Tag Archives: best coffee shops in London

My search for the best coffee shop in central London #5 – Store Street Espresso, 40 Store Street, WC1E 7DB

So here’s my criteria and hit-list for finding the best coffee shop in Central London.  And yes I hear you – “Flat White! Flat White!” – I will get there eventually but I’m taking my time, mkay? I don’t want another over-egged Byron experience. To recap, I’m looking for a chilled, cosy, friendly place with tasty coffee with depth and a kick. The kind of place you can go to gossip or to sit alone on your laptop or reading your book. Simples.

Store Street Espresso opened recently so it’s brand spanking new and right by the back entrance to the British Museum so is favoured by good friend and guest blogger Pippalippa as venue for drinking coffee and doing Chinese homework. We went along for lunch and I was really impressed.

It is lovely inside – minimalist and arty but also warm and cosy which is quite a feat, and with enough corners and angles to be private. Great mix between people on their own and groups – I expect you could grab a paper and while away several hours in there. Super friendly staff who were happy to let me snap away. And good music – Nu-folk which is cool (unlike Old-folk which apparently is not). I’m a fan of music in coffee shops, makes for a better atmosphere in my humble opinion – I thought the London Review of Books cafe was just too quiet. I did ask them where the coffee beans were from, they answered and I nodded and then I completely forgot what they said. But the coffee was really good – I ordered a flat white at around £2.20 I think and it was strong and deep and creamy but with a nice little kick which helped my tired and jet-lagged ass get through the afternoon at work. And it came with a heart on top - a heart! I used to think coffee art was gimmicky but I like it now. Nice doorstop bread sarnie with cheese and pickle too. Definitely recommended for grabbing a coffee and a bite to eat if you’re in Bloomsbury. Oh and I finally worked out why my previous photos were so blurry (I’d switched the focus to manual by mistake) – so these photos are back to normal.

My search for the best coffee shop in central London #4 – Lantana Cafe, 13 Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia, W1T 1SN

Continuing my search for the best coffee shop in central London, I popped into Lantana Cafe on Friday lunchtime for a coffee. I should caveat this post by saying that LOADS of people have raved to me about Lantana. I’ve heard the food is great and since I went a number of people – including people who do coffee for a living -  have told me I was wrong and need t0 go back. But I have to stick to what I’m looking for in this search which is delicious coffee that picks you up from your crappy /stressful day and makes you smile, with a nice little kick of energy. A coffee shop that is warm and welcoming and happy to accomodate you and your friends, or you on your own with your laptop or book and a bit of time to while away.

Lantana is an antipodean cafe and as I loved the cafe culture last time I was in Sydney (although I think its Melbourne-run), I was looking forward to seeing how the Aussies had livened up the London coffee “scene”. The beans are a mix of “Guatemalian” [sic], Brazilian and Ethiopean and the coffee certainly looks pretty with a cute little tree-shaped milky bit (would have looked much better in the photo had I not dunked a great lump of sugar in it beforehand).

I ordered a flat white, my new coffee of choice. But I was disappointed – first of all it was luke warm, not hot – so not a coffee that can be cradled and enjoyed slowly. Then it was seriously creamy but with no “hit” of caffeine (I need my hit, man) – although maybe I should have ordered a double shot. And it was £2.40 – most expensive coffee on my search yet. Also, I was one of the only people on my own and I felt like a loser. Especially because I was taking pictures of the coffee. It was lunchtime so maybe that’s why, but coffee shops should be friendly and welcoming to waifs and strays and invite you to hang around as long as you want. Saying that, I will definitely be back for brunch or lunch and maybe a coffee in the afternoon when its quieter.

My pick of the coffee places so far? Wild & Wood. Although the London Review Bookshop Cafe is a lovely relaxing little cafe, the coffee is amazing in W&W (Monmouth coffee) and had me buzzing all afternoon, and it’s gorgeous and accomodating inside.
Lantana on Urbanspoon

My search for the best coffee shop in central London #2 – Reynolds, 34 Eastcastle Street, W1W 8DW

Last week I decided to start learning more about coffee and to find the best coffee shop in central London. Reynolds on Eastcastle Street is a big hit on Qype and one of the Duracell free coffee shops so I went along. 

 [Note the Duracell offer did not work when I texted (apparently its a glitch in the system) so I’ve stopped advertising it on this blog. But the guys at Hill & Knowlton organising it, who are veh nice, are on the case and I’ll let you know when its up and running again (and thanks to H&W for sending me a free Duracell charger thingie as compensation).]

I loved Reynolds, loved it. Its the HPL’s perfect cafe - great ingredients, local, good value, friendly, quirky. Sadly only two tables outside but luckily Penelope managed to nab one so we could have a relaxed natter over lunch. The idea is you buy small things (around £1-3 each) – half a wrap, some salad, maybe soup – and add it all up to an interesting lunch. I ended up having a roast salmon and advocado wrap with a bean and feta salad and it was delicious and cheap too.

 

Anyway I came for the coffee so we had this afterwards. This time I remembered to ask where the beans were from, and they are the ones above – a Guatemalan hand-roasted mix (on sale there for £3.85) and very nice too. I ordered a two-expresso shot flat white (antipodean-influenced coffee craze) and Penelope had a cappucino – £2 each for a huge coffee so great value.  

It was a lovely coffee – really smooth and just a tiny tang of bitterness and gave me enough of a kick that I felt really en fuego all afternoon. I’m beginning to find a good coffee a real treat – it even affects my mood. Bit of a revelation!

My search for the best coffee shop in central London – criteria and #1 London Review Cake Shop

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:

  1. London Review Cake Shop (review below)
  2. Reynolds (review here)
  3. Lantana (review here)
  4. Kaffeine (review here)
  5. Foxcroft & Ginger
  6. Bea’s of Bloomsbury (already been but only for tea)
  7. Caffè Vergnano 1882
  8. LJ Coffee House
  9. The Espresso Room
  10. Flat White (review here)
  11. Wild & Wood (review here)
  12. Dose Expresso
  13. Monmouth Coffee Company
  14. Store Street Expresso (review here)
  15. 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.

London Review Cake Shop on Urbanspoon