London is an enormous city, which means that great as it is, it can sometimes be tiring even for the fit and rested. One guaranteed remedy for travel fatigue, jet-lag fog and overwork grumpiness has remained unchanged for centuries: caffeine. That buzzy bean has been keeping us going, exploring and inventing for generations, and no matter who you may be, there is going to be a moment when you need a little extra help. Luckily, the capital has progressed massively from the days where tea was the only acceptable hot drink order before midday, and nor do you need to learn a whole new language employed by chain coffee shops to be able to order at one of these independent, welcoming recharge spots.
If the music is as important an accompaniment to your coffee as the food, Brill will meet your East End needs. Having initially launched as a music shop, they still sell CDs and old vinyl records in addition to great coffee and bagels, and the emphasis on good tunes only adds to the reasons for lingering here, set as it is conveniently at the ever popular Exmouth Market and staffed by incredibly friendly and knowledgeable baristas. The beans are supplied by Union Coffee Roasters, the pastries and cakes invented by Arianna and whatever you do, don’t miss out on one of the tasty, extremely reasonably priced bagels.
27 Exmouth Market, London
Mon – Fri 7.30am-6pm; Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 10.30am-4.30pm
Sometimes, on the other hand, the only way to get your coffee fix just right comes down to a question of alchemy. At Alchemy Coffee, there is a veritably scientific approach adopted: with only three sizes from four beans available, plus one cold brew, this is a cafe in the Italian vein of stand-and-sip, not so much sit and linger (the only seating available is benches along the windows). Only open on weekdays, this is still a semi-secret spot tucked behind St Paul’s Cathedral, and a welcome boutique addition to the south London coffeescape.
8 Ludgate Broadway, London EC4V 6DU
Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm
Given the varied scenes available in London, there’s no real need to scope out that most comfortable armchair or best street view bench for your daily dose, when you could be enjoying it on the… lavatory. Or at least a beautifully refurbished Victorian public one in the company of perfect strangers. That’s right, The Attendant will attend you in a clever, inventive, highly unusual little spot underground in London’s fetching Fitzrovia. Serving delicious espresso from The Caravan Roastery and snacks including home-baked bagels, pulled pork sandwiches and healthy salads, the original porcelain urinals from 1890 are still in place, spruced up for your coffee convenience.
27a Foley Street, London W1W 6DY
Mon – Fri 8am – 6pm, Sat. 10am – 5pm
Yes, we’re covering London coffee spots, but Australia did invent the Flat White, so it doesn’t seem out of place that one of our top places should go to this independent Aussie/New Zealand hybrid. The bustling, hip Kaffeine is nestled in Fitzrovia, just a few minutes from Oxford Circus, and has quickly become a renowned spot for London’s coffee-connoisseurs. The focus is on simply excellent espresso coffee and loose leaf teas, with tempting arrangements of seasonal, fresh food and baked items on offer as well, all keeping the office workers as sated as the shoppers and clued-up visitors.
66 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7QJ
Mon – Fri 7.30am – 6pm, Sat 8.30am – 6pm, Sun 9am – 5pm
Nearby Timberyard is as welcoming to those looking for a comfy spot to work as it is to the hungry, thirsty or in need of a simple pick-me-up. With great people-watching seating (featuring complimentary iPads) by the windows that look out onto picturesque Seven Dials in Covent Garden, there is also a bigger if slightly less cosy multiple seating area downstairs. Makeshift tables are formed of battered old vintage suitcases, the armchairs don’t encourage you to leave before you’re ordered a third cup, and the Has Bean company roasts, which is what you’ve really come in for, deliver A-grade, big flavour boosts. Local British bakers provide the ingredients for quality sandwiches and baked goods such as flapjacks, tarts, cookies and tea-cakes, and there is also a fantastic range of freshly prepared salads, granolas and porridge.
7 Upper St Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9DL
Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm; Sat 10am – 8pm; Sun 10pm – 6pm
White tiles, great tunes and superb coffee from Has Bean and Caravan roasteries, Foxcroft and Ginger fits perfectly in Soho. Quentin and Georgina are the husband-and-wife duo behind F&G, and created it with a view to establishing a cafe that people would feel welcome to sit and stay in – which is precisely what they have achieved. Along with the moreish coffee, the in-house bakery sends up consistently tasty traditional cakes, bread and other baked goods for breakfast and lunch menus that feature such mouth-waterers as pancakes, muffins, slow-cooked pork, jalapenos, smoky tomatoes and mozzarella, or buttermilk fried chicken with avocado and garlic mayonnaise. There are also gourmet salads and frittatas available and, in the evening they cook up delicious sourdough pizzas.
3 Berwick Street, W1F 0DR
Mon – Fri 8am – 10pm, Sat 9am – 10pm, Sun 9am – 7pm
Prufrock has consistently excellent coffee, from double espresso to cortado via a classic cappuccino and the newly standard flat white – it doesn’t do a mind-boggling range, but what it does it does incredibly well. Opened by the champion of the 2009 World Barista contest, Gwilym Davies, Prufrock has an impressively international roster of baristas that also includes the former barista champion of Sweden, the Brewer’s Cup champion of Ireland, and a few Aussie experts to boot. These caffeinators know their way around a scientifically prepared cup of coffee, weighing and dialling them in as well as listing them on a roster for future reference. Also offering a select few dishes prepared daily, including sandwiches and cakes, everything is exquisitely presented, clean and well looked after, and though it does fill up it rarely feels overly crowded.
23-25 Leather Lane, EC1N 7TE
Mon – Fri 8am – 6pm; Sat 10am – 5pm; Sun 10am – 4pm
If it’s quick wi-fi and solid desktops you need, Fix will suit your laptop working woes, though it is equally acceptable for an easygoing simple coffee on your wander around East London’s painfully hip Shoreditch area. Supplying sturdy espressos, quirky ‘Flat Whats’ and an additional array of tasty cakes and other treats to keep you gaping from arty market shopping trip to next-hot-thing pub (as Fix is located in a converted public house, it could theoretically suit all tastes and needs…)
So for energy dips or if you’re on the hunt for a new coffice we should now have you covered. Whether you’re a night-owl or an early morning lark, make your way around these energy gems on the way back to your every hotel.
126 Curtain Road, EC1Y 8JL
Mon – Fri 7am – 7pm, Sat 8am – 7pm, Sun 9am – 7pm