There’s more to London’s cafés than just great brews. The capital is brimming with top notch coffee culture, and we've rounded up the best places to check out this creative caffeinated community – it's the best cafés and coffee shops in London. Do you agree with our choices? Let us know your suggestions in the comments below or tweet us.
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Best coffee shops in central London
Situated down a narrow side street in the shadow of the Gherkin, Association is the gem in the City’s caffeinated crown. Given the area, it’s surprisingly hip: stripped industrial interiors, patterned table-tops (weirdly reminiscent of the zigzag floor in the Black Lodge in ‘Twin Peaks’) and stylish, pin-legged furniture. Coffee comes from Square Mile (where else?), its Red Brick blend the standard espresso – though there was a guest from Birmingham’s Quarter Horse on our visit (plus filter courtesy of Workshop). The espresso itself is citrussy-sharp and rocket-fuel strong – perfect for knocking back after a pastry or Portuguese custard tart, of which there’s a great little selection.
The bottom line: A superlative backstreet spot in the heart of the square mile.
This former public convenience is now a charming coffee bar. Aromas of roast arabica and scented candles waft up from the subterranean cavern, though many original fixtures remain in place, including the Victorian urinals. Beans are house-roasted; on our visit, the barista, obsessively committed to his craft, explained the blend might have extra citrus flavours from sitting for three days after roasting (he likes six). It was citrussy, but wonderful. With made-to-order sandwiches, hot snacks, and decidedly decent cakes, this café is definitely worth spending a penny in. They also have a Shoreditch branch, and an incoming shop on Leather Lane.
The bottom line: Coffee that wakes you up before you go-go, served in a former men’s pissoir.
A mere 10 minutes stroll it may be from the caffeine fiend’s mecca of Leather Lane, but Catalyst is still an amazingly welcome addition to the chain-spattered badlands around lower Gray’s Inn Road. It’s a roomy space with a Scandi feel, decked out with light wood and a large concrete bar. Coffee-wise, they know their stuff: there’s a roaster in the basement visible through a glass floor that’s yet to be activated on our visit. In the interim, a flat white, brewed with Vagabond beans, was smooth, sweet and served palatably hot. Food, too, is good: vegan and mostly cakey. What’s more, Catalyst opens early (from 7am) and closes late; there’s a decent little list of cocktails, craft beers (on tap, no less) and wines, perfect for sacking off the packed, officey pubs round these parts.
The bottom line: A serene and stripped-back coffee shop with all-day appeal.
Sat between Seven Dials (food heaven) and Leicester Square (food hell), Coffee Island is the first London outpost of a Greek chain. Generic as heck it may appear from the outside – dare I say it, as you might imagine a Greek coffee chain to look – but they’ve done their homework where it counts. There are five coffees on the menu, available via a host of brew methods: your commonplace Chemex, V60, syphon and Aeropress, but also a tray of hot sand for making Turkish style coffee. A single-estate Brazilian ametista filter (via a V60) was full-bodied and delicious, with a carefully timed bloom and none of the ropey insipidity that pour-overs can be cursed with in the wrong hands. All the gear and plenty of idea, it seems.
The bottom line: Gadgets abound at a deceptively decent Greek chain outpost.
There may only be seating for six people and it isn’t strong on comfort, but Curators is a place to cherish if you value beautiful beans and expert brewing. The house espresso blend – dubbed ‘Exhibition’ – comes from Colonna Coffee, and guest beans feature names like Square Mile, Clifton Coffee Roasters and The Barn. Our guest filter, the improbably sweet Colonia 8 Estrellas from Bolivia, was perfectly brewed. Anyone adding milk to this beauty should be booted out. Food is simple but shows the same care. A steady stream of City slaves keeps this tiny treasure buzzing – and it’s easy to see why.
The bottom line: Serving City workers with well-curated coffee beans.
DC&SA gets very busy during the week, while weekends are relaxed. All the coffee begins as espresso and is always well made, from house beans. The machine is well tended to between coffees, and milk is foamed, poured and decorated carefully. Food is simple and high quality: a handful of sandwiches and a lovely spread of baked goods. Our only grumble – on several visits – is that our espresso could have been hotter. But this is hardly a unique problem, and certainly not enough to keep us away. DC&SA now has 12 branches, including this original one.
The bottom line: A stripped-back café that’s been expanding all over town.
Capacity at this tiny spot doesn’t make it far into double digits. But though the choice of food and drink is minimal – just espresso-based coffees, daily soup, a few sandwiches and baked goods – customers love ER, as do we. Espressos are made using Square Mile beans, plus guests on rotation. Occasionally we get an imperfect cup, but on our last visit it was textbook. The best place to sit, weather permitting, is at the small tables outside. Smiling, friendly staff show off their technical skills with modesty.
The bottom line: A small but perfectly formed shrine to espresso.
Unassuming tourists beware: this spot near the Monument – all glass and burnished steel, with squelchy future-pop seeping from the stereo – is not a place to grab a tepid cappuccino-on-the-go. With laboratory-style equipment, a giant bean flavour chart on the wall and punchy pricing (the excellent pastries are Lilliputian, and even the takeaway lids look expensive), this is an imposing place for serious caffeine junkies. Roasters and beans are perused on a till-side iPad; they’re varied and global – North Carolina’s Counter Culture, Small Batch Roasters from Melbourne and Norway’s Tim Wendleboe are featured on our visit. Staff are genial and skilled: a long Americano made using beans from Cape Town’s Truth Coffee Roasting is light and sweet, with an astringent first taste that quickly mellows – a perfect foil to a teeny slice of foresty, vegan ‘Green Power Tart’.
The bottom line: A robotic and clinical coffee haven for dedicated caffeine nerds.
Newcomers may be puzzled by the name until they learn that there’s a bicycle repair shop attached. But on a Saturday lunchtime it wasn’t just cyclists here; half the residents of EC1 had turned up. Singles, couples, families with young children: it’s easy to see why they love the place. LMNH is a joy, with an ample food offering (cooked dishes, salads, baked spuds) and baristas who know their business. Staple beans come from Square Mile but there are guest coffees too. This is wheely good, with or without oil-marked trousers. There’s a Whitechapel location now, too.
The bottom line: On two wheels, four wheels, or even on foot, a hugely popular and friendly local hangout.
Notes has been here since 2011, and has opened branches elsewhere in London and Leeds (it also has its own roastery out near the Docklands). The result, judging by a single-farm Yirgacheffe brewed using the slow-drip V60 pour-over filter, is a major success. The attractive room was very busy on a weekday afternoon, with clientele ranging from suits in meetings to friends hanging out. Food is simple but decent: pastries from Bread Ahead, green bits from salad chain Chop’d and an evening menu of charcuterie, cheese and other Euro-style small plates. With Trafalgar Square just minutes away, Notes is a useful place to take note of.
The bottom line: Hitting the high notes with in-house roasted single-estate coffees.
Best coffee shops in north London
This little place is a big hit with young locals and it’s easy to see why they come. From the quirky décor to the massive windows giving a full view of the street scene, this is a very pleasant place to while away an hour or two. There’s just one coffee on offer, Union Coffee Roasters’ Revelation blend. It’s well handled with just one complaint: the cup wasn’t hot enough, so inevitably the brew wasn’t, either. Food ranges from cooked breakfasts to sandwiches, baked spuds, soup and salad. Plus the inevitable baked goods, most of them made on the premises.
The bottom line: Well-made bakes and brews in a quirky Archway caff.
Venue says: “Speciality Coffee shop and all round brunch destination in the heart of Dalston”
Set in the courtyard of Dalston’s creative hub of Stamford Works, Brunswick East is an Australian-owned little gem of a shop, with cosy industrial/studio vibes and a serious attitude to coffee. Beans are sourced from Alchemy, but there’s a host of guest names on rotation. The menu is equally alluring: from super smoothies (and an espresso version) to Antipodean-leaning specialities like cauliflower toast, chilli-poached eggs with whipped yogurt, and corn, courgette and halloumi fritter stacks. Avocado, of course, abounds. What’s more, there’s an in-house artist’s bookstore and weekend brunch/yoga combo sessions for the wholesome extroverts among us (beats us too).
The bottom line: An Australian-run rustic little spot doing caffeine, brunch and books.
The famous adage about the three keys to success in retailing – ‘location, location, location’ – might have been coined with this place in mind. It shares a building with Central St Martins, and on its doorstep lies the vast King’s Cross development. The offering duplicates that of the original Caravan in Exmouth Market (now taken up at the Bankside branch, too): a large, eclectic menu majoring on brunch and breakfast classics; reasonable prices; and, of course, the coffee, which is roasted in plain view. A textbook espresso (a fabulously fruity blend) and a beautifully feathered flat white could not have been better.
The bottom line: A brilliant success on all fronts – King’s Cross may not be the concrete desert it once was, but this Caravan remains an oasis.
Camdenites have enthusiastically embraced Coffee Jar since it opened in 2013. There’s seating for just ten people, with minimal décor based on reclaimed scaffolding boards. House beans come from Monmouth. Our espresso came from the hand of a meticulous barista who even warmed the cup with a puff of steam to ensure a properly hot shot. The food offering is focused: a few sandwiches, brunch plates (savoury muffins, smashed avocados and the like), plus baked goods both bought in and produced onsite. Add on friendly service and you’ve got a winning formula. We can see why most of the customers during our visit were regulars.
The bottom line: A minimalist caff in Camden with beans from Monmouth Coffee.
It isn’t surprising that K-Towners have taken to this neighbourhood café enthusiastically since it opened in 2012. The place is tiny, with just one long(ish) table for communal sipping, but ample space for the takeaway crowd. Beans come from Round Hill, Extract, Tate and Square Mile (plus guests). Our espresso was flawless, with an especially fine crema. But you could easily come here just for the food. A monster cookie, dense with dark chocolate, was sublime and sizeable. TFB is very much a part of the KT family. Let’s hope the love goes on and on.
The bottom line: A tiny operation that has won the hearts and minds of Kentish Town.
Sungjae Lee learned to love good coffee in his native Seoul. He moved to London in 1988 and finally opened his own coffee bar in 2012. The tiny space (seating for ten) used to be part of his estate agent office, which still operates next door. There are a few pastries and other edible bits, but mostly LCC is about espresso and its derivatives, made with Monmouth beans. And what we tasted was exemplary: great beans perfectly brewed to give a beautiful crema. Guest coffees come from people like Horsham, Electric, Square Mile and Crankhouse. Finchley Road isn’t exactly crowded with great coffee places, and that makes little Loft both unusual and very welcome.
The bottom line: Miniature in size but mammoth in quality, a welcome addition to drab Finchley Road.
This wonderful neighbourhood café at the Grade II-listed St James Church is capably run and warmly welcoming. On our visit an espresso was well made, but best of all was a light and airy gluten-free orange cake (the equal of any we’ve tasted). There’s a lovely story behind the Sanctuary, too. When plans were announced to shut the local post office, vicar Andrew Cain hatched the idea of moving it to his church. The new operation opened in 2014 and profits go to a local community charity. Note that, on Sundays, the church is used as a church.
The bottom line: A great café in a lovely West Hampstead church.
Located in a bustling little space just off Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park, Vagabond is something of a stalwart in the London caffeine scene. This store – there’s now four around town, including a flagship on Holloway Road – was founded in 2011 as a ‘back-to-basics’ café (their words). The rustic, industro-salvage interiors remain, as does the staunch dedication to the bev at hand. Beans are roasted in-house (no guests), sourced from small farmers in locations as disparate as Burundi, Rwanda and Colombia (their roasts are increasingly ubiquitous in other shops, too). Vagabond is a firm fixture – no matter what its nomadic name might suggest.
The bottom line: A rustic and ever-reliable old hand that’s only got better with age.
Best coffee shops in east London
Blink and you might miss it. With just five tables inside and a few seats out front, 46b is small. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for with bags of charm and very good coffee. Open since 2012, it’s got a loyal local following and the friendly owners know everyone. Espressos are skilfully made with Square Mile’s Red Brick beans. E5 Bakehouse supplies the bread for sandwiches and toasties, with fillings like chorizo, cheddar and chutney. Cakes, including gluten-free orange, walnut and olive oil are baked onsite. The homespun feel to the décor only adds to the appeal. They also run a second spot, Hand Café, in Stratford.
The bottom line: This friendly little neighbourhood café in Homerton is a proper gem.
This popular corner spot, with tables and a counter at one end of the light-filled room and the coffee roaster at the other, is deeply embedded in the Shoreditch scene. Allpress makes terrific coffee, both filter and espresso-based. An espresso was textbook stuff, perfect crema and lush berry flavours and deep, dark chocolate. But the filter brews from a changing roster of beans are best for more leisurely sipping. Baked goods are outstanding and sandwiches are imaginative. Still the star turn in Shoreditch despite the explosion of growth in the area’s caffeine culture.
The bottom line: Enduringly popular for its unhurried atmosphere, lovely service and great food.
This late-night Clapton corner café might focus much of its attention on the mish-mash of Israeli/Levantine food menu but its caffeine credentials are spotless. Behind the bar is Ben Murtagh of peripatetic London coffee merchants Black Box, a fact reflected in the very good cups available here – the espresso made with a classy Victoria Arduino lever machine. Suppliers across the board tend towards the conscientiously sourced, small-scale or local (think sodas from Hackney Downs’ Square Root, E5 Bakehouse sourdough, cheese from Wildes in Tottenham and so on), meaning Bernstein’s is a superlative spot in an area already flush with warm, buzzy little hubs.
The bottom line: A hip and happening corner spot, with excellent hardware to boot.
Buhler & Co is a serene, Antipodean-style (give or take a bit of Scandi-chic décor) little gem; a brunch beacon for the baby-laden denizens of Walthamstow. It’s also renowned in the area for its coffee, which is made with Climpson & Sons beans and available in steamy and iced versions (and also via a V60 pour-over, so they know their stuff). Milk, if that’s your thing, is from The Estate Dairy, and good providence abounds across the sodas, booze and excellent veggie/vegan food menu. Such relentless wholesomeness can be a drag, but Buhler & Co makes a serious case for the good life.
The bottom line: A serene Antipodean day spot just north of Walthamstow Village.
Brown, buzzy and never overheated, Climpson’s coffee shop has the same great qualities as its excellent flat whites. It occupies a little niche on the side of Broadway Market but you might miss it entirely on a Saturday when this street becomes a hive of artisanal food-snobbery and folk-busking. With its no-frills attitude and helpful blackboard notes on the coffees that hail from Climpson’s own roastery nearby, this place is about coffee first, conversation second. It’s a great example of the pared-down cafés that have sprung up all over Dalston and London Fields, offering retro cakes, avocado on sourdough and good strong coffee.
The bottom line: Buzzy, laid back, enthusiastic, with locally roasted beans – the perfect coffee shop for Saturday nights and Monday mornings.
Even at 4.30pm on a Tuesday this original branch of Nude boasted a sizeable crowd, a tribute to its enduring popularity – and to the quality that keeps it going. It’s become as much a food destination in recent years as a coffee destination, and at weekends the long ground-floor room can be a bit of a scrum. If it’s coffee you’re after, the offering is espresso-oriented, and you’d be advised to get some milk into the mix because the house blend (roasted on site) is a very high roast short on sweetness. Order a pastry to go with it and settle in.
The bottom line: Serious attention to food is one of the top draws for both locals and tourists.
Opened in 2012, this Kiwi-owned coffee shop is a major hit with the office workers around Silicon Roundabout. Ozone has made a big deal of its food from the very start and, if anything, it’s got more serious with time. Coffee comes in brewed form as well as espresso (currently from a Two Trees blend or a Colombian Gran Galope, and an Empire blend for flat whites, cappuccinos and such), with a daily changing pair of ‘slow-brew’ specials. A word of warning if you sit in the basement: coffee descending from the busy ground floor has a tendency to cool off en route. Apart from that, no complaints.
The bottom line: Popularity has risen stratospherically – crowded upstairs, easier downstairs.
Venue says: “Independent cafe and catering company.”
This Technicolour Hackney café – think tropical-chintz detailing, a veritable canopy of foliage and enough skewed pastels to give Wes Anderson heart palpitations – might seem like Instagrammable fluff on first sight, but appearances, as we know, can be deceptive. It’s got a vegan focus (soya, coconut, oat, almond and cashew milks are available instead of cow juice, if you so wish) and the drinks menu is, er, interesting. Ok, dedicated caffeine fascists will likely baulk, but there’s not many places that do things like avocado coffee, matcha frappes, and rose, aqua and lavender lattes and do them really bloody well (or, often, at all). Savoury and sweet plates and nibbles are great too, so credit where it’s due.
The bottom line: A lovely, lurid café doing photo-op drinks in equally colourful surroundings.
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Birdhouse is about as unpretentious as a five-star coffee bar can get. Everything is intended to soothe and relax, from the lovely colour scheme to the retro furnishings and jolly pictures adorning the long wall. But the best thing is the staff, always including at least one of the two owners, as far as we can tell. The sandwiches are great and warm banana bread is nigh-on impossible to resist. Partnered with a perfect espresso made using beans from Climpson & Sons, it’s a guaranteed cure for rainy-day blues. Aspiring baristas take note: to see how an espresso machine should be tended, come to Birdhouse.
The bottom line: The effortlessly chilled local coffee bar of everyone’s dreams; lucky Battersea.
Browns is well-loved in Brockley for a reason: it’s a diddy, perfectly realised little spot – white tiled, black-countered, pug-mascoted – opposite the station that was around way before the area’s swiftly ramping up gentrification began. They take their coffee very seriously: beans are from Square Mile, and the espresso – sharp, citrussy and on the verge of under extraction, but delicious nonetheless – is made with a very snazzy Victoria Arduino Black Eagle machine. There are piles of filled bagels in the window, canelés from Babelle, and pastries and sourdough from the Little Bread Pedlar. With a few alfresco tables and a buzzy location, it’s one of Lewisham borough’s coolest cafes.
The bottom line: Hit this station-side gem for perfect commuter coffee (or serene, cake-fuelled weekend whiling).
Set in an old electrical warehouse, Brick House was the first bakery in East Dulwich to specialise in the slow-fermented sourdough breads beloved by hipsters. At the café, bread is the main attraction – soft crumb, crunchy crust, very light and full of flavour. Elsewhere, provenance is key: very decent coffee comes from Square Mile, tea from Birchall, cheese and meat from Neal’s Yard and the nearby Flock & Herd butcher, respectively (there’s even a good little beer and wine list for the booze-starved). This all comes with a smile from well-informed and passionate staff. It may be sourdough, but you won’t leave Brick House sour-faced. Or having spent much dough.
The bottom line: The trendiest bakery in East Dulwich is a huge hit with locals.
Venue says: “We work on a very characterful gas-powered coffee roaster made in post-war Vienna in 1950.”
Even on the time-warp that is Waterloo’s Lower Marsh, Coleman’s feels like a caff from another age. For a start, it’s surreally, gloriously quiet, with only the modest supping of flat whites from other punters and the warming mumble of Radio 4 on the wireless breaking the silence on our visit. I loved it. Interiors are stuck between artfully distressed and merely distressed, there’s a selection of rustic ceramics for sale, oatcakes on the menu and a wall of their own coffee beans, roasted in a 1950s Otto Swadlo roaster. A flat white is wonderful: rich, dense with micro foam and palatably hot – perfectly for washing down the little discs of Iranian nougat on the counter. One of the best.
The bottom line: Embrace the quiet life at this perfect, tiny spot on Lower Marsh.
Stevie Parle’s Craft includes a swish restaurant and cocktail bar, but it’s the bright ground-floor café that’s our favourite bit of the whole show. Seasonal and homegrown are the buzzwords here, so lunchtime salads like quinoa with squash and broccoli are made with veggies and herbs grown in Craft’s garden. Greenwich Rise bread is freshly baked in the oven behind the counter and other bakes include gluten-free almond brownies and banana loaf. Our aromatic Aeropress coffee was made with beans roasted on site, too. There are great views over Greenwich Peninsula to boot.
The bottom line: It’s home-grown, home-baked and home-roasted at this Greenwich shrine to all things craft.
This light, airy little box of a coffee shop is more spartan than other objectively ‘hip’ spots – there’s still a dog with a scarf, art students in ill-fitting trousers and snazzy café merchandise on the walls – but it’s extremely well appointed. The coffee is excellent, the menu of own-brand daily brews listed on a blackboard (espresso on our visit is a Latamba from DR Congo). A San Fernando filter, smooth and satisfying with a few berry and herbal notes, is served in a Hario brew jug – an arch nod to the process but promising nonetheless. Food spans standards like pimpable avo toast, sourdough with interesting jams (grapefruit anyone?) and some very fine cakes, including an astounding peanut butter and jam blondie. I’ve had a lot of good things in my mouth, but this was up there with the best of ‘em.
The bottom line: A hip, excellently conceived café brewing up the good stuff, daily.
This corner spot is not large, but it is very popular with customers of every age and many nationalities. Seats with a view of the covered market are the ones to grab. Federation buys its beans – a bespoke espresso blend and a single estate special – from small Margate roaster Curve. They also sell coffee-related hardware including Aeropress machines and hand-grinders. To eat, there’s a range of baked goods, pasties and sandwiches from an ever-changing host of local suppliers. Service is friendly and there’s a real neighbourhood atmosphere here. For that, and for the location, Federation is top-drawer.
The bottom line: A hugely popular spot in Brixton Village market, buzzing and jolly.
Venue says: “Passionate about coffee? We hold fun, evening 'barista basic' courses each month. Find out more and book your spot via our website.”
The name of this Antipodean-style café is curious. Have they filled it by scouring the beach for odds and ends hurled from shipwrecked ships? The attractive interior suggests not – though there are bulkhead wall lights, and one large table could have been made from driftwood. Expect dishes such as coco-mango bircher muesli, smashed avocado and feta with pickled chilli, lime, mint and poached egg on rye sourdough, buttermilk pancakes and an array of cakes and pastries at the counter. Coffee is supplied by Allpress Espresso, tea by T2, with freshly squeezed juices, matcha and turmeric lattes, Karma colas and sodas from Luscombe elsewhere.
The bottom line: No beachcombing, just great coffees and healthy eats at this Antipodean-style café.
Wood is good. Making stuff is good, too, and London Reclaimed celebrates this by teaching young people joinery skills. Little Lumberjack is full of their furniture. In fact, Lumberjack likes all things crafty, so you can buy its hand-printed tea towels and ceramic mugs too – no wonder the place is such a hit with local art students. The craft ethos extends to the coffee from Peckham’s Old Spike Roastery, with teas from Good & Proper and fancy cakes from Cat Food London. We love it here. Though we do hum the ‘Lumberjack Song’ every time we visit.
The bottom line: Get crafty with the coffee (and the handmade furniture) in this Camberwell café.
Monmouth is always busy, except on Friday and Saturday; on those days, it’s rammed. Nothing here speaks of flashiness or trendiness. It’s all about the coffee and the simple, well-chosen food offerings (breads, pastries, etc.) that go with it. Espresso and its derivatives are well made, but brewed coffee – from the company’s peerless range of single-estate beans – is the real star. Seating is not exactly the lap of luxury (wooden benches; you perch, or stand) but it’s comfortable enough. Still going strong after 35 years in business, Monmouth is as good as coffee gets.
The bottom line: The public face of the grandmama of high-class UK coffee, self-assured and always busy.
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Size isn’t everything, right? Right. A case in point: Hammersmith’s Amoret, a compact shop opposite the tube station. Expansive it ain’t – perfect for commuter time grab ’n ’go, mind – but what it lacks in square footage it makes up for in coffee-making nous. Baristas are knowledgeable and keen to impart their stuff to a receptive fan base of caffeine junkies. Beans are strictly single-estate and change regularly: they’ve cupped Square Mile, Curve, Horsham, La Cabra, Rocert and Colonna in recent memory (among many others). They occasionally serve up their own house beans, too – roasted through Union Coffee’s Campus project. Who said bigger was better?
The bottom line: A teeny tiny shop making big waves in Hammersmith.
The ethos behind this, a cool little shop at the Hammersmith Flyover end of Fulham Palace Road, was to ‘bring a little of the magic from the laneways of Melbourne, and Sydney’s Bondi beach, to London’. If the word across W6 is anything to go by, they’ve more than succeeded. It’s a very well-rounded operation. They use Square Mile’s classic Red Brick for espresso, switching between SM and Nude single origins for pour-overs (there’s often guests from Down Under too: Seven Seeds, Supreme and Market Lane beans have recently appeared). Food is brunchy and inventive, a kimchi and cheddar toastie the inevitable best seller. Fancy making a night of it? They even sell a host of ace Aussie craft beers. Bonzer.
The bottom line: A buzzy Antipodean (duh) café cupping up great stuff from Down Under.
This is an exceptionally enjoyable place to while away the hours. The clientele, whether alone or in small groups of all ages, seems entirely local and children are most welcome. Beans come from Allpress and are used to excellent effect. Closing your eyes and sipping a perfect espresso, you could be in the Allpress HQ in Shoreditch. The room has a very pleasant feel, with enormous windows on two sides, high ceilings and down-home furnishings. This was the second branch (the first was in Putney) and two more have now opened in East Sheen and Ealing. Every neighbourhood would benefit from an Artisan.
The bottom line: This neighbourhood gem brings a taste of Shoreditch to Stamford Brook.
This Australian-owned place (as you might guess from the name) packs in appreciative customers. The affluent clientele – this is the Parsons Green end of New King’s Road, after all – gather in a small room at the front with a good view of passing traffic or the larger back room for serious lunches. Coffee here is a pleasure, with beans from Caravan treated carefully and served immaculately. But the food is taken equally seriously. In an area not well served with quality coffee in casual surroundings, Barossa stands out.
The bottom line: A deservedly popular wizard of Oz in sedate Parsons Green.
There’s more to this Chiswick coffee house than meets the eye. Sure, you’ll find high quality coffees, but head downstairs and it’s not just about the bean. Chief’s subterranean lounge plays host to classic pinball machines from the ’80s and ’90s – those in the know might recognise Cactus Canyon or Monster Bash. And if you don’t know your plunger from your playfield? They offer lessons, too. Coffee remains a focus, though. Workshop, Allpress and The Barn provide the beans and filter coffees are made using a Kalita Wave Dripper on the bar. Treats come from Kooky Bakes, and Rinkoff Bakery delivers daily pastries (plus cakes and cronuts on the weekends). There’s a variety of sausage rolls, too.
The bottom line: Coffee for pinball wizards.
Leafy old Ealing’s Electric Coffee has ‘bean’ going for nearly nine years now, successfully building a name as one of London’s finest shops, Zone 3 locale be damned. It’s serious stuff: the business was founded to celebrate the entire coffee-making process, and all the beans – all direct-traded – are processed in their own roastery in West Sussex. They have three grinders: one for single origin beans (with which they make espressos and flat whites); one for filter blends (an El Salvadorian/Brazilian Rocket 88 coffee on our visit); and one for decaf (as if!). What’s more, there’s a decent range of coffee-making gadgetry for sale and a tempting seasonal menu of sandwiches, soups, salads and sweet bits, either baked in-house or sourced locally. Make like the Pet Shop Boys and go west immediately.
The bottom line: Meticulous beans and city-best brews at a west London classic.
When it opened in late 2015, this Aussie-run shop represented something of a sea change for the caffeine starved of Parsons Green. It may be attached to another business (the ‘K2’ in question), but the café is far from an afterthought. For a start, it’s a looker, with a granite-flecked concrete counter, bare masonry, zippy designer lighting and a sea of white tiling; and a decent grub offering of sandwiches, custard tarts, banana bread and the like. Of course, that’d be moot but for the coffee, which comes from Winchester’s The Roasting Party. Being an Aussie spot, flat whites are the go-to.
The bottom line: A slick, Aussie SW6 shop, slinging quality coffee in stripped-back surroundings.
At the southern end of Portobello Road, Farm Girl abounds in colour: on the walls (lovely greens), the oatmeal napkins (bleach-free), pink salt (probably Himalayan) and joyful salad combos. On the day we went it was coleslaw, green beans and broccoli, and beetroot and spinach. Nothing revolutionary, but dressings were zingy and ingredients cooked properly, so three cheers for simple things done perfectly. Coffee comes from The Roasting Party in Winchester (save the cold brew, which is sourced from Good Beans). Your standard espresso/flat white/cappuccino/etc. offering aside, there’s zeitgesity rose, turmeric and matcha lattes ‘cause, y’know, Notting Hill. In addition to the main room, there’s a tiny courtyard at the front: on market day, it’s a blissful haven from the unbearable crowds. Service is non-stop sunny.
The bottom line: Portobello Road café with cool coffee and a focus on healthy eating.
L&B opened in 2010, and many locals consider it a godsend after years of a serious lack of local independent coffee places. The food offering is small but outstanding, with good soups, sandwiches, salads and assorted savouries. Sweet things are equally splendid (check out the blueberry cheesecake and banana bread), and prices are very reasonable. This is a neighbourhood hangout par excellence – staff talk to customers, and customers talk to each other. 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.
The bottom line: A tiny, eccentrically-decorated place with total commitment to quality in everything.
Now find a top-notch restaurant
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.
Lobos Meat & Tapas London Bridge
Borough Market is hardly lacking in decent places to eat, but it’s also never been too rock ’n’ roll in the way that Soho or parts of east London are. The new Spanish restaurant Lobos – a moodily lit lair with a banging soundtrack – gives it some edge. The dining room creates a sense of anticipation: Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to Be Wild’ blares from the speakers, and there’s a ground-floor bar serving sherry, cava, cocktails and wines from the decent all-Spanish list. Upstairs the main dining area is a narrow, dimly lit tunnel with intimate cubbies for couples, bare filament bulbs sticking out of the walls, and trains rumbling overhead. It seems fitting for a restaurant whose name translates as ‘wolves’. The menu makes much of how the chefs use their instinct and acute senses to create dishes. Sadly, the plates we tried didn’t dazzle. A mini-tortilla, snug in its cast-iron frying pan, was far too dry. Migas – a simple Spanish recipe for leftover bread, served with morsels of bacon or chorizo and a fried egg – arrived slightly congealed and chewy rather than crisp. Presa ibérica – a shoulder cut of the Spanish pig that’s taking London by storm – was served sliced and disconcertingly rare, and bore none of the scars or flavour of the grill. We wished we’d plumped for the rib-eye steak with pan-fried foie gras, or perhaps the leg of Castilian milk-fed lamb, because fellow diners seemed perfectly content. ‘The wolf will always be evil if we only listen to Little Red Riding Hood’ rea
Venue says: “Sink your teeth into a carnivorous menu of meat and tapas beneath the railway arches leading into Borough Market.”