After living in Melbourne for a few years, I became quite spoilt when it came to good quality coffee. It’s hard not to develop a certain level of coffee snobbery in Melbourne when the competition is so fierce. Melbourne is a city obsessed with coffee, strongly influenced by the European cafe culture. It’s all about the independently owned “edgier” coffee shops that thrive on good quality coffee and produce. Which is why big chains like Starbucks are an endangered species, hanging on by a thin thread.
When I moved to London, I developed a somewhat obsessive search to find a decent coffee. Unfortunately I had to experience a few really bad episodes of milky nothingness, burnt coffee and sinking froth which rocked my caffeine loving lifestyle to the core. Lucky for me, in recent years, London’s independent coffee scene has changed dramatically – partially due to the antipodean influence but also due to the rising knowledge of home-grown talent. High quality coffee spots which are refreshingly different are popping up everywhere in London, you just need to scratch the surface a little to find them.
After scouring the streets of London, here is a roundup of my top ten coffee shops.
If any coffee shop was to take the crown for the king of coffee it would have to be Prufrock. If the aroma of freshly brewed coffee isn’t enough to draw you into this busy establishment in Leather Lane, the funky beats might. Perch on one of the school room style chairs and watch the baristas at work as they master a variety of different coffee making methods including siphon and aeropress. Prufrock lead the pack when it comes to a good coffee, in 2011 they even launched a barista training centre to share their craft of good coffee-making. Coffee connoisseurs – you won’t be disappointed!
23-25 Leather Lane EC1N 7TE
Caravan Kings Cross
Located in an old granary building, this large and lofty venue has been brilliantly converted and has become one of the hottest foodie haunts in London. The stripped back interior, which has a semi-industrial feel, is one of my favourite coffee and brunch spots in London. The guys take their coffee seriously here. There is a working coffee roastery in the basement which roasts small batches of ethically sourced 100% Arabica beans daily. The coffee is rich and full bodied with an almost chocolate-like intensity which is why I keep coming back again and again.
1 Granary Square Kings Cross N1C 4AA
If you’re a caffeine hound like me, a trip to Monmouth always reinstates what a good coffee should taste like. Monmouth travel the world sourcing the highest quality coffee from producers and cooperatives. The coffee is delivered every day from their site in Bermondsey. It’s not all about the beans here – they also see high quality milk as an essential to a good latte – made with organic Jersey milk from Jeff Bowles in Somerset. You can also pick up a delicious range of pastries from Little Bread Pedlar and fresh cream truffles from Sally Clarke. It gets busy here so expect to queue a little.
27 Monmouth Street Covent Garden WC2H 9EU
Bar Italia is an institution in Soho and a big part of London’s coffee history. It first opened in 1949 and is a family run business which has been passed on through three generations. You can’t help but smile while ordering a takeway coffee in the morning by the charming baristas. Bar Italia use their own “secret blend” of coffee making which is ritual handed down through the decades. Come in the first time and tell them your preferences. Come in a second time chances are the baristas will remember you and how you like your coffee. There’s no pretense or snobbery here, just good old-fashioned coffee.
22 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 4RF
Workshop is typical of a Melbournian style cafe – cool, airy and slightly grungy. The fact that it was originally connected with Melbourne’s famous St Ali in South Melbourne explains a few things. The cafe in Clerkenwell is one of the best brunch spots you can find in London. Their heart, however, is their coffee roasting company which is responsible for sourcing, roasting and supplying some of the highest quality coffee in the world. Workshop has also opened a small coffee bar in Marylebone which focuses on great coffee and a limited food range.
27 Clerkenwell Rd, EC1M 5RN
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
This ultra hip establishment fits in well on Leather Lane with the likes of Prufrock Coffee. It’s a renovated hardware type establishment. Here you can enjoy a great coffee in a fun atmosphere with a heaving soundtrack in the background. Just don’t sit near the bar if you are coming for a work meeting. The service is exceptional here – each time I have come I have received the warmest of welcomes which makes me want to return even sooner.
14-16 Leather Lane, EC1N 7SU
Ginger and White
Ginger & White’s first cafe opened in Hampstead in 2009. The owners – Emma, Nick and Tonia – saw there was a need for a good cup of coffee in North London. And we are glad they did! Using the finest quality Square Mile coffee, the coffee here is exceptional with a full-bodied almost nutty flavour. Ginger & White proudly boast, “we don’t do Grande” so if that’s what you’re looking for head to your local Starbucks. Currently serving Red Brick Blend, the coffee is sourced seasonally throughout the globe and is delicately hand-roasted.
4a-5a Perrin’s Court Hampstead NW3 1QS
Foxcroft and Ginger
This cafe is a hidden gem in the heart of Soho. Owned by a dynamic husband and wife duo, Foxcroft and Ginger has a semi industrial feel with its stripped back interior, exposed pipes and bare bricked walls. It’s not everyday you see a vintage gymnast’s pommel horse which doubles as a cafe bar! It’s a perfect spot to sit amongst the vintage nic nacs watching the world go by while sipping a perfect brew of Has Bean coffee on mismatched antique crockery. And don’t leave home without having one of their home-made muffins.
3 Berwick St W1F 0DR
This cafe in the heart of Fitzrovia is owned by a team of Aussies and Kiwis. They serve some of the best coffee in central London which is why locals and suits cram into Kaffeine to get their daily dose of caffeine in the morning.They also have a great selection of freshly made sandwiches, salads and cakes which makes punters come back for lunch.
66 Great Titchfield St W1W 7QJ
A special mention must go to Flat White since they were one of the first coffee spots to bring artisan, antipodean cafe style to London. Although not as “special” as they used to be since the coffee culture explosion in London, they still serve exceptional coffee. Try to come at quieter times when you can get a seat – it can get hectic! I always come here when I’m feeling homesick to enjoy some great coffee with some fellow Aussies.
17 Berwick St, London, Greater London W1F 0PT
Special thanks go to some of my other favourites in London – Shoreditch Grind, Association Coffee, Nude Espresso, Caffe Vergnano, Notes, Milk Bar, Ozone, Brick Lane Coffee, New Row Coffee, Tapped and Packed, Allpress, The Little One and Federation Coffee.
What are your favourite coffee spots in London? Please leave your comments below 🙂