Category Archives: Best coffee shops in London

The Riding House Cafe, 43-51 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 7PQ

 The Riding House Cafe has just opened opposite Kaffeine on Great Titchfield Street and its a beautiful sight to behold. From the same peeps who brought us Village East and The Garrison, it has lovely warm orange leather lounge seats (reminds me of a beloved jacket I bought from Armstrongs in Edinburgh circa 1993 and the wallpaper I had growing up – 70s burnt orange, mmmm good one parentals), beautiful lights and antique wooden tables, wooden sideboards and tiles, lots of tiles (very Spuntino darling). Little cosy booths for gossip and wine and dates – this would be a great date place – and long tables for big groups and a nice long bar with people on their own reading papers and looking happy. Its a lovely set up, and I just loved the squirrel lamps (although I hope that all squirrels died of natural causes and / or of old age).

Pippalippa and I were lucky enough to go there on their opening day and tried their sharing plates – the food was incredibly yummy, delicately cooked and looked beautiful and well priced at £2-5 for each. Here’s what we had:

Sea bass ceviche – incredibly light, refreshing and tasty and perfect for ladies on diets with hangovers (hypothetically speaking) 

Squid and chorizo – yummy

Anchovy pepper-y crostini thing – very tasty

Moorish lamb – incredibly tender, beautifully cooked

AMAZING pork belly – deliciously crispy skin and melt in the mouth middle – absolutely wonderful (note we did manage some broccoli for some green stuff, veh nice too)

Food is 50% off at The Riding House Cafe until 3 May so go along for lunch, coffee or dinner. We shared 6 small plates, had a pudding each and coffee (nicer than Kaffeine’s imho eek) and it came to £12 each – bargain. Sadly no wine as we are very responsible and busy people (Pip can we go back to have lots of food and wine there please?!). Even at full price, I reckon you’d pay £30 each for food (the sharing plates are between £3 and £5 each and sides are a couple of quid) and wine, and it would be such a charming post-work dinner spot. A lovely addition to an already stunning assortment of places to eat in Soho, Fitzrovia and Covent Garden (I cycled past Kopapa tonight which was buzzing) – we’re spoiled for choice London! 

The Riding House Cafe on Urbanspoon

Some nice places I’ve eaten at lately

I’ve been trying to lose some weight so I’ve restricted my dining out to … oh … three times a week or so. Here’s a little selection of the places that have tingled my taste buds in the last couple of weeks:

1. Mason & Taylor, 51-55 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA

A cute little bar near Old Street serving an incredible selection of craft beers and real ales – best beer I’ve had in London and so nice to see some great blonde and amber Belgian beers like Chimay and Westmalle served ice cold on tap.

Accompanying your beer are some well-thought out locally-sourced organic English tapas plates. Sadly these weren’t as amazing as I wanted them to be. Unlike Terroirs (French), Polpo/etto (Italian), Dishoom (Indian) or most Spanish tapas, you just didn’t get that zing or oomph in every small plate. This isn’t necessarily their fault – the menu is certainly really interesting – but the food was a little under-seasoned and The Chef pointed out that trying to do English tapas is hard because you don’t get those powerful flavours and spices that you get with other cuisines. Everything was nice – ox tongue, Scotch quails eggs, wild boar sausage with beetroot mash, arbroath smokie, beef sirloin – but just a little dull. To oomph it up you’d need much more seasoning, some spicy mustard or horseradish perhaps, full “wow” flavours, something a bit deeper. But it was my first experience of jerusalem artichoke (which was lovely with a nice aioli) – delicious and indeed fartichoky. I would certainly not have been welcome in Malawi last Wednesday evening.

I would definitely go back to try the delicious beers again and am reliably informed by a friend that after several beers, the Scotch quails egg tastes like manna from heaven so they may just have got it right after all.

The Chef and I were guests of Mason & Taylor and thank them very much for their kind hospitality & lovely service.

Mason & Taylor on Urbanspoon

2. The Telegraph, Putney Heath, SW15 3TU

This place prides itself as being a country pub in London and it is indeed – huge and high-ceilinged with wooden tables and chairs and a fire in winter and lots of greenery outside. I also thought you might like to admire my new bike panier in the foreground of the shot (newly christened bike geek!). Anyway, like all good Sunday lunch pubs, it serves a good spicy Bloody Mary, decent Chilean Merlot, and a nice roast dinner. It’s also a nice cycle ride from here to Richmond Park if you wanted to work all that food off.

It’s a good place to come if you’ve got kids or want to watch the rugby – but the room upstairs contained about 200 small children – including 20 or so newborns (scary-looking NCT Sunday lunch?) – so if you’re feeling a little delicate from the night before you’d probably be better off sitting downstairs.

A bloody mary, pint of cider, starter, roast dinner and far too much red wine came to £35 each.

Telegraph on Urbanspoon

3. Lantana, 13 Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia, W1T 1SN

I’d tried a Lantana coffee a while back for my coffee shop project, but had never eaten there, and was tempted to go back to meet Maximillian for lunch and to eat their corn fritters with bacon, rocket and creme fraiche. I am a massive fan of corn fritters having had a fetish for them ever since my mother used to cook them with our Sunday fry up. My mother’s corn fritters remain the best I have EVER tasted, second place being at Bill Grainger’s restaurant in Sydney. We need MORE corn fritters on brunch menus please, as well as more huevos rancheros.

Anyway Lantana is a nice place only I wish they’d just knock down the wall between “in” and “out” to make it a bit more open and less narrow. And that they close the door as it was freezing throughout lunch (I realise I’m verging into whingeing territory here which is very un-HPL but Max and I have this covered – we are setting up an anti-HPL blog for the express purpose of whingeing & moaning, so this blog can remain as enthusiastic and positive as normal). Anyway, the corn fritters were yummy – lovely salsa and creme fraiche and nice crunchy bacon, only I’d have loved to taste the creamy salty corn a bit more – el madre could maybe give them a few tips. Lovely flat whites to finish too.

My corn fritter, apple and elderflower juice and flat white with 12.5% tip added to the bill (not really necessary for lunch?) came to just under £20.

Lantana on Urbanspoon

My search for the best coffee shop in central London #7 – Flat White, 17 Berwick Street, Soho, W1F 0PT

More coffee in central London following my hitlist of places to try, more mid-week gossip with Penelope, hurrah.

And ever since I started getting into coffee, and testing out coffee shops, Flat White has been mentioned again and again as the caffeine holy grail. It was the Byron to my burger, an Antipodean caffeine dream, the crown jewels of Soho coffee establishments. So I had high hopes. But then bloody @theheliocentric on twitter responded to my excitement about going with these words: “it’ll be far too milky…” and my excitement was dented. Oh no, another overhyped place, a Byron disappointment?

Not quite. Flat White is just opposite Yautacha, next door to the Cafe du Marche, and a really cool venue. They were playing brilliant blues when I was there and in walked the most fabulous collection of cool trendy people – and a large number of interesting beards too. Lots of people on their own which is a great sign. Very friendly Ozzie/Kiwi (sorry I still can’t tell the difference sometimes) staff.

And then my flat white (£2.50) – which had a lovely kick (Brazilian, Sumatran and El Salvador beans) and great coffee art (it’s important m’kay) but arghhhhhhhhhhhhh it was too bloody milky! God I’m beginning to sound like a real whinger but I just know how I like my coffee now which is why it is such a great thing to get into and work out what you like. However, as the people from Kaffeine pointed out to me, it’s really about the customer telling them how they like it done – so next time I’d ask for a double shot and slightly less milky. And I wouldn’t be surprised if I get lots of comments that a flat white is supposed to be milky (apparently coffee is also supposed to be lukewarm, that’s me told) but it’s just a very personal thing.

Do pop in – it’s a great venue (probably coolest coffee shop so far and it smells amaaazing inside) and I’ll definitely be back again, they’re really nice, you can check out the beards and the carrot cake looked fab too.

Flat White on Urbanspoon

My search for the best coffee shop in central London #6 – Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 7QJ

So I continue my search for the best coffee shop in central London using my Criteria and hit-list. And I finally made it to Kaffeine, the oft-praised antipodean coffee shop raved about by various twitterites including Tim Hayward. So me and the gorgeous Penelope, identical twin to Argentine Aileen, went there for lunch a couple of weeks ago and I thanked my lucky stars yet again for having lovely friends working close by for weekday gossip-filled lunches, the highlight of my working week.

Anyway, the food looked great so I bought a slice of quiche with salad, which was extremely yummers although at £6 on the pricey side. It was a chilled out relaxed place BUT the tables at the back were at the wrong height – you either have to bend down to reach your food/coffee or sit with it on your knee, not very practical. God that was dull, sorry.

Anyway, on to the coffee. I ordered a flat white which was £2.20 ish. They have a super duper “Synesso Cyncra espresso machine” which they are very proud of – when I was taking photos of the coffee shop they asked me if I wanted to photograph the coffee machine. I said no but only because Penelope had run outside in embarrassment and I did look like a complete dick yet again taking photos and it’s hard to pull off “excited tourist” in a suit. Anyway the coffee is Square Mile and apparently the beans are from El Salvador and Costa Rica. It was nice and creamy, tick. Good use of coffee art, tick. Tasty tangy taste, tick. And with a nice little kick, tick. BUT it was only lukewarm and since I’ve been getting into my coffee, this is my new pet hate. Coffee should arrive HOT so then you can sit around, holding it in your hands and looking pensive / sexy, and then sipping slowly, taking your time and thinking or reading or gossiping. If it arrives lukewarm you need to pretty much down it before it gets even colder which ruins the whole seduction. It may be that the fancy pants coffee machine means the coffee cools too much (and I know there is a bit of a wait for coffee), or because it was a Friday lunchtime and busy so may have sat on the counter, but anyway it needed to be hotter for my liking. And the low table at the back thing (dull).

So, for that reason, my favourite central London coffee shops remain Store Street Espresso and Wild & Wood. But Flat White is yet to come. Oh yes.

Kaffeine on Urbanspoon

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

The Haberdashery coffee shop and thoughts on Crouch End*

Crouch End is one of those places where everyone who lives there seems to absolutely love living there, and when you get a place like that – I’m reminded of Brighton and San Francisco – it makes it feel very community-friendly and happy. Although I think that’s possibly where the similarity to San Fran ends. It’s a bastard to get to so perhaps it has become its own little oasis – there are some great cafes, pubs and delis along the central drag, quirky and local and gastro and cute. And the streets are lined with celebs. Or at least Simon Pegg, and Minty from Eastenders.

I ended up there on Saturday, to help Emmissima move into her new flat and visit my friend Max of the Nandos Bike Club. Max took me to The Haberdashery on Middle Street for coffee – and it was lovely. It felt very seaside England – bunting and white-washed walls with cakes and mis-matched china and huge bowls of coffee.  And a rainbow cake that was quite scary (see below). The sort of place you can sit for ages feeling quite comfortable and homely and apparently they do craft jumble sales too and play old vinyl. North London does coffee shops like this really well, although Brixton’s getting there with Rosie’s Deli.

So I’m sort of jealous I don’t live in Crouch End – but pleased I now have even more reasons to visit. Like everywhere in London, its developing too – and maybe it will lose its quirkiness as it gains popularity, with the onset of chain stores and cheesy bars. But for now its a nice little escape from busy London life.

*Or “See, I do hang out in North London sometimes…”
The Haberdashery on Urbanspoon

My search for the best coffee shop in central London #3 – Wild & Wood, New Oxford Street, WC1 A1BA

 Continuing my search for the best coffee shop in central London, I stumbled across Wild & Wood on New Oxford Street and I think it may have jumped to the top of my list already.

The coffee is Monmouth coffee, changing every week and this week it was Guatemalan (which I’ve discovered I like mucho). Inside, its all cakes, wooden panelling, church pews and “please share tables” which makes for a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, and the pictures and movies are all 50s style. A few minutes walk from Tottenham Court Road and its a little bit of Central London peace and quiet.

I was solo on this trip and took my coffee to go, but the next time I’d love to stay and hang out longer – its the sort of place I’m sure you could while away the time with a book and some coffee. I also felt ridiculous taking photos on my own in this little coffee shop which reminded me that blogging is much more fun with friends – plus I can pretend that I’m taking photos of them or just reeeeally enthusiastic about the coffeee. I got a flat white at £1.90 and it was lovely – nicely creamy, only a little bitter with a nice kick which kept me going all afternoon. Also made me think why on earth people go to Starbucks et al when you can find a nice little coffee shop like this.

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