Best coffee shops in central London
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 ‘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.
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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.
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.
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.
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’.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best coffee shops in west London
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?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.