Finding London's best coffees

Aug 02, 2011


When the good people of London aren’t drinking pints of beer they are generally drinking mugs of tea. But times are a changing. No longer is British coffee a bitter punch in the mouth, it’s smooth, it’s creamy and it’s everywhere.

According to local barista lore, Flat White is at the heart of London’s coffee culture. Since 2005 it’s aimed to translate the Australian and New Zealand coffee experience to London – and it’s worked. If you’re from the colonies then this place will feel familiar; it’s small, its music is loud, its baristas wear black and it does a roaring takeaway trade.

Despite Monmouth’s formidable local presence, the British roaster’s original store in Covent Garden is incredibly humble. Since opening in 1978, Monmouth has built three dedicated cafes, a new roasting base in Bermondsey and a healthy wholesale trade around the country. Word of warning: they only serve Jersey whole milk here, which just means that the coffee is consistently (and deliciously) creamy.

The Espresso Room is small but strong. The tiny caf pulls shots from local roasters, Square Mile, to perfection. Grab a takeaway flat white then wander the bookshops and stores on nearby Lambs Conduit Street.

If you do one thing in East London make it a trip to Leila’s Shop at Arnold Circus. The clutter free, Polish caf is obsessed with simple detail, which reveals itself in both the hearty rye sandwiches and coffee. The latter is made from Monmouth beans and comes ‘milky’ or ‘black’.

Need a bigger caffeine hit? Read our Austrailan Coffee: The bean counters and Los Angeles: Espresso Mojo features.

At one end of the Exmouth Markets, Caravan is a slightly more polished alternative to the market’s street stall fare. Its green beans are sourced year round from single farms and roasted daily in the basement, which gives the cups a seasonal flavour. Sample a few different types over a long lunch.

Most Melburnians will be familiar with St Ali’s heavenly roast and now the same stuff is available in London. The caf and restaurant keeps a massive roaster out back and knowledgeable baristas out front. In short, it tastes like home.

Hackney is literally bursting with decent cafes but Climpson & Sons is next level. Climpson hand-roasts its beans a stone’s throw from the storefront, which doubles as one of the best places to people-watch in London.

The slightly more refined sister to Flat White, Milk Bar’s spacious, boothy interior is a luxury in Soho. Like its sibling, the caf uses Square Mile beans and keeps Bonsoy on hand for soya freaks.

Maison d'tre roughly translates as “home to be” and the new Islington caf feels like a home away from home (if said home is a quaint cottage in Provence). Run by two lovely ladies, the coffee comes from London-based micro roastery Nude Espresso and is paired with sandwiches, scones and treats. Plan to stay a while.

The above cafes are just the start of it. See below for a more extensive listing that includes Towpath Caf on Regent’s Canal, New Zealand roasters Allpress in Shoreditch, southsiders Bermondsey Street Coffee and Rose Bakery (above Dover Street Market) in Mayfair.

Food & Drink

Flat White
17 Berwick Street, Soho, W1F0PT
+44 2 7734 0370
Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm

Monmouth Coffee
27 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, WC2H9EU
+44 2 7232 3010
Mon-Sun 8.30am-6pm

The Espresso Room
31-35 Great Ormond Street, Bloomsbury WC1N3HZ
+44 7 7607 14833
Mon-Fri 7.30pm-5pm

Leila’s Shop
15–17 Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch, E27JP
+44 2 7729 9789
Wed-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm

11-13 Exmouth Market, EC1R4QD
+44 2 207 833 8115
Mon-Fri 8am-10.30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-10.30pm

St Ali
27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN
+44 2 7253 5734
Mon-Sun 7am-6pm

Climpson & Sons
67 Broadway Market, Hackney, E8
+44 2 7812 9829
Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat 8.30am-5pm, Sun 9am–4pm

Maison d'tre
54 Canonbury Road, Islington, N12UP
+44 2 7226 4711
Mon-Fri 7.30am-6pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm

Milk Bar
3 Bateman Street, Soho, W1D 4AG
+44 2 7287 4796
Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm

Towpath Caf
36 De Beauvoir Crescent, Hackney N15
+44 2 7254 7606
Mon-Sat 9am-6pm

Allpress Espresso
58 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, E27DP
+44 2 7749 1780
Tues-Fri 7.30am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-5pm

Bermondsey Street Coffee
167 Bermondsey Street, SE13UW
+44 2 7403 7655
Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat-Sun 8pm-8pm

Rose Bakery
Dover Street Market, 17-18 Dover St, Mayfair, W1S4LT
+44 2 7518 0680
Caf hours: Mon-Wed 11.30am-5pm, Thur-Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm

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