Not too long ago, London's coffee was famously terrible. Then, in 2005, the Kiwi-owned Flat White cafe opened in Soho, kickstarting an Australasian-style coffee revolution. But now that even the big chains serve flat whites, how do you know who pulls a truly good shot? Below, Sarah Illingworth’s top five cafes to get you started.
Founded by a former World Barista Champion, Prufrock is widely known for serving some of the best coffee in London. Prufrock is also home to the London Barista Resource & Training Centre, and the team here are science-serious about coffee without making you feel like you’re in a lab. The cafe, located in a historic building in uber-cool Clerkenwell, is light-filled and spacious and a convenient caffeine pitstop for attractions including the Museum of London and St Pauls Cathedral. There's an inventive menu utilising ingredients from artisan suppliers like Neal's Yard Dairy, and baked goods courtesy of Prufrock's own in-house baker. He’s very good.
Allpress (Dalston and Shoreditch)
You can't discuss the London coffee revolution without paying homage to New Zealand heavyweight Allpress. The Auckland-born company has run a roastery and café in Shoreditch, East London, since 2010, and more recently also cut the ribbon on a two-level space further east in Dalston. Located slightly beyond the main drag, the Allpress Dalston is a beautiful, light-filled space - and the coffee is, of course, bang on. There's some simple but delicious dishes on the menu, or grab a sandwich or cake from the cabinet. They even have sausage rolls! There’s plenty of seating inside, and the garden out front is lovely on a nice day.
Climpson & Sons (Hackney)
Climpson & Sons have been serving some of London's best coffee to Hackney locals for over a decade at their Broadway Market shop. Now they boast a roastery and pop-up restaurant space just down the street at Climpson’s Arch, and their beans are used by baristas around the UK. A visit to the original store is still a worthy stop during a trip to London. Busiest on Saturdays thanks to the market that fills the street outside, it’s also a great opportunity to accompany your latte with a bite from one of the artisan stalls. Enjoy your haul in nearby London Fields, weather permitting.
Lantana (Fitzrovia, Shoreditch and Camden)
The piccolo (a miniature latte, basically) here is five-star, but the incredible courgette bread and halloumi breakfast: holy wow! Opened in 2008 by an Australian trio, Lantana lives up to the high standards of their home country with fresh, well-executed food and excellent coffee. I ate at the Fitzrovia café, north of Soho, but there are Lantanas in Shoreditch and Camden too. At the Fitzrovia location, the eat-in Lantana IN is right next-door to takeout-only Lantana OUT – the latter handy should you need to make a quick getaway.
Federation Coffee (Brixton)
Let your need for good coffee lure you across the Thames to Federation, a great little shop inside bustling Brixton Market. With its big windows and prime corner location, Federation is something of a community hub; for the rest of us, it's an ideal place for some serious people-watching. Get here early enough and you can spend the rest of the day exploring South London, an area of the city that shouldn’t be overlooked.
NOTABLE MENTIONS: THE BIG GUYS
Great coffee is far easier to find in London than ever before and excellent new cafes are opening all the time. But the pioneers of London's coffee revival are still going strong. These companies have multiple locations around the city - spot any of their stores and you can be confident of a good cup.
Monmouth Coffee Company
An institution since 1978, Monmouth Coffee is still a destination stop for coffee nuts; the original Covent Garden store in particular can get pretty busy.
Grind & Co.
Along with sharp-looking brew bars, the Grind group has expanded into cocktail bars, a restaurant and radio station. Find them in locations including Shoreditch, Soho and Borough Market.
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
Founded in 2010, Department has quickly earned a reputation for consistent, quality coffee. Their eight cafes include Covent Garden, Clerkenwell and Spitalfields.
Another independent roastery, Workshop have four unique café locations in Central London.
Despite calling busy Soho and Fitzrovia home, each of TAP’s three cafés feels like a neighbourhood spot – which makes the excellent coffee go down even better.