Care for a Cuppa? Pop Into One of London’s Best Cafes and Coffee Shops
Your guide to getting caffeinated in the English capital.
It’s undeniable that London has some of the best coffee in the world. Whether it’s a strong brew with a spectacular view or a single-origin, hand-roasted coffee by some of the city’s most creative baristas, there is exceptional coffee to be had in the British capital. Of course, you can’t come to England without sampling the staple tea that punctuates most Britons’ days, either, and at these top London cafés, you can try both for a well-rounded view of the city’s caffeine scene.
Set within an old 19th-century watch house on Bermondsey Street, once used to keep a look out for gravediggers heading to St Mary Magdalen Church to pilfer bodies from beneath the earth, this modern coffee shop is a must-visit for any coffee aficionado. Their brews are strong and flavourful, with new roasts available each month, and the team here know their beans well: they source directly from the supplier, which means they serve up ethical, fairly traded drinks. Their concept is now so successful that there are also branches in Tower Bridge, Fetter Lane, Spitalfields, Somerset House, and Seven Dials.
Grind is something of a London coffee institution now. Its journey began in 2011 when they opened their first branch on Old Street’s “silicon roundabout,” named for the numerous start-up tech companies that had their headquarters nearby. This buzzy little London café has been serving organic coffees (and tea) to London commuters and freelancers ever since and now has eight locations across the city, including London Bridge, Greenwich, Soho, Whitechapel, and Covent Garden. Come here for hearty morning brunches, light lunches, or even cocktails with a coffee twist.
WHERE: Seven Dials
Expect to see queues out the door of this enormously popular Seven Dials café, as Monmouth is the West End’s go-to caffeine hit. Sustainability is the name of the game here—they use agroecological farmed milk, offer an oat alternative, and most controversially, your take-out brew no longer comes in a single-use cup. Instead, you’ll pay £5 ($6.30) for a “loan cup ”—plus the cost of your coffee—which you can return for a refund of your deposit. It’s well worth the effort, though; Monmouth roasts some of London’s best beans, and their baristas really know what they’re talking about. Don’t forget to buy some of your favorite beans to take home — they’ll even grind them for you, too.
As London cafés go, this one’s probably its most unusual. Just a five-minute stroll from Oxford Street and down a set of tiled stairs with an ornate cast-iron roof, this tiny coffee shop is set within a disused Victorian men’s public toilet. Alongside their excellent teas, coffee, and light breakfasts, you’ll find centuries-old toilet cisterns still hanging on the walls, the old ceramics urinals repurposed as a bar, and the original white tiling from when this was a convenient place to relieve yourself. Today, you’ll get a different kind of relief which comes in the form of a mint matcha latte or cold brew.
On London’s well-to-do King’s Road is one of its cutest cafés —and it’s not cute just because of the quirky décor. “LMH” stands for “Love My Human,” as this is a café for dogs before people. Sit in your booth here, and you’ll likely be sharing space with some of London’s most pampered pooches, who are welcome to sit up on the seats and tuck into the myriad meals and treats that are made fresh daily for four-legged patrons. There’s a pretty good menu for humans, too, with eggs every which way, burrata salads, and English cream teas on offer.
The Café at Foyles
WHERE: Charing Cross Road
What goes well best with a cup of coffee? A good book, of course. And Foyles has plenty. This literary emporium is a hive of ideas and inspiration, with thousands of books for sale on its five floors shelves stocking everything from memoirs to textbooks to niche music books and travelogues. Pick up a new read, then bring it upstairs to the top-floor café where you can drink lovely teas and coffees, plus excellent homemade lunches or freshly baked cakes.
WHERE: Near Brick Lane
A “basecamp for change” is the motto at this East London café, where your cuppa comes with a desire to create a better world for everyone. The Canvas is indeed a traditional café, where you can just sit with a coffee or vegan English breakfast or light lunch and watch the world go by, but it’s also a social enterprise, and you can get involved in whatever their latest campaign might be, from combatting loneliness through games of Scrabble to raising money for a local cause.
WHERE: Russell Square
You might spot these mysterious green shacks in various spots around London, plonked on the side of the road with little fanfare or fuss. They were originally conceived in the 19th century to stop cab drivers—who back then drove horse and carts—from getting drunk in the pub in the middle of their shifts. Instead of taking breaks in London’s boozers, they were able to pull up at one of these shacks—designed to be exactly the length of a horse and cart with a brass rail for tying the horses—and pick up a coffee, cup of tea and light breakfast or lunch to keep them going throughout the day. Today, this Russell Square shack is open from 7 am until 2.30 pm, serving up salty bacon sandwiches, simple burgers, or buttery toast. It might not be gourmet, and it’s undoubtedly not London’s best, but it’s a delicious slice of London history.
John K Thorne [Public Domain] / Flickr
Out in one of London’s coolest residential neighborhoods, Allpress is an educational experience as much as it is a cracking coffee shop. Here you can sit on huge communal tables to sip your favored drink while watching them prepare their next batch of beans in the roastery next door. It’s all single-origin, specialty coffee here, with espresso blends, well-rounded brews, and brilliant decaf options. The hearty lunchtime sandwiches offer even more reason to stick around, too.
Look, mum, no hands!
WHERE: Old Street
Cyclists flock to this quirky café in East London, where the staff not only know how to make a perfect coffee but they can also talk to you about all things bike. Whether you’re a mountain biker, road cyclist, or just like to pedal for a bit of a hobby, they’ve got the knowledge here to help you with whatever you need to know. You can bring your bike to be fixed or spruced up, or you can simply sit and enjoy a coffee or tea alongside their excellent lunches, including chicken wraps, aged beef burgers, and stupendously moreish cheese toasties.
Travelers to London will love this worldly little café near Waterloo station, where the bar is covered with old maps from around the globe, and the bookshelves are packed with travel guides. There’s coffee, cakes, and light sandwiches, but the best thing about this café is its tea-infused cocktails. They use Yumchaa loose leaf tea to create their “Wanderlust Vodka” martinis, Earl Grey gin, and tonics.
Morty & Bob’s
WHERE: King's Cross
Set within the striking new Coal Drops Yard development behind King’s Cross station, this London café is the place to come for the capital’s best-grilled cheese. You can have it straight up with onions, packed with mushrooms and divine truffle, or filled with nduja sausage and roasted peppers. Order one of their Allpress-roasted coffees or a cold brew to keep you going through the afternoon.