March 2019: We’ve added a couple of stellar newbies to our list: there’s the casual downstairs café at Rochelle at the ICA (a polished spot with a modern British menu), then there’s Milk Teeth – a light-and-bright offshoot of the ever-popular Milk in Balham – and Sunday, an oldie-but-a-goodie relaxed spot in Barnsbury with regular lines out the door.
London’s obsession with coffee is showing no signs of slowing. Across the city, cafés and tiny, hole-in-the-wall coffee shops 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 and coffee shops 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:
The best coffee shops in London
This corner coffee shop in the heart of Soho takes its caffeine very seriously. If it’s coffee-based, you’ll find it here: standard flat whites, lattes and cortados, then more offbeat options including ‘coffee tonics’ (espresso with tonic), iced americanos and housemade thick cold coffee freakshakes. There’s food too, but truthfully, the coffee is what 39 Steps is all about.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Bake and their own sausage rolls.
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.
Between 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Monmouth is the grandmama of high-class UK coffee and this is its self-assured public face in Covent Garden. Nothing here speaks of flashiness or trendiness. It’s all about the caffeine and the well-chosen food that goes with it (breads, pastries etc). Espresso and its derivatives are properly made, but brewed coffee is the real star.
Unsuspecting tourists beware: this robotic and clinical coffee haven near Monument is strictly for serious caffeine junkies. Don’t come here to grab a tepid cappuccino on-the-go. With its laboratory-style equipment, future-pop coming from the speakers and global beans listed on a till-side iPad, New Black is the new order.
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.
Peckham’s very own coffee roastery started out in 2014 but soon opened its doors to enthusiastic coffee-loving locals who come here for that freshly roasted espresso experience and interesting filter brews, as well seasonal, single-origin beans. Artisan hot chocolate and teas from Good & Proper are an afterthought.
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.
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.
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.
Renowned for its devotion to artisan coffee, Prufrock is one of London’s best and is equally distinguished when it comes to filter-type brews or espresso. Food-wise, check the counter display or the daily blackboard. Weekday trade is guaranteed, but Prufrock also makes Leather Lane a serious destination on empty Saturdays.
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’.
The new-build exterior and backstreet New Cross location might not scream ‘destination’ but the Red Lion Coffee Co. is a sterling spot populated by a suitably arty crowd. The food is varied (everything from pastries to stews), there’s coffee-making gadgetry for sale and the beans come from Climpson & Sons. Licensed.
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.
Properly passionate about coffee, this cheery corner café in Brixton is the real deal with its single-estate beans and global guests brewed up with just the right amount of obsession. Big windows let in lots of light, while the back room has all the hipster trimmings. Food includes everything from packed rolls to gluten-free cakes.
Lines are regularly out the door of this cosy little café in Barnsbury. It’s the epitome of brunch: perfectly executed flat whites, wordy breakfast dishes, freelancers on laptops and trendy-but-friendly staff. We loved the inventive smoked haddock rarebit, but the big breakfast with organic eggs and sourdough is a winner, too.