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.
Best coffee shops in central London
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 from Caravan make flat whites with a rich flavour and thick crema. 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 citrusy, but wonderful. With made-to-order sandwiches, hot snacks, and decidedly decent cakes, this café is definitely worth spending a penny in.
The bottom line: Coffee that wakes you up before you go-go, served in a former men’s pissoir.
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 comes from Nude Espresso, guest beans mostly from 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. Bought-in 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 beans provided by a range of roasters. 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 eight 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 Caravan beans, plus guest beans 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.
This former Pret was transformed in spring 2013 into an independent coffee shop. The uniform fittings have been replaced by second-hand tables and an eclectic selection of pews to perch on. Their back wall is decked out with a line of drip filters for sampling coffees from a changing roster of guest beans. The house espresso blend is sourced from Caravan Coffee Roasters, but beans from smaller roasters (such as Roasted Rituals and Campbell & Syme) also make an appearance in their La Marzocco machine. To fill your belly, there’s the usual selection of pastries, sarnies and quiches.
The bottom line: An indy café that’s thrown off the chains.
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.
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. In 2013 it also started doing its own roasting in King’s Cross. 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 made with the best ingredients, such as charcuterie from Ham and Cheese Company. 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.
This big, bright, comfortable room is renowned for its devotion to artisan coffee. Monday to Friday, everyone’s in a bit of a hurry (more so after a couple of shots), but there’s no rush at weekends and coffee is always produced to the very highest levels. For those who don’t want espresso, top-notch brewed coffees are made using several different methods. Food is displayed on the counter, with a small selection of daily dishes on a blackboard; quality has been consistently high on our visits. Leather Lane may be nearly empty on Saturdays, but Prufrock makes it a serious destination.
The bottom line: One of London’s very best, and equally distinguished with filter-type brews and espresso.
This Soho store proves there’s more to the cycling-coffee pairing than Lance Armstrong-style performance enhancement. The café occupies half the space in this smart cycle clothing shop, and provides ample seating for those wanting to relax after buying a pair of merino knee-warmers. And it is a remarkably relaxing place, largely because of the chatty but efficient staff. The house espresso blend comes from Alchemy, and there are guest beans from Workshop, too. Food is more elaborate than standard coffee-bar fare, with pasta and rice dishes providing carbs for hungry cyclists, plus sandwiches and eggy breakfasts. A haven near Piccadilly Circus.
The bottom line: A chilled-out place in unlikely surroundings, and some of the nicest staff around.
This is the third branch of what used to be Tapped & Packed – and don’t be surprised if it’s not the last. The formula is simple and very effective. Buy good beans and treat them with respect. Create a relaxing space. Employ staff who know that a smile and a friendly word are just as important as efficiency. It pays off. This branch is the largest of the three, but it wasn’t easy to bag a table at 2.30pm on a weekday. Food majors on sandwiches and salads (reasonably priced for Soho), plus the usual baked goods. A completely satisfying experience. Leaving was a wrench.
The bottom line: You’ll have to force yourself to get up and leave. Expect TLC from Tap.
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 decor 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.
Originally Tower 47, this Camden café has gone Big Apple on us, with its shiny new bagel oven. Choose Brooklyn-style rye, poppy seed or pumpernickel stuffed with pastrami, salt beef or cream cheese. Don’t fret over the transformation, though – the Camden soul has survived. There’s music memorabilia on the walls and musicians can still hire Studio 2 for band practice. Locals come here for the friendly service (it’s the same owners) and relaxed vibe – though weekends get more hectic as tourists flock to the market. Get your caffeine fix with beans from Soho’s Algerian Coffee Stores, or there’s root beer if you’re more Americana than Americano.
The bottom line: It’s bagels and basslines at this café which brings a taste of NYC to Camden.
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: 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 – this caravan’s an oasis in the King’s Cross concrete desert.
Camdenites have enthusiastically embraced Coffee Jar since it opened in 2013. There’s seating for just ten people, with minimal decor based on reclaimed scaffolding boards. House beans come from Monmouth, with a changing roster of guests. 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 focussed: a few sandwiches, plus baked goods both bought in and produced on-site. 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 the Tate roastery, with guests including Red Brick and Roundhill. 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 which 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 from Gail’s Bakery, 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 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 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 lovely café in a lovely West Hampstead church.
This winning coffee shop is one of the classiest acts on the lower reaches of Kentish Town Road. It’s tiny, with seating for just a few people upstairs (plus pavement seating that’s usually occupied even in inclement weather) and around ten downstairs. The owners’ warm and friendly welcome accounts in large measure for their devoted local following. So does the coffee, made with Allpress beans. Milky drinks are executed flawlessly. Espresso is more variable but can reach perfection. Food is simple but excellent: check out the spicy quail’s egg sausage roll. The walls display exhibitions by local artists, too. A place to cherish.
The bottom line: A tiny jewel with a huge flock of followers in the lower reaches of Kentish Town Road.
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 on site. The homespun feel to the decor only adds to the appeal.
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.
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. 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, laidback, 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-orientated, 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 touristas.
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 gets more serious with time. Coffee comes in brewed form as well as espresso, with a daily changing pair of ‘slow-brew’ specials. Kenyan peaberry given this treatment was a silky treat. 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.
Best coffee shops in south London
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. Sandwiches are great, and warm banana bread is nigh-on impossible to resist. Partnered with a perfect espresso made from Climpson & Sons beans, 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.
Set in an old electrical warehouse, Brick House is 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. We had nicely ripe avocado slathered on rye (£3.50) for breakfast. Lunch is sandwiches and soup, with nice touches for kids – milk and cookies, boiled egg and soldiers. They come with a smile from well-informed and bread-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.
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 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 London roaster Campbell & Syme. They also sell coffee-related hardware including Aeropress machines and hand-grinders. To eat, there’s a range of baked goods, pasties, sandwiches and fritters, some coming from nearby Salon Brixton. 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.
This café is one of three on Clapham Common, and is perhaps the least attractive – a bleak-looking concrete box between a busy road and skateboard park. But it’s the best by a jogger’s mile. It’s run by the people behind uber-trendy Milk in Balham. The highly inventive menu is the main draw, but if you’re just popping in for a snack, or to sit outside on the large decked area, light bites include yeasty, peat-smoked lardy cakes. Great coffee is made with either Workshop espresso or Koppi filter. Kids are welcome.
The bottom line: Clapham Common's best café, inspiring quality in an uninspiring building.
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 pineapple 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. There are Crosstown doughnuts, too. Coffee is supplied by Allpress Espresso, tea by T2, with freshly squeezed juices, Karma colas and sodas from Luscombe.
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 the 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 Monty Python’s 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, 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.
What’s that in the corner? Like a tiny steam engine, that, my friend, is a coffee roaster and it’s the reason why caffeine heads flock here. The place is tiny and started purely as a roastery in 2014. It soon opened to enthusiastic Peckhamites – and now runs ‘Change Please’ coffee carts too, working with homeless charities. You’ll spot its seasonal, single-origin beans elsewhere, but come here for a freshly roasted espresso experience, plus interesting filters. Our Ethiopian Rocko Mountain was super-smooth, fruity and chocolatey. There’s artisan hot chocolate and Good & Proper teas too. But when the coffee’s this good, why would you have anything else?
The bottom line: Get your bean buzz in Peckham at the neighbourhood’s very own coffee roastery.
Coffee at this cheery corner spot is the real deal. Beans from Old Spike Roastery and Bristol’s Little and Long are brewed up with just the right amount of obsession. A black V60 was mellow; flat whites are velvety and fruity. Big windows with counter seats let in lots of light, while the back room has all the hipster trimmings with bare bricks and bare bulbs. But we really love the off-beat touches like old copies of National Geographic stacked on tables. Sandwiches include avocado and halloumi on pumpernickel, plus pastries, quiches and gluten-free cakes supplied by Kat Bakes London.
The bottom line: Properly passionate about coffee, this is a popular spot for busy Brixtonites.
Best coffee shops in west London
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 the Caravan roastery 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 sedatest 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 and Drop provide the beans but cold-brews and iced-coffees are made with an in-house Kalita Wave Dripper. Baked treats from Sweet Butterfly and Rinkoff bakery’s Crodoughs do some brisk business, too.
The bottom line: Coffee for pinball wizards.
This is not just a coffee place. It’s an ex-boozer, and alcohol still features prominently, as does a short menu of international dishes and traditional pub grub. Sausage sandwiches are made using bangers from the renowned Ginger Pig butcher. Beans come from Coleman Coffee, and alongside the house espresso blend there are single-estate coffees – still relatively rare in the world of espresso. The barista wasn’t satisfied with his first two attempts for geeky technical reasons, so he persevered – and the third one was glorious, with bright berry notes. His perfectionism sums up this gem. Maida Valeites should cherish it.
The bottom line: A lovely local with lots of room and a really warm welcome.
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 bean and broccoli, and beetroot and spinach. Nothing revolutionary, but dressings were zingy and ingredients cooked properly, so three cheers for simple things done perfectly. Prices are high but the portions generally justify it. In addition to the dining 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 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.
Espresso here is very Parisian – and that’s not necessarily a compliment. It’s perfectly good of its type, but nothing to write home about. Food is also very Parisian, and this is definitely a compliment, as Yvon Coignard knows his craft well. A small oval of the Languedoc bread called fougasse had a topping of meltingly sweet caramelised onions and salty lardons; wonderful. But it’s the jewel-like patisserie that really makes you think you’re in St Germain. Chocolate or fruit, they are a pleasure to look at and, based on the evidence of a tarte tatin, a pleasure to eat. Ealingites are lucky – we hope they know it.
The bottom line: Perfect Parisian-style pastries in an Ealing shopping centre.
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.
Coffee and juice get top billing here, but there's more to this smart little café at Whiteleys shopping centre than roasted beans and pulped pulp. But if they're what you're after? Expect a solid range of both, with the fruit juices including a 'megablast'. Healthy, we presume. To eat, savoury waffles certainly look interesting – filled with smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese, falafel, or a burger and piri-piri sauce. More orthodox, sweet options include chocolate and banana, chocolate and strawberry, and chocolate and banoffee. There's a chocolate milkshake too, should you like to get your chocolate kicks via other routes. Keep an eye out for colourful salads, bagels, healthy wraps and well-stuffed sandwiches, too.
Venue says: “Join us for delicious waffles, crêpes and healthy juices, as well as fantastic coffee!”