As any of you reading this blog for more than say ten minutes will know, I barely move without some form of caffeine propelling me… The number of appointments, jobs and meetings I’ve missed or been late for in my life solely because I’ve taken some ridiculous circumferential route around where I am actually supposed to be, searching for a decent cup of coffee doesn’t bear thinking about…
When I moved to London 12 years ago the first thing I did was set out in search of a cafe where I could drink lots of brown stuff and work. At the time, there wasn’t any to be found: truly nothing. But London’s come a long way since then in caffeine terms and there are now lots of places to get an excellent coffee. The following are, in order, my favourites:
All Press - 58 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, London, E2. Simply the best cup of coffee to be had in London and conveniently right next to the Albion, which happens to serve the best bowl of porridge and certainly one of the best bacon butties in town so you are in good company. But do get your coffee from All Press… it’s perfect.
Kaffeine (66 Great Titchfield Street -near Great Portland Street)
A lovely little cafe run by Aussies and New Zealanders. They have delicious salads and cakes, are always friendly and make a damn fine cup of joe*. I particularly like that they do a small coffee called a ‘piccolo.’ Ideal if you meet a friend ‘for coffee’ and have already had 20 cups that day and fear you may develop an arrhythmia if you have another latte… Small, but perfectly formed.
Milk Bar, (Bateman Street Soho) the younger sibling of the more popular (and almost impossible to squeeze into) Flat white (17 Berwick Street, soho) is one of my favourite places to sit and read in London. It’s often blissfully quiet with a great cup of coffee, amazing banana milkshakes and avocado on toast. They also make a certified effort to support local artists with the art on the walls changing monthly. Super friendly staff who will make you any sandwich you like as long as you ask nicely and they have the ingredients…although one of them did once run out to buy peanut butter for me when I asked if they did peanut butter and banana on toast (I know - I’m weird like that)…. I love those guys… what a bunch of dudes. My one tip for milkbar would be to ask for your coffee to be hot if you are not keen on coffee being on the tepid side. They are so sensitive (rightly so I guess) about burning the milk that I have been served a lukewarm cup occasionally…
The Provadores (marylebone High Street) this tapas room and restaurant on Marylebone high Street and it’s new little sister Kopapa in Covent Garden make a fantastic cup of coffee and (in my humble op) do some of the best and most unusual breakfasts in London (I really recommend the brown rice, miso and apple porridge- surprisingly delicious). Hell of a lunch spread too.
Foxcroft & Ginger 3 BERWICK STREET, SOHO, LONDON, W1F 0DR. A lovely cafe with bustling atmosphere and an extensive food selection with everything seemingly more delicious than the last. Try the Honey Roast Ham with Balsamic Peach Chutney and Mozzarella sandwich… And the coffee, naturally.
The Espresso Room (Holborn) Just a damn fine cup of coffee. Everything at this parred down place is simple and straight-foward and I dig that about it. I’ve only been there once as it’s not really on my route, but they claim on their website that it’s the best cup of coffee in Bloomsbury and based on my one experience, I would tend to agree.
Ginger & white (hampstead). This place is just so lovely it warms the cockles of my heart. Like an old fashioned tea-room, complete with tea cakes and coconut macaroons, the staff are lovely, the coffee great and every single cake a slice of brain-melting goodness. If you’re in Hampstead for the weekend, make a Pilgrimage…
Coconut macaroons from Ginger and White
The Tea & Coffee Plant (Portobello Road, Notting Hill). This place (although lots of people rate it) does not, in my opinion do the greatest coffee. It’s good coffee, and certainly compared to the chains, perfectly drinkable, but I should confess to having been served many a mediocre cup (along with a few very good ones) here. However, I am putting it on my list because it is an institution. You can’t live in west London without having arranged to meet someone here at some point. Always playing pumping, late-nineties dub at top volume and always packed to the rafters with hipsters - especially on the weekend…it makes up for its coffee in atmosphere and delicious chocolate-dipped apricots. And to be fair, often the coffee is below par only because they are just so damn busy. They also sell fantastically fresh coffee beans and the staff are always a hilariously eclectic mix of foreign students who have not changed their clothes since leaving home five years ago. How this place has survived in Snotting Hill for so long is a mystery, but I love that it has….
If these recommendations aren’t enough, I suggest you follow the Flat White blog which is dedicated to finding the best cup of coffee in London ‘and beyond’…. or the lovely Sasha who writes the Happiness Project blog who does a mighty fine, not to mention comprehensive, London coffee-shop review….
Other cafes in London which others really rate but I’m not so keen on:
Tapped and packed 26 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1JD. The guys who run this are so dedicated to the art of coffee they frequently run countertop displays of brewing ‘perfect’ coffee in test-tube-like vessels. They have great, but small selection of teas, pastries and French-bread sandwiches here and the staff are lovely, but it’s very expensive and I find the ‘high acid content’ [they told me that] in the coffee a bit, well… acidic… Still, worth a trip if you are interested in the ‘science’ of coffee making and want to see the test-tube thing in action.
Fernandez and Wells great coffee (by all accounts) and superb Spanish-ham sandwiches… However, I made the mistake of ordering a latte with soya milk (dairy milk makes my nose stream and that is unpleasant for all around me) to be told by the super-smug dude behind the bar that I shouldn’t drink coffee with soya milk because it doesn’t taste as good and they didn’t serve it because it didn’t froth as well. Ok arsehole. Thanks for that. Next time I want your opinion on my coffee I’ll let you know. Seriously, life is hard enough without some dude in too-tight jeans censoring your coffee preferences. I haven’t been in there since. But friends for whom dairy-does-not-equal-excess-snot assure me it’s very good.
Monmouth (covent garden) Likewise, they don’t do soya and they can’t seem to help themselves from delivering this news in a condescendingly smug way . Again, you know how I feel about people telling me how to have my coffee… (just say ‘sorry we don’t do soya’ and I’d be cool with that! I don’t need the lecture)…. so this place, though famous for it’s beans, is out for snotty-nosed me, but may be worth checking out for you. I should warn that it is super expensive though.
Lantana (fitzrovia) Pretty good coffee (not perfect), great food, great, great atmosphere and…the grumpiest staff this side of planet earth. Look out for the particularly impolite Australian girl with red hair. I don’t think she’s cracked a smile since 1978… it can kinda ruin your coffee. A real shame because otherwise this place would be a haven.
*Josephus Daniels (1862-1948) was appointed Secretary of the U.S. Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Among his numerous reforms of the Navy was the abolition of the officers’ wine mess. From that time on, the strongest drink aboard navy ships was coffee and over the years, a cup of coffee became known as “a cup of Joe”. (Just a little bit of useless trivia for all you non-yanks out there)