East London is a stomping ground for coffee enthusiasts, and we've rounded up our favourite cafés. Be tempted by a light brunch at Leila's Shop, a connoisseur's brew at Prufrock Coffee or something more hearty at Albion at The Boundary Project. Try Time Out's guide to the best cafés in Shoreditch to satisfy those early morning cravings.
East London: stomping ground of the coffee connoisseurs. No-one should pass through Shoreditch without a pilgrimage to Prufrock. What’s the big fuss? Mainly that the shiny Victoria Arduino espresso machine has been operated by top coffee names, from the 2009 Swedish Barista Champion Mattias Björklund to the UK’s first World Barista Champion, Gwylim Davies.
Albion describes itself somewhat self-consciously as a ‘caff’, but no greasy spoon in London was ever designed and owned by Terence Conran, and certainly none has its own maître d’. But in spirit, at least, it is something approaching a café for 21st-century Shoreditch – a place where locals can drop in for a casual breakfast, lunch or dinner, or just a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
Venue says: “Friendly Sunday cafe with delicious coffee, cakes and pastries. We also offer a fully bespoke cake, canape and wedding cake service.”
Lily Jones (aka Lily Vanilli) carved out a solid, celebrity-packed fan base well before opening her own bakery. Her foray into sculptural, macabre cake creations (roadkill cake, gingerbread gravestones, marzipan beetles) gave sweet treats a contemporary, anti-cute makeover and set her far apart from the mainstream cupcake clan.
This original branch of Nude just never stops being busy, even at times of the day that should be quiet. The enduring popularity has a pretty simple explanation: quality and (relative) consistency. That, plus a sizeable local catchment area encompassing business as well as residential custom.
Le Pont de la Tour
The long riverside dining room is elegant if a little soulless, but the setting is picture-perfect: dining on the outside terrace with a view of Tower Bridge feels like posing for a London tourist brochure. Cynics might expect the food to disappoint. It didn’t. The lunch and dinner menu du jour offers great bang for buck, with many dishes lifted from the carte. Vegetables cost extra. New potatoes were an unnecessary addition to a lovely crisp-skinned bream with courgettes, fennel and tomato. A snappy salad added much-needed colour to a rewardingly varied plate comprising pithivier of rabbit leg confit and a ballotine of the saddle around herby forcemeat, either side of exquisite mashed potato. A nicely tart raspberry crème brûlée again showed what the kitchen does well: matching fine technique with focused flavours. The food may be French, but on a fine day Le Pont de la Tour can be a top London attraction. Typically British: our waiter admitted he’d arrived in the country only a few days earlier, and service slowed terribly towards the end of lunch. The adjoining primary-coloured Bar & Grill offers food that is more brasserie in style: more cheaply, more informally and with less sense of occasion.
Venue says: “Le Pont de la Tour’s sommelier team oversees an impressive collection of old and new world wines, including legendary maisons.”