When it comes to London’s drinking and dining scene, trends come and go quicker than you can say cocktails in teapots (trust us, it’s a thing). The capital’s passion for coffee however, is a constant. Whether it’s served in shops that are serious about sourcing, paired with cakes and pastries that would satisfy any sweet tooth, or made colourful and Instagrammable (keep scrolling for unicorn lattes), coffee is the lifeblood of many a Londoner.
And such a serious topic should be treated with the utmost respect. We’re coffee-lovers, nay addicts, here at SquareMeal and see it as our duty to suss out some of the best coffee places London has to offer. There are coffee shops that are truly committed to the cause with their own roastery, and others that only serve rocket-fuel-strength cups for the grittiest of London’s coffee-enthusiasts.
And we hate to make it all about appearances but is anyone else a sucker for latte art? The more complicated the design, the better the coffee tastes. Fact.
A really good coffee should be able to standalone in its own right, but if you’re hankering for a bite then these places all offer some fantastic fare to pair with your favourite cappuccino or flat white. Expect top-notch pastries and brunch menus to boot, with most coffee shops offering takeaway options if you need to grab a bite to go. You see, we don’t blame you for wanting to turn your coffee into a full-meal affair.
If you’re looking for somewhere new to get your fix, cast your eye over our favourite coffee shops and cafés in the capital. You really do need to try them out - by any beans necessary (sorry). And if you have a particular place in mind, then you can use the links below to skip to the most relevant section for you.
SKIP TO THE BEST SECTION FOR YOU
Best for Instagram
Aesthetics aside, these Instagram-worthy coffee shops really do all serve some great-tasting coffee - in slightly unorthodox colours. Because sometimes you just have to do it for the ‘gram.
Why: Decked out with floral installations and powder pink furnishings, EL&N London’s stable of locations are among the most Instagrammed spots in the capital. It’s not just the interiors that are eye-catching though – check out the Velvet Latte made with red espresso, or the Black Magic latte, which is made with activated charcoal and sprinkled with glitter. Sweet treats meanwhile, include a chocolate and raspberry brownie and a vegan, pumpkin and coconut cake.
Where: 239 Brompton Road, SW3 2EP; 42 Hans Crescent, SW1X 0LZ; 25G Lowndes Street, SW1X 9JF; 9 Market Place, W1W 8AQ; 48 Park Lane, W1K 1PR
Why: One of the first ‘Instagram famous’ cafés, Peggy Porschen draws in the crowds with its soft pink interiors, floral installations and array of cutesy sweet treats and cakes. Head here for shots of espresso or a hot chocolate topped with miniature marshmallows. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth via the likes of a banoffee sponge, orange and almond cake or one of Peggy’s signature macarons, with flavours including raspberry and rose, or elderflower.
Where: 116 Ebury Street, Belgravia, SW1W 9QQ; 219 King's Road, Chelsea, SW3 5EJ
Why: Although every café under The Daisy Green Collection umbrella score top points for Instagramability (is that a word?), we’re big fans of its flagship venue Scarlett Green in Soho. Huge tropical plants, restaurant and bar seating, neon light fixtures and a serious room-length cocktail bar give this day-to-night restaurant a cool vibe - but it’s got to be best known for its Aussie-style brunches. And the coffee is as good as its banana bread sandwich, which is saying something.
Where: 4 Noel Street, London, W1F 8GB
Why: One of the prettiest destinations in the capital (and sure to rack up the likes on Instagram), Saint Aymes has become famous thanks to its decadent drinks – just take its colourful unicorn lattes, which come with a marshmallow topping and a shot of espresso on the side, or the Marie Antoinette milkshake, which is made with pink white chocolate, and topped with pink sprinkles, Oreo crumb and 24ct gold.
Where: 59 Connaught Street, W2 2BB
Best for serious coffee fiends
If you're a stickler for single-origin, sustainably-sourced, richly roasted coffee, we hear you. We're more than happy to get nerdy about who does the best beans to whether coffee should be served with hot or cold milk. And these coffee shops aren't messing about.
Why: Monmouth Coffee will forever hold a special place in our hearts for a top-notch cup of the good stuff. Watch well-trained staff manage multiple drip coffee filters at a time (it’s pretty impressive), and make sure to swing by during the summer months when its Park Street site flings open its doors. It's a great place to take in the buzz of Borough Market.
Where: 2 Park Street, London, SE1 9AB
The Gentleman Barista
Why: With numerous sites across London, including its flagship store in Piccadilly, The Gentlemen Baristas has become known as a meeting point across the capital for people to come together over good chat and great coffee. These guys even have their own roastery in East London which is headed up by a qualified Q-grader to ensure every cup is just right. We tilt our hats to you...
Where: 162 Piccadilly, St. James's, London, W1J 9EF
Why: Milk in Balham does one of the best brunches in South West London – no exaggeration – and was set up by a young Aussie barista back in 2012. As expected, the baristas produce a mean flat white, but also offer a selection of teas, organic juices and smoothies if that's more your thing. Grab a coffee to go or sample the menu at the weekend (if you can stomach the queues).
Where: 20 Bedford Hill, London, SW12 9RG
Why: Another venture from an Aussie/Kiwi duo (the Aussies clearly know their flat whites from their lattes) comes Kaffeine, a funky joint in the heart of Fitzrovia. It offers its own latte art courses for up to six people every fortnight while a top-of-the-range Synesso Cyncra machine delivers pitch-perfect coffee every time.
Where: 66 Great Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7QJ
Why: You could argue that this Barnes-based café is the place to go for a proper cup of tea – their name ‘Orange Pekoe’ is named after a grading of tea after all - but the best kept secret of this whimsical tearoom has got to be the coffee. It’s served by the mugful, but this isn’t any watered-down rubbish. Boasting distinctly fruity notes and a strength of flavour that isn’t for the faint-hearted, you’ll find crowds of people milling around the store front most days of the week with a takeaway cup in hand.
Where: 3 White Hart Lane, London, SW13 0PX
Climpson & Sons
Why: If you’re serious about your coffee, it doesn’t get much more serious than Climpson & Sons. Attracting coffee-holics from across the capital and beyond, Climpson & Sons sources, blends, roasts and grinds its own coffee, while also serving up a selection of homemade cakes and quiches, which are made using locally sourced ingredients.
Where: 67 Broadway Market, E8 4PH
Fernandez & Wells
Why: This mini-chain of coffee shops has plenty of fans across the capital, including us. All of the single-origin beans for Fernandez & Wells' espresso-based coffees are supplied and roasted by Has Bean Coffee in Stafford, and it’s available to buy in-store. As well as drinks, you can enjoy delicious sarnies too – check out the grilled chorizo in a sourdough bun, or the butter croissant filled with ham, cheese and tomato.
Where: 8 Exhibition Road, SW7 2HF; Somerset House, The Strand, WC2R 1LA
Why: One of London’s most recognisable coffee shop chains (Starbucks, Costa and the like aside of course), the Grind in the title here refers to the freshly roasted and brewed coffee which is served up daily. Try it in the form of a skinny latte, an espresso or various other options, while tucking into smashed avocado and poached eggs on toast or a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with fries.
Where: 213 Old Street, EC1V 9NR and more
Ozone Coffee Roasters
Why: ‘Coffee for the people’ is Ozone’s slogan, and this artisan roasting coffee shop and café is bang on target. When visiting here, you can expect an industrial space including stripped-back brickwork, weathered tables and hand-painted signs, while you can pretty much order every coffee under the sun. You can also come by for the all-day brunch menu, which features a smoked squash, kale and sheep’s curd omelette, and gluten-free pancakes.
Where: 11 Leonard Street, EC2A 4AQ
Best for remote working
Sure, you could make yourself another cup of coffee at home using your on-its-last-legs machine. Or, you could take yourself to one of these cracking coffee shops and get one of the pros to make it for you. Call it a Friday treat...
Why: The team behind Prufrock have a simple philosophy: ‘’Serve coffee and food that makes you happy, with a service that makes you smile’’. It also supports small and local producers where possible, including coffee from Square Mile as well as European roasters, with an ever-changing menu for both espresso-based and filter coffees.
Where: 23-25 Leather Lane, London, EC1N 7TE
Why: Caravan has five sites in London, but its bankside restaurant is a great place to set up shop for the day, located on the ground floor of The Metal Box Factory. It’s kept all the building's original 19th-century features for a cool, industrial feel, while the coffee bar features a custom-made espresso machine for a truly unique cup. Bring your laptop and find yourself a quiet corner.
Where: The Metal Box Factory, 30 Great Guildford Street, London, SE1 0HS
Bulldog Edition at Ace Hotel
Why: If you can’t find a spot in the lobby, instead go a few steps further and make your way to Bulldog, where you’ll find sofas and tables to set up camp on, as well as a café for drinks and snacks. Sip on coffee from Square Mile Coffee Rosters, while taking your pick from a selection of bagels, cookies and freshly-baked pastries. We’d recommend getting here early though, as this place is regularly rammed.
Where: Ace Hotel, 100 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JQ
Mare Street Market
Why: If you live in East, Mare Street Market’s expansive mix of food, drink - and even a florist - is enough to keep your senses stimulated while working hard. If you need to perk up, you can order anything from an Americano to a Cortado, while snacks to graze on include a ‘nduja scotch egg with saffron aioli or Korean-fried chicken wings. There’s free WiFi to make the most of too, while the vast square footage should ensure you bag a spot.
Where: 117 Mare Street, E8 4RU
Riding House Café
Why: This cosy all-dayer is more of a restaurant, than a café, but it’s well-suited to working out of the office. Set up camp on one of the sofas at Riding House Cafe or at the long communal table, and order from the menu of brasserie-style dishes, which includes kedgeree and a chorizo hash. Coffees, juices and cocktails (if it’s that kind of day) are all on hand too.
Where: 43-51 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7PQ
Why: Designed to give freelancers a place to work, you and your laptop will be welcomed with open arms at Timberyard. There are meeting rooms downstairs if you need them, while sofas and counter tops are the place to set yourself up. While working away, we won’t judge you for being tempted by Timberyard’s coffee menu and vast array of goodies – sip on a turmeric latte while snacking on the likes of doughnuts, cakes and brownies.
Where: 7 Upper St Martin's Lane, WC2H 9DL
Need something to eat with your coffee? Now head to some of London's very best bakeries