, well-loved station-side beauty for perfect commuter coffee or serene, cake-fuelled weekend chilling. They take caffeine very seriously and there are piles of filled bagels in the window, plus canelés from Babelle, pastries and sourdough from the Little Bread Pedlar. Al fresco tables are a fine-weather bonus.

Brockley
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Brick House

The trendiest bakery in East Dulwich and the first local venue to specialise in the slow-fermented sourdough breads beloved of hipsters. Obviously, the staff of life is the main attraction, although provenance is the key to everything including the coffee, tea, cheese and meat. There’s a cracking booze list too.

East Dulwich

Burnt Lemon Bakery

A little bread haven on Flat Iron Square, Burnt Lemon puts the emphasis firmly on long-fermented organic sourdough breads, pastries, cakes, pies and toasted sandwiches – all loaded with seasonal ingredients. Coffees and other soft drinks are par for the course. A pleasant pit-stop with a well-worn aesthetic.

The Borough
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Coleman Coffee Roasters

Even on the time warp that is Waterloo’s Lower Marsh, Coleman’s feels like a caff from another age – so embrace the quiet life while the radio provides a warm rumble in the background. There are rustic ceramics for sale, oatcakes on the menu and a whole wall lined with their own coffee beans.

Lambeth

Craft London

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.

Greenwich Peninsula
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Daily Goods

Brewing up the good stuff daily, this little box of a coffee shop in Camberwell is more spartan than other objectively ‘hip’ venues in the area, but it’s extremely well appointed (in an arty sort of way). The own-brand coffees are excellent, while food spans everything from avo toast to some very fine cakes.

Camberwell

Federation Coffee

Seats with a view of Brixton’s Village Market are the ones to grab at this egalitarian corner café. Federation buys its beans from Curve Roasters in Margate, and they also sell coffee-related hardware. To eat, there are breads, cakes, pasties and sandwiches from local suppliers. It’s all very neighbourly.

Brixton
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Flotsam & Jetsam

Venue says: “Passionate about coffee? We hold fun, evening 'barista basic' courses each month. Find out more and book your spot via our website.”

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.

Wandsworth

Lumberjack Café

Coffee, craftsmanship and community come together at Lumberjack – a dinky Camberwell café stuffed full of hand-printed tea towels, ceramic mugs and hand-crafted furniture. Naturally, the ethos extends to the coffee from Peckham’s Old Spike Roastery, teas from Good & Proper and fancy cakes from Cat Food London.

Camberwell
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Best coffee shops in west London

Amoret Cofffee

A teeny, tiny coffee shop making big waves in Hammersmith, Amoret (opposite the tube station) is perfect for commuter-time grab ’n’ go. It also has plenty of coffee-making nous and baristas are keen to impart their knowledge to a receptive crowd of caffeine junkies. Who said bigger was better?

Hammersmith

Antipode

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.

Hammersmith
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April's Café

The swanky in-store café attached to Sloane Street’s swish Boutique 1 serves the kind of healthy menu that avoids existential crises when it comes to trying on clothes (kale quiche, broccoli and goat’s curd salad etc). Allpress coffee goes well with home-baked cakes and other sweet pleasures; otherwise, hit the cocktails.

Chelsea

Artisan

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.

Ravenscourt Park
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Boys 'n' Berry

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.

Parsons Green

Chief Coffee

Here’s a strange one: a Chiswick coffee house with a lounge full of working pinball machines in the basement. Wannabe wizards can try their luck here or stay with the high-quality coffees from Workshop, Allpress and suchlike. Edible treats include stuff from Kooky Bakes, Rinkoff pastries and their own sausage rolls.

Turnham Green
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Electric Coffee Company

Ealing’s Electric Coffee Co. has become a west London classic, touting some serious stuff out in Zone 3. All the beans (direct-traded) are processed in the owners’ Sussex roastery and the whole show celebrates the intricacies of coffee-making. What’s more, there’s a tempting menu of seasonal light bites too.

Ealing

Espresso by K2

Adjoining the offices of K2 Partnering, this slick Fulham coffee shop is a looker with its granite-flecked concrete counter, bare masonry and zippy designer lighting. Honest tucker includes sandwiches, custard tarts, etc, while coffee is from Winchester’s Roasting Party. Being an Aussie set-up, flat whites are the go-to.

London
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Farm Girl

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. 

Notting Hill

Lowry & Baker

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.

North Kensington
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Now find a top-notch restaurant

The 100 best restaurants in London

In this list – surely the ultimate guide to the best restaurants in London – you’ll find it all: zeitgeist-defining celebrity haunts, the best new restaurants in London, Michelin star restaurants with starched linen napkins and restaurants serving cheap eats where you’ll have to eat with your fingers. What they all have in common is that they serve some of the best dishes in London at fair prices, with service befitting the setting. In short, if you’re looking for a great meal, you’ve come to the right place. 

By: Tania Ballantine

Comments

31 comments
madting s

no mention of electric coffee?

Karl S

Why bother putting in a pastry shop in Ealing for "best coffee" and even note its not worth writing home about. Where are the Love London winners - Electric, Paperback, Munsons etc?

Joshua J

Also, am I the only one here that doesn't rate the Shoreditch-style of coffee? Something that tastes like I'm sucking on a bitter cranberry? Far prefer the mellow flavours favoured by our neighbours on the continent. Espresso is the official religion of Italian (sorry Pope Francis) and I think their approach deserves some recognition. #justsayin

Furthermore, as an urban, freelance vagabond, I would love to see a list of coffee shops that I can work from. Most of these make me feel like I'm in school detention or on a building site. 

Lucy D

Great list. To add a hidden gem in Croydon check out Matthews yard.

Carole V

I am also an Aussie coffee snob(my daughter works in Patricia in Melbourne and prior to that Auction Rooms)my London recommendations would be Association in the City, (Creechurch Lane,close to Liverpool St. and Bank). This is owned and run by Sam from Melbourne. Alternatively Caravan, just behind Kings X/St Pancras station or M1lk in Balham. Happy coffee drinking! PS. Nude near Spitalfields Market also good; normally buy my beans from there or Caravan.

Sian H

I agree with Amanda - serious lack of reporting of caffiene in the West. Especially when this article seems to focus way too much on food compared to the actual topic of coffee. I may be a self-confessed Aussie coffee snob but missing Chairs and Coffee, Manuka, Shot Espresso and even Moosh in Fulham; Antipode in Hammersmith; Artisan on New Kings Rd and Tamp in Turnham Green just shows total lack of effort and that's disappointing for TimeOut.

Karl S

Agree Sian, the Coffee Illuminati are very East centric

Pang A Spammer

Think Monmouth is good but not worth standing in a queue every time you go. I think for good coffee & wacky decor Daisy Green near Marble Arch is a must

Shahied J

iCoffee on Suttons Lane opposite Hornchurch tube station in East London is a fantastic coffee shop with excellent coffee, scrumptious toasties, free wifi & iPad usage and great service. A true and rare gem in the east!

Patrick B

As a suggestion for the West, Anges de Sucre on Holland Street.

Conor M

You've missed on of the best in Central London, near New Oxford Street: Wild and Wood

Dawn Cress

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.

Anthony Kingsley

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

Dan

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

AG

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'

Adam Townsend

You need to check out The Urban Chocolatier in Whitechapel. This chocolate coffee shop is amazeballs!

fad

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.

Matt

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.

Harry

You need to review Finns of Chelsea Green.

Lisa

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.

Amanda

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.

Neon

How about the new "The Association" cafe by St Mary's Axe?

Molly Assheton

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.

Danny

If these were on a map that'd be really great.

Ercan

Where's Fee&brown on your list of great cafe's?? It serves truly great coffee, great atmosphere,.

jennie a

@Ercan As the owner of Fee and Brown, you're entitled to your opinion.