Photo from my review of Opus coffee shop in Brixton
I’m not a serious coffee drinker. Yes, I own a caffetiere and prefer coffee shops to chains, but I don’t know much about coffee – I couldn’t tell the difference between Italian and Columbian for example. But it’s a special treat for me – to start my day at the weekend, after a lovely dinner, on weekday afternoons filled with thoughts or gossip. I’m excited because this search is going to teach me loads about coffee – which as well as being one of life’s little pleasures, I’m hoping is an acquired taste.
My request on twitter for decent coffee shops near Tottenham Court Road caused quite a flutter – it seems many of you are keen to ditch Starbucks and find a great local coffee place. We move at an incredibly fast pace in London and these places offer a slow, lingering, caffeine-laden respite from to-do-lists and multi-tasking. What a difference between grabbing a latte-to-go and being served at a table and invited to hang around. And what a difference in taste – bitter and deep and distinctive. One of my favourite coffee shops ever was Massolit Books in Krakow, Poland – a dusty bookshop serving cakes and coffee, which begged you to stay there all afternoon.
And so my work-neighbour Pippalippa agreed to be my buddy for my search for the best coffee shop in central London (central as we can only go so far in our lunch breaks…) which we will test out over the next few months. Here’s my current list of places to try as suggested by Tim Hayward and others on twitter, Time Out and Young and Foodish:
- London Review Cake Shop (review below)
- Reynolds (review here)
- Lantana (review here)
- Kaffeine (review here)
- Foxcroft & Ginger
- Bea’s of Bloomsbury (already been but only for tea)
- Caffè Vergnano 1882
- LJ Coffee House
- The Espresso Room
- Flat White (review here)
- Wild & Wood (review here)
- Dose Expresso
- Monmouth Coffee Company
- Store Street Expresso (review here)
- Notes Music and Coffee
London Review Cake Shop, 14 Bury Place, WC1A 2JL
Any cafe in a bookshop gets double points from me and this was nice and relaxed. Felt like you could sit for much of the afternoon looking out onto the sunny central courtyard, reading books or chatting. Table service is slow and relaxed – slap on the wrists to me who bowled over to the counter to order. It was seriously calm in there – in fact a little too quiet for me and Pip who hadn’t seen each other in a while and were gassing away, but I suppose quiet is what a bookshop is all about.
The coffee wasn’t too strong and was a little bitter but not too much. I got a little kick but wasn’t knocked sideways. I forgot to ask where the beans were from and what the milk was – mental note: I MUST do this from now on. And I should probably take a photo of the actual coffee too. (My review of the coffee will get better as I learn more, I promise).
All in all a cute little place for a snack and a coffee, and perusing the bookshop next door. Apparently they have lovely cakes, quiches and salads too – will try them soon.