Top 10 Coffee Shops in London

top 10 coffee shops

Antipodean know-how and joviality invigorate the landscape for the top 10 coffee shops in London. Baristas from New Zealand and Australia transform waves of rich espresso and smoothly textured steamed milk into lattes so velvety you can barely see a bubble. Two Kiwi imports, Ozone Coffee and Allpress Espresso, have recently opened roasteries and coffee shops in London.

Yet it’s home-grown talent that represents the cream of the crema: Two of the last four World Barista Champions are British and work in London: 2007 winner James Hoffmann is co-owner of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, an artisan roaster supplying beans to half of the top 10 London coffee shops. 2009 champion Gwilym Davies co-operates the Prufrock Coffee Shop on Leather Lane, now the best coffee shop in London, as well as the “Prufrock” coffee trolley he and partner Jeremy Challender rolled into the menswear boutique Present. And Monmouth Coffee maintains world-class standards for sourcing, roasting and brewing beans while supporting small-batch indie roasters just getting into the act.

top 10 coffee shopsWhen this list was first posted in April 2009 I cautioned that the British capital wouldn’t be a coffee capital until the taste for excessively milky coffees receded and the best coffee shops looked beyond espresso to filter coffees. Those conditions have been met. In the months ahead we can expect to see more and more London coffee shops and even restaurants following the example of wonderful Caravan and roasting their own beans. More roasters and with it, a  greater diversity of roasting styles, can only benefit an already thriving coffee scene.

London’s top 10 coffee shops (see map) nurture a close-knit community of cafenatics who circulate around East London and the West End and cheer on each other. That fluidity can extend to the baristas. Their restlessness speeds staff turnover, making it problematic to position any one coffee shop atop another on this top 10 list. Barista skills are a main consideration in choosing the top 10, ahead of shop atmosphere and behind only coffee quality and consistency. To qualify as a coffee shop, coffee must be its primary focus. This eliminates from consideration cafés where food takes priority over coffee, however good their coffee service may be.

The top 10 coffee shops in London

1. Prufrock Coffee

top 10 coffee shopsThe first bricks-and-mortar coffee shop operated by Gwilym Davies. Previously the 2009 World Barista Champion was pulling shots at two street carts and, more recently, an espresso trolley rolled into the menswear boutique Present. That trolley remains, but at the Prufrock coffee shop there is room to follow the action drip by drip at the brew bar or sit at tables and chat, read, work or pretend to work as Davies, partner Jeremy Challender and their accomplished baristas fuss over the details, small and smaller, that go into producing a truly great coffee with featured and seasonal beans from Square Mile. The lower level is home to the London Barista Resource & Training school, which may be reserved for barista training, cafe consultancy and hen nights.

Prufrock Coffee Shop – 23 Leather Lane, EC1
Prufrock at Present – 140 Shoreditch High Street, E1

 

2. Notes Music & Coffee

top 10 coffee shopsNotes does not compel you to compare espressos brewed from the beans of the Square Mile and world-class guest roasters. You’re not required to analyse the results of pressure profiling enabled by its La Marzocco Strada espresso machine. You’re not forced to sit at its brew bar, an homage to the tasting counter at the May-July 2010 pop-up Penny University, and try three filter coffees meticulously brewed by the syphonV60 and drip pot (woodneck) methods. You don’t have to shop for CDs and DVDs, or sit comfortably for hours listening to them. You don’t even have to tie your visit to cultural attractions around nearby Trafalgar and Leicester Squares and, with the beautiful new location, Covent Garden. All you need to do is go.

31 St Martin’s Lane, WC2
36 Wellington Street, WC2

 

3. Monmouth Coffee

pour-through bar at Monmouth CoffeeThe great pioneer of pour-over filter coffee is so central to the Convent Garden area it almost seems as if the sundial pillar at Seven Dials is points north down the street that lent the coffee shop its name. Its velvety lattes are made with organic Jersey milk from Jeff Bowles in Somerset, making it one of the few coffee shops anywhere that takes its milk as seriously as its coffee. The best and maybe also the worst that can be said about London’s long-running, highest-quality roaster is that it hasn’t been influenced much by recent trends. Snug tables hidden in the rear must often be shared, when two knees can already seem two too many. The larger Monmouth outside Borough Market, with its pour-through cone filter bar, communal table and improvisational street theatre (otherwise known as a queue), is a must stop before, after and midway through visits to the food market. Monmouth’s Saturday annex has moved further east along the Bermondsey rail arches from its Maltby Street roastery to Spa Terminus.

Monmouth Covent Garden – 26 Monmouth Street, WC2
Monmouth Borough Market – 2 Park Street, SE1
Monmouth Bermondsey – 148 Spa Road, SE16

 

4. Milk Bar/Flat White

top 10 coffee shopsMilk Bar may share the same coffee and New Zealand lineage as Flat White, its older Soho sibling, but that doesn’t stop its devotees from insisting the spinoff is superior to – and cooler than – the original. While I can fault neither the espresso drinks nor the top baristas at either shop I fully understand such loyalties. Personally I’d rather the Milk Bar’s Matt not know when I am at Flat White, just as I’d prefer Flat White’s Cameron be kept in the dark about my visits to Milk Bar. Rest assured, at both shops the outstanding macchiato is made from the same custom espresso blend by roaster Square Mile, marked with the same three-swirl signature and delivered with the same Antipodean good cheer.

Milk Bar – 3 Bateman Street, W1

Flat White – 17 Berwick Street, W1

 

5. Tapped & Packed

top 10 coffee shopsRathbone Place, LondonIdentified only by the “No. 26″ and “No. 114″ on its shopfronts, Tapped & Packed fills its grinders with two custom espresso blends from the West Midlands roaster Has Bean, a more nuanced one for espressos and americanos and a punchier one to cut through the milk in flat whites and lattes. Filter coffee, though less prominent than it the past, is brewed with great, drip-by-drip care. The best option of may relate to the length and quality of your coffee break: T&P’s finicky baristas are fine with quickies, sending you away with a takeaway cup inside a minute, yet encourage you to overstay your welcome at inviting tables, quiet corners and, at No. 114, glorious picture windows.

26 Rathbone Place, W1
114 Tottenham Court Rd, W1 

 

6. Nude Espresso

top 10 coffee shopsNude was launched as a calming retreat from the outrageousness – and outrageously bad coffee – of Spitalfields and Brick Lane. Its new location, tucked into a quiet corner of leafy Soho Square, provides sanctuary from the insanity – and insanely bad coffee – of Oxford Street. The beans are roasted at Nude’s Brick Lane roastery, while the warm hospitality and milk-texturing techniques are exported from New Zealand and Australia. If you want the naked truth, Nude’s standing offer of a complimentary coffee with every 250-gram bag of coffee beans purchased is a no-brainer from both directions: If you’re buying beans you might as well have a coffee. If you’re having a coffee you might as well buy some beans.

Nude Espresso Spitalfields, 26 Hanbury Street, E1
Nude Espresso Soho, 19 Soho Square, W1

7. Workshop Coffee

top 10 coffee shopsWorkshop may have started life in London as the Melboune import ST ALi, both in name and inspiration, but its coffee beans are transformed from green to brown in a roaster positioned some 10 metres behind the handsome Slayer espresso machine that fronts this brick-walled Clerkenwell duplex. With a choice ringside seat you can hear the roaster with one ear and the espresso machine with the other. The very good quality of the espresso drinks and filter coffees is on an upward trajectory, both here and at the satellite coffee bar formerly known as Sensory Lab in Marylebone, just north of the Oxford  Street department stores.

27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1
75 Wigmore Street, W1U

 

8. Dose Espresso

top 10 coffee shops Owner/barista James Phillips has moved his curvy red La Marzocco FB-80 espresso machine one door down on Long Lane into larger quarters split diagonally in a sharp design by Velorose. But it is the increase from 18 to 25 square metres that is most impressive to regulars thrilled to have a place to actually sit with coffees meticulously prepared with Square Mile beans. So will Phillips now change the name of his coffee shop to Doubledose? “Um”, he replies, “no”.

70 Long Lane, EC1

 

9. The Espresso Room

the espresso roomThe overworked perfectionist behind this truly indie coffee shop offers proof you don’t need to have Antipodean ancestry to be an unflappably affable London barista. We’ll ignore the fact that British owner/operator Ben Townsend spent 8 years in Melbourne, acquiring Australian citizenship along the way. In his narrow shop, Ben fastidiously pulls every shot of Square Mile espresso as if it were lifesaving: Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital would be wise to prescribe 3 per day to their patients.

31-35 Great Ormond Street, WC1


10 Kaffeine

kaffeine coffee shopKaffeine charges £2.50 for a latte, which, given the high rents for office space in Fitzrovia, has to be regarded as one of the great values in London. It’s a great spot to take a kaffeinated meeting or respite, with Square Mile beans extracted from Synesso Cyncra espresso machine. No, caffeine is not spelled with a K in Australia and New Zealand, from whence the owners and baristas came.

66 Great Titchfield Street, W1


View Top 10 Coffee Shops in London in a larger map

About Daniel

Food critic and events leader Daniel Young is the "Young" behind young&foodish

Comments

  1. Jamie Kitson says:

    You should try Grace on Creed Lane near St Paul’s. They do excellent sausage rolls and brownies too.

  2. Max says:

    Too much hype and just mere write up rather than focus on what coffee shops do well what they do not. Buzz words galore: bad. The coffee scene very recently seems largely dominated by promotional work and cleverly enough David manages to promote himself.
    Personally I wish he would stick to “Now he leads the action as creator and host of event nights in London” and leave it to people to search and compare actual tasting notes among themselves

  3. Oliver Jones says:

    LJ Coffee House in Soho is my favourite. The individually produced filter coffee in your own personal little brewer are really great plus their single origin coffee changes frequently. You should check them out. End of Old Compton Street – behind the theatres…forgotten which street its on ;-}

  4. Mark Schaschke says:

    Completely agree with Prufrock, would put Lantana and Caravan in there too.

    Can’t wait to try St Ali :)

  5. Noor Mahmud says:

    I want to share a couple of the best coffee places in London, since you seem to possess a genuine interest in the java drink. I would highly recommend Cafe Oporto on 62 Golborne Road and the Coffee Plant on 180 Portobello Road. Cafe Oporto is a Portuguese cafe, so not only do you savour the rich and frothy taste of the coffee, but you can also treat yourself to a typical Portuguese sweet! A bica or a galao are the regular requests in this classic Portuguese cafe.

    The Coffee Plant is a great, less traditional and more of an informal cool vibe on Portobello Road. However, this place is serious about java from the diverse coffee selection that one can purchase at the back! They are categorised by light, medium and dark roast… Moreover, they have coco, which if you put a touch of into your coffee, it is literally a match made in heaven… a taste of summer!

    Both cafes are phenomenal venues that serve an incredible cup of coffee, where one can enjoy amongst the locals in a friendly, informal vibe.

  6. Daniel Young says:

    Noor – Thanks for the recommendations. I happen to know both these establishments and do not agree with your views on their respective coffees. Both may be great neighbourhood haunts – the vibe at Coffee Plant reminds me of San Francisco. But neither serves an incredible cup of coffee.

  7. Tom Bonasera says:

    Just had a nice flat white at Allpress Roastery Cafe E2 (http://bit.ly/pIDimo). My first time there, but I was impressed.

  8. Brockley Newbie says:

    I’m going to add Browns of Brockley to the list, an unknown coffee shop in an unknown but lovely corner of SE London. They do the best Flat White I have ever had and amazing cakes and bagels. Loved by the locals.

  9. S says:

    Completely agree with Maxs comment. A wearily unoriginal write-up. What flies in America…

  10. Jerry says:

    Shame Prufrock have left Woodhouse. A bigger shame there aren’t more good coffee shops in west London :( please let us know if it’s just because you don’t get round there or if there aren’t any that are good enough

  11. Cristian Führich says:

    Swap Monmouth, Nude and Flat White for Sensory Lab, Speakeasy and Dark Fluid!

  12. Henry says:

    Sadly, Prufrock at Woodhouse is no longer… walked past there yesterday and the coffee machine is gone.

  13. Jessy says:

    Hi
    Im a bit of an expert on drinking soy lattes and a great place you don’t have
    is Blanche in Hammersmith W6 0EA. Always great

  14. Daniel Young says:

    Jessy – My experience on drinking soy lattes is next to zippo, so I must trust you on this.

  15. Have you been to the new coffee house in Portman Village? The Borough Barista definitely is up with the Top 10. A must visit.

  16. SP says:

    Prescribe coffee, to sick children? Hmmm.

    The Espresso Room took over once the wonderfully pokey used-bookshop had to close its doors. Therefore I detest the Espresso Room and it’s cleanliness and hipsterness.

  17. Mabel says:

    If you love the sweeter and smoother flat white or cortado at Present, you might like to try a new coffee set up at strangely a gallery/ shop at Goldenlane Estate on Goswell Road near Barbican Tube station. They have a lever machine from Naples and has two single origin beans on offer which is rather unique.
    Coffee wise? May not be as complex as your top 10 because probably from the use of single origin beans but it is as heavenly as I enjoy coffee from your selections.
    In case you are curious, they are call Coming Soon Coffee, at Exhibit.

  18. Leanne says:

    Unashamedly biased but it really is brilliant to see Nude on this list! The other 9 are equally worthy too! Respect the Bean…

  19. Elise says:

    The Affogato Bar in Fenwick Department Store is good. I think their are only two (?) in London. I was in the store not long ago just browsing, and kind of came up to it by accident… It’s on the third floor and completely hidden. But, the coffee/ vanilla ice cream is delicious. Obviously not the same kind of small individually owned coffee shops as on your list, but, as a coffee lover myself, it’s definitely one to check out!

  20. gread post and nice coffeeshops

  21. laura says:

    Federation in Brixton Market is by far the best coffee I’ve had in London thus far. Also roasting their own beans now. Extra goodness. And the food is fantastic too.

  22. Daniel Young says:

    Laura – I know and love Federation but was not aware they were now roasting their own beans. I’ll be sure to return ASAP. Thanks for the alert.

  23. With quality coffee shops like this being obviously popular (Go to any of the places listed above and you’re likely in for a wait!), you have to wonder why chains do so well.

    Go support your local independent coffee shop I say! Keep up the good work Daniel.

  24. Thanks a lot for this little guide! Pretty refreshing to read about these venues in a different light. I wrote my own post about London coffee shops a few days ago http://tracetheorangeline.blogspot.com/2012/02/best-start-to-your-day-monmouth-borough.html

    Hope to read more about other shops soon!

  25. Francesco Cossa says:

    Have u ever heard of Caffe` Vergnano ?

  26. Daniel Young says:

    Francesco – Yes, I know Caffe Vergnano. I’ve been to their coffee shops in London as well as in Turin.

  27. pamayoga says:

    Yr missing out a lot of East London top coffee joints….Climpsons on Broadway Market,, L’eau la bouche on same strasa, also does a good flat white. Pacific Social Club, Clapton E9, and the fantastic Wiltons on Wilton Way, E8

  28. Daniel Young says:

    Pamayoga – I’ve been to two of the coffee shops you’ve mentioned, each several times, and must make it to the others. Thanks for recommendations. Meanwhile, which of my top 10 coffee shops would you suggest I eliminate to make room for some or all of yours?

  29. Keith says:

    My favourite is The Counter in Hackney Wick, ran by a Kiwi, Tom Seaton, the flat white there is one of the best I’ve had in London and the breakfasts, especially the fry up with home made tomato chutney, baked beans and the little skinny sausages are excellent. Well worth a trip over to the Wick for… He also runs The Container Cafe, overlooking the Olympic site on the Greenway, which doesn’t have as wide a variety of food and is normally a bit busier on a sunny weekend day, but the coffee is still ace.

  30. Andy K says:

    Might be worth checking out the recently opened Ozone on Leonard Street – a long-running outfit from New Zealand I believe…

  31. Andy K says:

    Maybe worth trying the new-to-London Kiwi outfit Ozone on Leonard Street? It’s good coffee!

  32. Daniel Young says:

    Good suggestion, Andy. I’ve been to Ozone and am planning many many return trips.

  33. Markit says:

    The Association is my new fav. Also Taylor St Baristas and Caffe Vergnano (good for a chain). Flat White is not my cup of tea and dont rate Monmouth at all!

  34. tommi says:

    why are all on them east of hyde park? Who caters to the coffee crazed sloanies??

  35. Matilda says:

    The Association, EC35AY is my new favorite too Markit!
    This website needs updating!!!!
    Wonderful to have such great coffee in square mile.
    Fantastic coffee and fantastic environment to enjoy it in
    A must for all.

  36. Daniel Besen says:

    Guys you’ve got to try this place !!! If you’re used to coffee in Melbourne then you’re going to love The Association in Creechurch Lane, EC35AY. . . It could be said that it has better coffee than Melbourne Australia !!! 2 thumbs up.

  37. Lilly says:

    Coffee Plant is not good at all in my opinion. I had an awful, milky, bland coffee from there, served with a surly attitude, never going back. People who recommend this place obviously don’t know good coffee if it hit them in the face. Gwylim’s coffee is still the best of the best, but I also rate Nude coffee as I sometimes find Square Mile hit and miss.

  38. Mike says:

    Have you checked out the algerian coffee store in Soho.
    It is tiny but as you can drink coffee in there it is definitely a coffee shop.
    definitely my favourite (though I confess havent tried many on this list)
    http://www.thecoffeelocator.com/trending/around-the-world/algerian-coffee-store-londons-hidden-gem

  39. andrea collett says:

    Princi on Wardour Street is a must for your top coffee shop list. When I tasted the ricotta cake there I couldn’t believe that anything so beautiful existed.

  40. Rachel says:

    I was really disappointed with the coffee at Flat White/Milk Bar for the price you pay for the amount and taste, let just say I was hugely disappointed and wont be paying them another visit.

  41. Anna Ifanti says:

    We have been regulars to Allpress, Prufrock, Nude and the Albion as we lived in bethnal green for 5 years. We are now in Bow and prefer to get our coffees at the Pavillion in vicky park, the Counter cafe in Hackney wick and Muxima, an amazing independent cafe in bow.
    Despite how good coffee the former establishment pride themselves in making, there’s something fundamentally wrong when they charge £5.40 for a small flat white and a long black….

  42. john says:

    Is the Scooterworks Cafe still on Lower Marsh St.? I’ve heard about it but have never been there.

  43. Unlike This says:

    Allpress, Notes, Ozone and Prufrock are my all time favorites!

  44. Renan Ferrer says:

    Dose Espresso with James Phillips owner is the best of all in my opinion! The atmosphere is intimate and very tasty. The other particulars I did not know.

    Thanks for sharing with us!

    Cheers

    Renan Ferrer

  45. Eugene Chiu says:

    Time to update the list mate, I see none of the Coffeesmith establishments on your list (Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Chancery Coffee, Speakeasy, Liberty of Norton Folgate), all great coffee shops serving Climpson and Sons coffee as their house blend and a weekly changing featured espresso.

    Another strong contender is 2months+ Alchemy Cafe in St.Pauls, which is currently my favourite, their Ethiopean Tchembe is the best fruity single origin espresso I have tasted, espresso blends rotates frequently too.

    By the end of the day, you need to take into considerations the barista making ur drink as well, obviously not all of them are similarly skilled hence the same place could vary. I had a flat white in Prufrock before which tasted like latte.

  46. Eugene Chiu says:

    Notes used to be great, but I felt that their pricing at their Covent Garden shop is ridiculous nowadays, their flat cap vendors seemed to be less enthusiastic nowadays and the coffee they brew aren’t as good as I remember them few years back.

  47. Sean Hughes says:

    Bar Italia in Frith St Soho – proper italian coffee made by Italians, opened in 1949 and thankfully few hipsters. Proper London.

  48. ger weller says:

    Would recommend Coffee Connoisseur in Church St W2 they have great Italian coffee and the Baked Potato is oven baked not microwaved .

  49. sue says:

    Coffee recommendations certainly seem to get people going – on the likes and not likes. You’ve certainly got a good response positive and negative Daniel. Personally i think Ben’s Espresso Room serves up consistently great coffee. He’s a great teachers too. I did a day barrista course with him back in 2010. Keep it come in…..

Trackbacks

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