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Leila Devito 27/11/23


The Best London Cafés

The Best London Cafés | Where To Quaff A Coffee

Paris has its chic patisseries, Turkey its traditional Turkish kahve houses, Vienna its grand cafés populated with poets and artists…

…and Britain has the caff.

But, thanks to London being the fantastic cultural and culinary melting pot that it is, the capital’s cafe offering is constantly evolving. Specialist coffee shops, Japanese tea houses and fancy cake shops are popping up across the city to accompany our treasured greasy spoons, and now the London cafe scene is better than ever.

Here’s where to find the best cafés in London:


Greasy Spoons & Retro Cafés

Regency Cafe | Westminster

regency cafe london

distillated/Flickr

Westminster might not evoke much national pride these days. But this retro cafe pitstop on Regency Street might restore your faith. It’s been going since 1946, and you can tell from the pretty much unchanged interiors. The food, too, is resolutely traditional, and it’s one of the best spots for a classic fry-up in Central London. Just expect to enjoy that other great tradition first: queuing.
Best for: Nostalgic nosh that won’t break the bank.
Details: 17-19 Regency Street, London SW1P 4BY

Anya Cafe | Belgravia

anya cafe london

Part of the The Village, Anya Hindmarch’s micro-empire of shops and boutiques in Belgravia, Anya Cafe combines stylishly retro interiors with googly-eyed cakes and kitsch treats. The refreshments are a lot more affordable than the bags, but won’t last as long. Unless you believe that “a moment on the lips” rubbish…
Best for: Oddball cakes with a sense of fun.
Details: 9 Pont Street, London SW1X 9EH

Norman’s | Tufnell Park

Breakfast at Normans cafe

Formica tables. Bacon sarnies. Ketchup straight from the glass bottle. Norman’s has all the makings of a traditional greasy spoon, but it’s a far cry from Eastenders’ ‘Kathy’s’. The team behind this North London café have worked in some of the best restaurants in the city (we’re talking Lyle’s, The Clove Club, etc), so you can expect quality produce and elevated versions of British cafe classics like Sausage Egg Patties, Bubble and Squeak and Ham, Egg & Chips.
Best for: The hipster take on old-school classics.
Details: 167 Junction Road, Tufnell Park, N19 5PZ

E. Pelicci | Hackney

mishmoshimoshi/Flickr

Small but bursting with character, E Pelicci on Bethnal Green Road is one of London’s oldest family-run cafes. The Kray twins used to come in here, and tell off other punters for using bad language. Inside, it’s a beautiful time capsule, with art deco wall panelling and formica-topped tables. While the surrounding area’s become increasingly gentrified and chains have begun to move in, this independent cafe has stayed true to its traditions and is now an East London icon, famous for serving up simple and hearty breakfasts and a range of delicious Italian fare. If you go for one thing, order the Big Bang Ciabatta with crispy chicken escalope, mozzarella and ragu.
Best for: Hearty food in a unique setting
Details: 332 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 0AG

River Cafe | Putney

Let’s not make the obvious name comparison – this place is a London dining destination in its own right. Opposite Putney Bridge underground station lives a great little family-run spot that serves up traditional caff fare at a very reasonable price. After a night on the tiles the ones all over the walls here might be a bit too much for the eyes at first, but the solid breakfasts and beverages on offer will soon see you right.
Best for: A bacon sarnie the morning after.
Details: 1A Station Approach, London SW6 3UH

Paul Rothe & Son | Marylebone

Paul Rothe & Son opened his café in Marylebone Village back in 1900, and it’s now run by the founder’s grandson Paul, and his own son. Most famous for their homemade soups and sandwiches, stop by for some coronation chicken and a cup of tea Monday to Saturday.
Best for: Fresh sandwiches made right in front of you.
Details: 35 Marylebone Lane, London W1U 2NN

Cable Cafe Bar | Oval

cable cafe bar

An artfully time-warped café-bar that offer single-origin, fairtrade coffee; freshly baked cakes & pastries; and the occasional chess match between regulars. Stay here long enough and you’ll get to see the cafe shift into its evening guise, where jazz bands pitch up twice a week and the drinks get a little more serious.
Best for: An all-day affair
Details: 8 Brixton Road, London SW9 6BU

Scootercaffè | Waterloo

scootercaffe

Holding out on the rapidly gentrifying Lower Marsh tucked behind Waterloo station is Cable’s sibling, Scootercaffe. The place narrowly avoided closure after the building was thought not to meet fire safety regulations (ironically, the cafe’s eclectic array of bric-a-brac crammed into every corner was apparently fine). Now it’s back, and we’ll never take it for granted again: come here for coffee from the vintage 1957 espresso machine, and stay on for spritzes and cocktails in the evening.
Best for: Eclectic interiors
Details: 132 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7AE

Terry’s Cafe | Borough

Founded by a butcher-turned-cook who grew up in South London before he was evacuated during the war, Terry’s Cafe is now run by his son and remains an exemplary London cafe. The interior is like a trip down memory lane. The walls are crammed with black and white photos of the local area, china plates and wartime posters and memorabilia. Minimalism is not on the table here, and that goes for the menu too. The portions are big, hearty and made from quality produce sourced from Smithfield and Borough Market. That said, this caff isn’t afraid to move with the times, and next door at Terry’s Deli you can pick up baked treats from St John, Monmouth Coffee, and, yes, Terry’s merch.
Best for: The kind of breakfast you shouldn’t eat everyday. As much as you want to.
Details: 158 Great Suffolk St, London SE1 1PE

 


Ludicrously Pretty Cafés in London

The Wren Coffee | Bank

wren coffee london

Tucked inside this City church is a divine little cafe. Open Monday to Friday, The Wren Coffee blesses city workers with breakfast goods in the form of croissants and bacon rolls, but what you’re really here for is the grandiose setting. If you miss the morning service you can grab a freshly made sandwich or wrap for your mid-day meal, and the coffee (supplied by Caravan) is delicious. You might say it’s a holy roast.
Best for: Getting some work done in a palatial setting
Details: St Nicholas Cole Abbey, 114 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 4BJ

Café Kitsune | Belgravia

cafe kitsune at pantechnicon

Where can you find chicken katsu sandos and caramel miso rice pudding brioche? Why, Belgravia of course. On the ground floor of Pantechnicon, a five storey building devoted to all things Japanese and Scandinavian, is a cafe serving French patisserie with a Japanese twist. You can enjoy breakfast, lunch or an evening cocktail whilst sitting on the cafe’s beautiful outdoor terrace, the perfect pit stop between exploring what this incredible building has to offer.
Best for: Something a little different (check out more amazing Japanese cafés here)
Details: Pantechnicon, 19 Motcomb Street, London SW1X 8LB

Burgh House | Hampstead

burgh house cafe

Ironically for a literal mansion in one of London’s most affluent postcodes, it’s actually the exteriors of Burgh House that are the most appealing. Because the ground-floor cafe here spills out into the secluded gardens, sheltered by a canopy and festooned with hundreds of twinkling fairy-lights. It’s an excellent resting stop after a stomp across Hampstead Heath.
Best for: All weather al fresco
Details: Burgh House, New End Square, London, NW3 1LT

Peggy Porschen | Belgravia & Chelsea

peggy porschen cafe

What appears to be a giant French Fancy stuck on a corner of Chelsea is, in fact, a café. And the cakes inside are just as beautiful a confection as the exterior – drop in for cupcakes, brownies, or go the whole hog with an afternoon tea.
Best for: Excessively pretty sweet treats
Details: 219 King’s Rd, London SW3 5EJ | 116 Ebury St, London SW1W 9QQ

 


London Cafés with Great Food

Pavilion Cafe | Victoria Park

pavilion cafe

Slap bang in the middle of one of London’s most beautiful parks, Pavilion Cafe will kickstart your morning with glory. Open since 2004, the cafe sits right on the park’s boating lake which you can enjoy from the covered veranda all year round, whilst tucking into favourites like the Portobello mushroom burger with caramelised onion, cheddar and pesto, or Pavilion’s famed Sri Lankan breakfasts. Don’t forget to stop by the Happy Endings dessert hatch before setting off on your stroll around the park…
Best for: Great food and drinks with an even better view.
Details: Victoria Park, Hackney, E9 7DE

Pophams | Islington & Hackney

pophams hackney

Feel the knead for some baked goods? Look no further than Pophams. With outlets in Hackney and Islington, this artisanal bakery delivers a spin on viennoiserie: pastries that are made from a yeast that makes them bread-like (and more importantly, delicious). You can enjoy all sorts of croissants and other flaky fancies throughout the day, and at lunchtime they serve a range of toasties and a seasonal lunch menu that changes fortnightly.
Best for: Beautiful pastry & soothing interiors.
Details: 19 Prebend Street, Islington, N1 8PF | 197 Richmond Road, Hackney, E8 3NJ

Honey & Co Daily | Bloomsbury

honey & co cafe

Yes, it’s like that Honey & Co, the critically acclaimed, universally beloved Middle Eastern spot from husband and wife duo Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich. Only this is their more casual café version, meaning you can swing by just to grab a coffee & delicious pastry to go on the way into work, or stay and linger in the cosy dining area for something more substantial.
Best for: Takeaway delights that go way beyond your average croissant.
Details: 19-21 Store St, London WC1E 7BL

Deeney’s Café | Walthamstow

deeneys william morris cafe

Haggis toasties and William Morris: Deeney’s is someone, somewhere’s very specific idea of heaven. It’s the second outpost for Leyton’s beloved café, and you’ll find it occupying an airy pocket of the William Morris Gallery overlooking leafy Lloyd Park. The toasties are all made to order (and include options like chicken & mozzarella and veggie haggis for the offal-averse), and should fuel you up for a good nose around the Victorian designer’s collection afterwards.
Best for: Some of the city’s best toasties
Details: Lloyd Park, Forest Road, London E17 4PP

Grove Lane Deli | Camberwell

grove lane deli best cafe camberwell

A picture says a thousand words, but if it said forty-three, they might be something like ‘Grove Lane Deli is without a doubt the best café in Camberwell. Only a year old, it’s picked up a cult following – mainly thanks to these absolutely next-level sandwiches, but also thanks to the freshly baked cakes, great coffee, and all-round happy vibes’.
Best for: Sandwiches.
Details: 4a Grove Lane, Camberwell SE5 8SY

Burnt | Shepherd’s Bush

Burnt cafe in west london

Fear not, they always get the cooking times just right at this neighbourhood gem, tucked among the Victorian terraces in residential Shepherd’s Bush. Burnt works with quality suppliers like Climpson’s for coffee and The Dusty Knuckle for pastries, while rustling up its own signature treats for brunch like miso squash omelettes and wild garlic eggs benny.
Best for: That chilled-out, local feel
Details: 163 Askew Road, W12 9AU

Mystic Burek | Sydenham

mystic burek cafe

Plastic gingham tablecloths, napkin dispensers, 80s posters framed on the walls: by rights, Spasia Dinkovski’s place should be in the old-school ‘greasy spoon’ section of this article… except it only opened in 2023. This is the first bricks-and-mortar shop for the cultishly beloved Mystic Burek, which previously only existed in ethereal, pop-up form. The café sits just off a high street in South East London, but it’s not unusual to hear of customers making cross-city pilgrimages for a slice of MB’s unbelievably tasty Macedonian filo pastry pies.
Best for: A foodie legend that lives up to the hype.
Details: 227 Dartmouth Road, Sydenham, South London, SE26 4QY

 


London Cafés with Great Coffee

NOLA | Peckham

nola cafe

Open seven days a week, Nola is a seriously popular South London cafe. Founded by a couple of coffee lovers, Josephine and Anthony (who used to tour the world in their band), NOLA is inspired by all the cafés they visited on their travels. The interior is simple and elegant and lets the food and drink do all the talking – come for all-day brunch with exceptional dippy eggs; lunchtime bagels & toasties; and the rotating guest coffee beans served alongside their house roast.
Best for: Working in the week, brunching at the weekend
Details: 224 Rye Lane, Peckham, SE15 4NL

Catalyst Cafe | Holborn

Bacon sandwich at Catalyst

If you’re having a sluggish morning, Catalyst Cafe will speed you right up again. One of their famously enormous bacon sarnies and a shot of the café’s own coffee beans, roasted in-house, is a partnership powerful enough to beat almost any level of sleep deprivation, and there’s plenty of seating so you can take your time returning to normality.
Best for: Single origin coffee with original tasting notes
Details:
48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT

Monocle Cafe | Marylebone

monocle cafe

If you were in any doubt about Monocle Cafe’s association with the magazine, the black and white striped awning and bright yellow outdoor seating will assure you, as will the menu of Japanese-inflected breakfast and lunch dishes. Freshly baked pastries sit alongside bagels and Japanese bento plates, and later in the afternoon they do a nice line in yuzu G&Ts. There’s also a cosy couch area at the back where you can relax with a nice cup of coffee and a good read. They’re sure to have some literature floating around…
Best for: Quality coffee with a dose of minimalism.
Details: 18 Chiltern Street, London W1U 7QA

South London Louie | Camberwell

south london louie cafe

Now that Louie Louie’s sadly had to close its doors on the Walworth Road, spin-off South London Louie is the flagship of the family now. And it’s more than capable of bearing that mantle: it’s a beautiful space – half townhouse, half double-height glass extension – tacked onto the side of the South London Gallery (so that’s the rest of the afternoon sorted). There’s toasties & salads during the week, brunch at weekends, guest chefs in the evenings and, crucially, some very good coffee at all hours of the day.
Best for: A side of culture
Details: 65 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UH

The Elderpress Café | Hammersmith

Elderpress Cafe - hidden gems across london

Ozone coffee, a divine selection of homemade pastries and cakes, yoga classes, a courtyard that gets loads of sun (when there is loads of sun), pet-friendly and a clean, green vibe inside, Elderpress is a hidden gem in Hammersmith that regulars who spend their lazy mornings here probably don’t want everyone to know about. Sorry, regulars…

Details: 3 S Black Lion Ln, London W6 9TJ

WatchHouse | Bermondsey

Perched on the corner of Bermondsey Street, this quirky coffee shop is housed in a converted 19th century guard shelter. For the adjacent graveyard. Contrary to its neighbour(s), this place is always pretty lively, and with a limited amount of seats inside you might have a bit of a wait (although they do cap tables to 90 minute time slots during peak hours). Obviously you can have a taste of the signature WatchHouse coffee collections here, but you can also grab a variety of cakes and delicious breakfast and lunchtime sandwiches and wraps – the veggie focaccia is particularly good.
Best for: A fly-by coffee and a bite to eat.
Details: 199 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3UW

Love great coffee? Check out our full guide to London’s best coffee shops


London Tea Rooms

be-oom | Clerkenwell

The walled garden space at the back of this Exmouth Market tea shop is small but be-ootiful, and well worth a visit just for that. But there’s lots more on offer… except for coffee. Stay on the line though, caller, as these teas are very special. All sourced from Korea, there’s green teas, blended teas, matcha teas, flower teas… alongside sweet treats that deliver an exotic infusion of flavour, good health and indulgence. We’ll clink to that.
Best for: Tea, obviously. In a beautiful, calm environment.
Details: 27 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QL

Katsute100 | Islington & Brick Lane

katsute100 cafe

A pair of Japanese tea rooms that offer a huge range of teas sourced from small Japanese producers, so the majority of them are not widely available in the UK. Of course there’s green tea and buckwheat tea, but for our money the most special is the Kyoho sencha, a green tea with Japanese mountain grapes that gives off an amazingly sweet scent as it brews. Pair your cuppa with a traditional cake given an elegant twist, like their matcha brownies and yuzu scones. There’s a supremely calm atmosphere across the Islington café’s two rooms, and on a sunny day you can take a seat outside in the back garden.
Best for: Unwinding with a specialist tea
Details: 100 Islington High St, London N1 8EG | 147 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB

 


Looking for more inspiration? Check our recommendations for top London brunch spots and the best bakeries in London