Authentic coffee houses in the English capital. It was always just a matter of time.
The iron grasp of the tea monopoly could only hold the public’s interest for so long, and while London may never fully shake its infatuation with the industrialized Starbucks and Caffè Neros of the world, the city has nevertheless blossomed into the long awaited drip-brew holy land that artisan coffee aficionados can – finally – proudly call home.
Okay, that was a little over the top.
The point is, thanks to the Antipodean coffee revolution of the 2000s London now has a rich, inherited cafe culture it can run with. And boy, has it ever run. Or biked.
Unsatisfied with simply reproducing a string of neighborhood shops home-roasting their beans to a cacophony of manic fingers at Macbook keyboards, London natives and implants have turned their coffee world into a reflection of London culture itself: sometimes posh, sometimes loony, but always with a finger creatively held against the pulse of pop culture.
To highlight this, Spinlister has put together a very bikeable list of five of our favorite London coffee shops below, along with a guided map to help you experience them all in one caffeine-fueled ride through the city.
It’s by no means exhaustive, but it will certainly give you a sense for just how varied the flat white market has become.
When You’ve Gotta Go…
Artisan coffee in a public toilet might not strike you as the best marketing ploy, but The Attendant proudly embraces its past as a Victorian underground “gentlemen’s loo”. So much so, in fact, that they’ve even found a way to repurpose the porcelain urinals, creating separate booths at which to enjoy you order while trying not to contemplate the building’s colorful past. The Attendant’s uniqueness is only outdone by its quality coffee and sandwiches, which is why the small interior gets packed in a hurry during mornings and around lunch time. You wouldn’t come here to get work done, but for taste and a great story to share later this is about as good as London gets.
27A Foley St, London website
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
This staple of London’s East End has been owned and operated by the same family since 1900, and is a great reminder that when the formula ain’t broke, don’t fix it. E. Pellicci may not win any points for delicacy or presentation, and the coffee, while good, is certainly nothing you’d write home about; that said, their welcoming atmosphere, fantastic service and renowned English fry-ups (bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, etc.) have been winning over crowds of loyal patrons for well over a century. If you want to treat yourself to an authentic East London cafe experience, sit yourself down at a table in the wood-paneled Art deco interior and enjoy.
332 Bethnal Green Rd, London
LOOK MUM NO HANDS
Where Baristas And Biking Meet
We’re happy to report that London has become a goldmine of bike/coffee houses in recent years, catering to the city’s growing network of young riding professionals in search of a place to work, eat, drink and talk shop. Perhaps nowhere is this combination pulled off better than Old Street’s Look Mum No Hands, where delicious coffee is brewed up daily and the employees are as well versed in brakes as they are in beans. Grab a seat at one of the plentiful tables inside, or relax on the outdoor terrace and soak up some London sunshine while you eat. With free wifi and great service, it’s hard for a coffee-loving cyclist to find fault here.
49 Old St, London website
Laptops and Lattes
For the freelance crowd, London’s Timberyard (formerly TY Seven Dials) has become a go-to work cooperative, much to the chagrin of casual coffee lovers simply looking for a tabletop conversation on a weekday afternoon. Still, it’s hard to blame a place for its success, and TY’s formula of fantastic coffee, high quality sandwiches and snacks, and a relaxed modern environment that’s ideal for work productivity has proven pretty difficult to resist. The fact that it’s located along a hip stretch of London real estate between Soho and Covent Garden doesn’t hurt, either. You may have to wait for a table, or even to order, but that’s never a bad sign.
7 Upper St Martin’s Ln, London website
CEREAL KILLER CAFE
That Old Nostalgic Sugar High
You might be tempted to question the business logic behind a cafe serving over 120 varieties of children’s cereal, but the proof is in the pop-tarts (seriously, you can buy those here too). The Cereal Killer Cafe has officially made the passage from quirky startup to trendy hotspot, bolstered by added benefits like high quality coffee and its location on the always entertaining Brick Lane in East London. Their commitment to the theme stretches all the way downstairs, which more resembles a children’s playroom (complete with a wall-mounted Tony the Tiger skateboard) than a cafe. Needless to say, you likely wouldn’t stop in every day for a breakfast bowl costing between 3-5 pounds; still, if only for the nostalgia, it’s an experience you should treat yourself to once while you’re in town.
139 Brick Ln, London website