The Black Penny

The Black Penny | Covent Garden Coffee Shop

We don’t usually write about coffee shops.

And this is because most of them don’t have a head chef. Or a subterranean Seminar Pit hosting regular lectures, events, discussions and – most importantly – other things you might like to go to.

The Black Penny, however, does.

Opened in Covent Garden, it features a full breakfast and lunch menu courtesy of Head Chef George Notley (ex-Lantana Café and Tom’s Deli) starring dishes like crispy duck hash with poached egg, sweet potato and spinach; ale and kale pies; and soft stone bass ceviche… all of which can be washed down with a selection of inventive, yet well balanced, coffees courtesy of Alchemy (one of London’s leading roasters).

The place itself is inspired by the very first English coffee houses, which were introduced to these shores not by Starbucks in 1998 – as some may, or may not, believe – but in the mid-17th Century, by travellers who considered the potent beverage to be far more than simply “medicine” (which the British, at the time, believed it to be). Highly sociable places, they were also known as Penny Universities: visitors would pay a penny in exchange for admission, a cup of coffee and stimulating gossip debate on matters of academic, political and local significance.

The Black Penny

Interestingly, the absence of alcohol inside these “Penny Universities” was believed, at the time, to create an atmosphere far more conducive to serious debate than would ever be achievable within an alehouse.

Thankfully, however, this coffee house recognises that serious debate is boring. So whilst languidly indulging in whichever lecture on ancient coffee culture, poetry night, debate or live concert you happen to find down in that Seminar Pit of theirs, you can enjoy a Bloody Mary, a glass of wine… or a bottle of prosecco.

Coffee ain’t everyone’s cup of tea, after all.

NOTE: The Black Penny does not currently take reservations and is open Mon – Sat (8am – 8pm) and Sun (9am – 5pm). You can make contact either by calling 020 7242 2580, or by emailing

The Black Penny | 34 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5AA


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The Black Penny

34 Great Queen St, Covent Garden, Central London, WC2B 5AA
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