The daily grind.
It’s far easier to get through with a little of the daily grind.
Specifically, the one you’ll find behind the brew bars at London’s many specialty coffee houses. Because while Australia’s had the run of the world’s best coffee till now, London’s beginning to twig on too – so behold, our run-down of the best coffee shops in London; from scientifically precise specialty shops to cosy neighbourhood cafés…
TAP | Soho & Fitzrovia
Sadly, the coffee here doesn’t actually come on tap. Where it does come from, however, is TAP’s very own roastery, from whence it’s turned into liquid gold in their gleaming espresso machine or via V60 coffee drippers, artistically balanced on industrial copper piping on the slow brew bar counter. The Soho interior is enviably spacious given its location, sporting classic revived factory chic – think exposed girders, long communal tables, and reams of skylights – presumably there to remind you what time of day it is, and that sadly, at some point, you do have to leave.
Good for: A flavoursome, well-made decaf
Address: 193 Wardour Street, W1F 8ZF | 114 Tottenham Court Road, W1T 5AH
Prufrock | Clerkenwell
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” laments a gloomy Prufrock in T. S. Eliot’s eponymous poem. But at this Leather Lane coffee joint and training school, that’s left up to the impressively nerdy precision of the team, who ‘dial in’ (i.e., tinker with various parameters) when brewing their Square Mile grounds, and log the results in spreadsheet – all as part of their eternal quest to crack the ultimate brew. Which, frankly, is all you’d expect from a place run by a former World Barista Champion and Head Judge…
Good for: Scientifically perfected coffee
Address: 23-25 Leather Lane, EC1N 7TE
Ozone | Old Street
Laid out over two floors – café on the ground floor, in-house roastery downstairs – Ozone has a raw, industrial look you won’t find at Costa: exposed brickwork; brushed metal; hand-painted signs; high ceilings; weathered tables and leather booth seating.
Upstairs they serve their generously-portioned brunch dishes alongside hot drinks, cold brews and espresso tonics, while the basement’s for roasting, creating their own blends, and even the occasional “cupping” (the technical term for “coffee tasting”, apparently). READ MORE
Good for: When you’re after a real power boost.
Address: 11 Leonard Street, EC2A 4AQ
Coal Rooms | Peckham
A great spot at any time of day, set in the old, Grade II listed ticket office and toilets of Peckham Rye station. It’s a collaboration between local bean-toasters Old Spike Roastery and the head chef of Smokehouse – so there’s worse places to head for a cup of joe and a coffee-cured bacon sandwich. READ MORE
Good for: A coffee for the commute
Address: 11a Station Way, SE15 4RX
Timberyard | Covent Garden
Besides being one of London’s best coffee shops to work in, Timberyard’s an excellent place to unwind in, too – they’ve taken an airy, central spot and loaded it up with bohemian bric-a-brac; big, comfy sofas; and repurposed luggage trunks for tables. The hot stuff here comes courtesy of Climpson & Sons, with the baristas cranking out single origin espressos from Ethiopia and El Salvador. Plus, there’s hireable meeting rooms downstairs, too.
Good for: A central workspot – but get there early.
Address: 7 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9DL
The Wren | Blackfriars
Let’s talk coincidences. 1) Christopher Wren designed the rebuild of the St. Nicholas Cole Abbey after the Great Fire of London, at the same time that London’s first coffee houses were beginning to spring up. 2) That abbey is now home to a coffee house. It’s a series of strange interconnections which have ultimately led to you scoring a Caravan-roasted espresso, a creme egg brownie, and a dinky table beneath a lofty, rococo ceiling and the dappled light from modernist stained glass windows.
Good for: Ridiculously fancy surroundings.
Address: 114 Queen Victoria Street, EC4V 4BJ
Grind | Shoreditch and Beyond
Despite proliferating like wildfire across London, each Grind establishment retains an independent feel, from the opulent, retro Clerkenwell branch, to the bright and airy Holborn pitstop. The coffee, meanwhile, is consistently excellent. That’s because they roast their house blend daily in Shoreditch, train their baristas for months on end, and own a record label. Which is scientifically proven to have a measurable effect on taste.
Good for: Espressos that turn into the martini variety come evening.
Address: Various sites – check here for details
46b Espresso Hut | Homerton
While local to about 3% of London, 46b is worth the pilgrimage for everyone else – since their coffee’s roasted by Square Mile, their brownies baked by E5 Bakehouse, and their croissants by Yeast Bakery. Everything else (the cosy, shabby chic interiors, chipper service and delicious Greek-inspired snacks) – they handle pretty well themselves.
Good for: Unusual accompaniments to your cup of joe
Address: 46b Brooksby’s Walk, E9 6DA
Monocle | Marylebone
A coffee shop as seen through the lens of Monocle magazine, with Allpress-roasted coffee; Japanese breakfasts and Scandinavian lunches; whisky highballs; matcha hot chocolate; and something called banana juice.
Good for: A zen bubble in central London
Address: 18 Chiltern Street, W1U 7QA
Café Below | Bank
St. Mary-le-Bow is a beautiful church in the middle of the City. And below Le-Bow is an atmospheric, family-run café tucked away in the crypt, with Climpson’s coffee, hot breakfasts, seasonal lunches, secret supperclubs, and an in-house shoeshiner.
Good for: An independent City spot
Address: Beneath St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, EC2V 6AU
Association Coffee | Liverpool Street, St. Paul’s
A spacious spot near the Gherkin with exposed brick walls; long, well-lit communal tables for working and a list of suppliers (including Square Mile Coffee, Ginger Pig, and Little Bread Pedlar) that’s all killer, no filler.
Except for Newton & Pott, who literally supply their sandwich filler.
Good for: Coffee that takes no shortcuts
Address: 10-12 Creechurch Lane, EC3A 5AY
Swallow | Goldhawk Road
Swallow coffee: generally good instructions for drinking. But also, as it happens, a cosy neighbourhood coffee shop serving Ozone coffee and Yumchaa tea in their homely café and hidden suntrap of a back garden.
Good for: Specialty coffee in West London
Address: 75 Goldhawk Road, W12 8EH
Over Under | Earl’s Court, West Brompton
A dinky, laid-back, minimalist haven with rotating art exhibitions that serves top-notch coffee, breakfast, and (at Earl’s Court) this cornflake-infused oatmilk chai latte.
Good for: Flawlessly executed specialist coffees
Wifi? Yes – though they’re very small, so give them a hand and don’t stay too long.
Address: 181a Earls Court Road, SW5 9RD
One & All | Peckham
A relaxed, homely spot, One & All serves coffee from Peckham roasters Old Spike Roastery, £1 cups of tea and a selection of bakes, as well as running a pay-it-forward scheme – so that it can host one and all.
Good for: Community spirit
Address: 28 Peckham Rye, SE15 4JR
Allpress | Dalston
One of New Zealand’s most feted coffee brands, Allpress has been around as long as Starbucks – and where the latter plumped for speed, Allpress went for quality; so if your espresso wasn’t brewed within the magic window of 23-28 seconds, you can bet that’s not the one they’ll be serving to you. Swing by their pared-back Dalston roastery and café when you want to sip on a direct trade roast made with some serious TLC.
Good for: Plenty of workspace, and al fresco seating
Address: 55 Dalston Lane, E8 2NG
Climpson and Sons | Hackney
A charming spot off Broadway Market combining an original, old-school shop front with breezy modern interiors. As bean suppliers to many of the best coffee shops in London, these guys know what they’re doing. At weekends flocks of market-trawlers head here for their fix, so try to head over on a weekday when it’s quieter – or in the evening for nitro espresso martinis on tap.
Good for: Sipping a morning brew with a paper
Address: 67 Broadway Market, E8 4PH
Coleman Coffee Roasters | Waterloo
A fairly recent, pocket-sized addition to Waterloo’s Lower Marsh, CCR produce their own South American espresso blend, brewed the “old fashioned” way (with half the usual ‘dose’ of grounds, and at a slightly cooler temperature), through their gas-powered espresso machine made in 1950s Vienna. Enjoy with their signature snack, ‘oaties’ – a Staffordshire staple of oat pancakes with either a savoury or sweet filling – in their peaceful back garden, complete with its own fruiting pomegranate tree. READ MORE
Good for: Something different to accompany your brew
Address: 20 Lower Marsh, SE1 7RJ
Vagabond | Finsbury Park
The stuff they serve here is not your average joe.
Founded by a former TAP barista, Vagabond naturally roast their own beans, which they then use alongside their own prodigious talents to brew in predominantly espresso-based drinks. Another great spot to work in, the space itself is kitted out with wooden tables and al fresco seating in their back yard – and it plays host to a killer full English breakfast.
Good for: Focussed working
Address: 105 Holloway Road, N7 8LT
Jacob the Angel | Covent Garden
The Jacob in question here is, it’s thought, the first man to open a coffee house in London.
Truly, he was an angel.
Coming to you this time from the siblings behind the critically acclaimed Palomar and The Barbary, this miniature coffee house nestled in colourful Neal’s Yard serves up excellent coffee courtesy of Square Mile, a swathe of Mediterranean-inspired snacks and small plates from a former Morito chef, and – crucially – coconut meringue pies. READ MORE
Good for: Taking friends to a hidden gem
Address: 16½ Neal’s Yard, WC2H 9DP
Attendant | Fitzrovia, Clerkenwell & Shoreditch
People tend to take the piss out of places that used to be public toilets.
But not only have Attendant already done that, they’ve actually worked around the old, Victorian urinals in their basement coffee den to create quirky counter seating, where you can knock back one of their own-roasted, smooth seasonal espressos or single-origin pour-overs, and a hefty sandwich (prepared in the former toilet attendant’s office, if it makes you feel any better). It’s so good, you’ll spend more than just a penny.
Good for: Unusual surroundings
Address: 27a Foley Street, W1W 6DY | 75 Leather Lane, EC1N 7TJ | 74 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3JL
Birdhouse | Battersea
Birdhouse sports stylishly minimalist interiors dotted with quirky, bird-themed paraphernalia.
It’s classic scandi’n’avian design.
But it’s a mere accessory to the stuff they’re serving inside, namely sweet, smooth roasted Climpson & Sons coffee, chunky home-made bakes and toasted Cuban bocadillos. It’s a place to bring your book, and maybe write one too.
Good for: Proving West London’s got the goods, too.
Wifi? Only during the week
Address: 123 St. John’s Hill, SW11 1SZ
Kanella & Co. | East Dulwich
Hanging out towards the middle of Lordship Lane – in the fancy patch near the cheesemonger and the fishmonger and the farm shop – is Kanella & Co., a slick, family-run coffee joint serving (yes – we said it) the best oat milk latte in East Dulwich. You’ll also find a daily-changing, freshly-made spread of Greek treats (spinach and feta swirls and the like) which you can either eat in or take-away. Plus they run regular Greek-inspired supper-clubs which sell out in seconds so be quick.
Good for: Feeling like one of the family
Wifi? Absolutely – although no laptops on the weekend
Address: 6 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London, SE22 8HF
Last Updated: 14th January 2019 | Main image: The Wren
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