National Coffee Week is coming up (16-22 April). For those looking for a caffeine injection before work, wanting a break from the shops or looking for a neighbourhood hideaway, we’ve rounded up London’s top 25 coffee pitstops…
“A little piece of Swedish heaven”, “tucked away” down an alleyway in Covent Garden – this “tiny café” serves “excellent coffee” and “fabulous Nordic treats”. “The cinnamon buns are even more delicious than any I’ve tasted in Sweden (and I’ve tasted a lot by the way!)”.
“Legendary”, “open-all-hours” haunt redolent of post-War Soho, whose basic interior is “pleasantly untouched” by the passage of years. “You don’t go for the food, but for the coffee and the buzz” and for “an institution that’s a one-off. May it never, ever go!”
“Simply the best coffee you’ll find anywhere” is part of the resolutely and genuinely Italian approach at Tony Conigliaro’s tiny (expect no great encouragement to linger) but characterful Soho bar, known also for its definitive Negronis and authentic bites. In early summer 2017, a much larger ‘Centrale’ branch opened near Selfridges, with an expanded food offering including salads and panzerotti (akin to a fried mini-calzone).
All the key bases are covered at this “good neighbourhood spot” in Earlsfield, serving “varied brunches”, “excellent coffee and tempting cakes by day”, and “great homemade pizza with a selection of craft beers in the evening”.
“London’s most interesting brunch dishes” – “light pastries and wholesome porridge to unusual spicy and savoury options” (not to mention “fabulous speciality coffees”) – help drive a “vibrant” buzz at these “funky” hang-outs, with the “bustling industrial-style” Granary Square outlet vying for top popularity with the smaller Exmouth Market original (Bankside has yet to make many waves; and there’s also a new City branch is opening in October 2017, in the new ‘Bloomberg Arcade’). The eclectic dishes can seem too “keen to be innovative at the expense of polish” though, or just plain “weird”.
“What it claims to be: a good coffee stop!” – the “no frills” but straightforward proposition at this Leather Lane original of what is now a mini-chain of coffee bars. “It’s small and not always easy to get a seat, but always good”, with “great cakes”.
“Exceptional coffee from experts” who “take real pride in making an outstanding brew” can be sampled at these on-trend espresso bars, operated by a coffee wholesaler in Camden Town, Shoreditch and Battersea. NB they “sell and service coffee machines”, but “they don’t serve food”!
“Built for cyclists but cooking for everyone!” – this cycle-themed café in Putney seems “set to last in a funny location that has failed in previous guises”. The sense of permanency stems not least from the “consistently good brunches and fabulous sourdough pizzas” and “popularity with MAMILS (middle-aged men in lycra) means excellent coffee!”.
Although they almost pre-date the ‘hipster’, these high-quality, funky little cafés, with their “superb coffee, great tapas, freshly squeezed juices, breads, cakes and toasties” hold their own well against newer competitors. “The best F&W is at Somerset House, where on a sunny day you can sit outside and look at the beautiful architecture and fountains, just a minute from the Courtauld and the Strand”.
“Top-quality coffee”, “great breakfasts” and “excellent cakes” are the winning formula for these “casual” Antipodean-style caffeine stops off Hampstead High Street and Belsize Park. They can be “cramped and busy”, but “you feel somebody is making food you like, just for you”.
“The coffee’s fantastic” at this Antipodean outfit, also with cakes and light bites, but even in sedate Putney “there can be long queues” (“I can no longer even get a table!”).
“Consistently incredible coffee” (and “superb salads and sarnies” too) give this incredibly “welcoming” Aussie/Kiwi-owned duo a serious claim to being “London’s top independent coffee houses”. “Both branches are fabulous; the Eastcastle one is a bit more relaxed”.
Lisboa Patisserie W10
“Simply the best pastéis de nata in London, and excellent coffee too” make it worth adding this “truly unpretentious” and “good value”Portuguese café into a trip down Portobello way, although NB “it’s very crowded most of the time”.
“The best breakfast in town”, with “great staples and specials that deliver on flavour”, has earned cult status for this Antipodean café in Balham, now branching into evening service. “You have to pick your times to get a seat”, though – “my absolute favourite place to be at 10.30am on a Saturday morning; unfortunately, I’m not the only one…”. A cynical minority do loathe the place though: “it’s masquerading as some sort of high-end funky elite dining experience” for “wannabe hipsters”.
“It’s cramped, it’s busy”, but “you’ll never get bored of the variety of coffee flavours on offer”, at these epic caffeine-stops – the best-known of London’s top tier coffee house chains – where “excellent recommendations” from the “really knowledgeable” staff (“who will let you sample and taste different growths”) really add to the experience. Borough Market is the definitive branch, and – as well as the pastries offered elsewhere in the group – also has bread and jam on hand to soak up the brews.
“You can’t better the cinnamon buns, rye rolls and coffee” served at this quartet of Scandi cafés in Soho, Marylebone and now also Covent Garden, which – leaving aside a hint of “design mag self-consciousness” – are “great for a sweet or savoury treat”.
Orange Pekoe SW13
“The best tea shop in existence” may be stretching it, but this Barnes tea room is permanently rammed to overflowing onto the pavement. “It’s my favourite place for a reasonably priced ’full English’ tea”, with excellent coffee and “mouthwatering cakes supported by unusual lunchtime salads”.
“An on-site bakery ensures everything is super-fresh” at this “lovely, light and bright location”near the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital: “great coffees, cakes and French-styles brunches”. They must be doing something right as in mid 2017 they launched new stores on the King’s Road and in Kensington.
This “new Antipodean coffee shop” near Earl’s Court tube “feels different to others out there” – “a small space run by a great young team producing familiar-with-a-twist and yummy breakfast fare (bircher muesli, porridge, avocado toast, generous granola etc) and importantly, exceptional brews”. There’s now an outpost in Soho.
“Unbeatable… except for the queues in the morning”; the habit-forming smell from the big roasting machines in the basement is justification enough for a trip to this superbly hip, Kiwi-owned Shoreditch haunt, which provides exceptional brews and does a “fab” brunch too.
This quaint looking domed structure, “overlooking the boating lake at Victoria Park” is “a wonderful setting for a locally-sourced, full English, all-day breakfast, and serves superlative coffee too”.
Prufrock Coffee EC1
“Leading the pack in coffee (and its new stoneground oolong tea is amazing!)” – this caffeine haven near Chancery Lane offers “a great value brunch for a City location, but it’s always packed so arrive early”.
From brewing some of the “best coffee in West London” by day, this Chiswick spot transmogrifies into a “great tapas bar” serving Spanish cured ham and Argentinian empanadas by night, along with wines from the two countries.
Taylor St Baristas (group)
“Baristas who seem to have studied caffeine to degree level or higher” help win high popularity for these hip operations serving “great artisan coffee” alongside “a limited but good quality lunch/snack offering”.
Workshop Coffee EC1
Fans hail “by far the best coffee in town” at this small chain with its own roastery – “don’t let the lack of comfort put you off!”. Along with a “range of different brews to try”, they also serve snacks and pastries, while the Clerkenwell original goes a step further, with a full brunch and lunch menu.
Is there a coffee shop in your area that you feel deserves to be on this list? If so please tell us about it by taking part in this year’s Harden’s survey. Find out more.