When I started out on my portfolio career, I said I wanted to be ‘working out of coffee shops with an iPhone’. I am now lucky enough to spend quite a bit of my time in coffee shops, either alone, or in meetings with interesting people. So I’ve taken a leaf out of my friend Ian Sander’s blog and compiled a list of ten of my favourite London coffee shops. Nine actually, as I’m always eager to try new places, so I’d love to hear your suggestions for number ten.
1) L’Hirondelle, 160 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 – while this list isn’t in rank order, if it were, L’Hirondelle would definitely be number one, so it’s only right that it goes first. It’s my local hangout and does great coffee from classic brass urn-style coffee makers. Friendly, understated and unpretentious, it also does delicious pastries, to die for cakes and tasty paninis, all at immensely reasonable prices. It doesn’t have wifi but it’s a real neighbourhood venue and the first place I turn to when I want to read, write, edit, plan or think. If you’re in the area (maybe visiting the newly reopened William Morris Gallery, which has a lovely cafe itself: light, bright and airy), try it: you won’t be disappointed. And if you’re interested in how the delicious cakes are made, watch this video about Hirondelle’s baker – it’s like E17’s very own Bake Off!
2) Ground Control , 61 Amwell Street, EC1. Having exhaustively tried out coffees in the vicinity of the Kogan Page office, where I’m based on Wednesdays, Ground Control wins hands down. A tiny place, its coffee also comes in small cups but is rich and smooth and the beans are from the Ethiopian Highlands. The welcome is always warm and chatty, even if you’re just there for a takeaway, as I usually am.
3) Double Shot Coffee Company, 38a Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, WC2 – centrally located and a great place to work, meet people or have a pitstop away from the melee of Covent Garden market and piazza. It has wifi and also those delicious Portuguese custard tarts, pastels de nata.
4) Benugo’s in the BFI on the South Bank, SE1 is fun, chilled and funky. It’s generally easy to get a comfy seat on a weekday and is a lovely place for a relaxed meeting. Fades smoothly into cocktail hour in the evenings if you want to ease seamlessly from work to social time.
5) Vagabond, Stroud Green Road, N4. A small local coffee shop with fabulous coffee served by real aficionados. The perfect place to chill out with a friend or the weekend papers when it’s raining outside and the windows are steamed up – if you can get a seat, that is.
6) The Lobby Bar at One Aldwych, WC2. Grand, spacious with a soaring ceiling and over-the-top decorations. The seating is generously spaced so it’s a good place to have meetings when you want a bit of privacy. This used to be a favourite spot of mine when I worked at Pearson. The coffees aren’t as amazing as in some of the other places in my list, but they do come with a plate of biscuits which I always think is a nice touch! And for somewhere that has quite a formal appearance, the service is relaxed (in fact, can be slow) and warm. Reliable choice for an important business meeting.
7) The Runner at Green’s, 14 Cornhill, EC3. I first discovered this place when I was a guest at a book launch there, and now it’s a favourite of mine for City-based meetings. The surroundings are stunning – the building is called Black Horse House and dates from 1677: it’s the former home of Lloyd’s Bank. There are still plenty of bankers amongst its clientele, but it’s very relaxed and it’s easy to have a quiet discussion here. [I think it’s closed now, unfortunately – editorial update, 24/03/16]
8) Coffee Circus, 136 Crouch Hill, Crouch End, N8. Quite simply: consistently serves exceptionally good coffee.
9) Nude Espresso, 26 Hanbury Street, E1 (there’s also a branch on Soho Square, though I haven’t been to that one – yet). In the heart of Spitalfields this is laidback trendy at its best. Deeply flavourful coffee, wifi, interesting people-watching. I discovered this one through Ian Sanders’ first coffee blog!
10) What will it be? I’m already eager to try Prufrock and Wild & Wood from Ian’s latest coffee post and I’d love to hear your suggestions as well. There’s a slot in the top 10 going begging here, so please help me fill it by posting a comment with your suggestions!
And yes, as well as hanging out in coffee shops like this above, I do have an iPhone!
If you liked this, you might like …
- Ian Sanders’ blog posts on coffee shops, which gave me the idea for this post. There are two – the original and the most recent.
- My other London coffee post
- My Cambridge coffee post
- The London Coffee Festival website
- My post on searching for the perfect coffee in Buenos Aires
- My Lisbon post – which includes a section on the delicious Portuguese pasteles de nata