London: 5 Great Cafes (That Aren’t Prufrock)
London has a thriving coffee scene. Bolstered and made famous by legendary coffee spots like Prufrock Coffee and roasters like Square Mile, this grand old city is home to a multitude of cafes, making it difficult to even know where to start–a pretty wonderful problem to have. Equipped with Blue Crow Media’s London Coffee Map and iPhone App, and Vespertine Press’ “Independent Coffee Book: London”, I set out to discover what Londinium has to offer.
10-12 Creechurch Ln,
Opened in March of 2012, The Association is a much-welcomed respite in the middle of London’s busy “City” limits, a square mile parcel in the very heart of the city. Association is tucked away down Creechurch Lane, with an aesthetic dominated by a combination of exposed-brick walls, modern lighting, and simplistic seating arrangements. They feature a rotating selection of coffees from Square Mile and Workshop at the bar, with filter coffee methods that include Aeropress, V60, Woodneck, and Syphon, and shots of espresso pulled on a lovely-looking Synesso. The Association isn’t far off from the Tower of London, and only a short walk from the Aldgate Underground stop, making it a convenient coffee shop for tourists. Be sure to visit on a weekday, as Association is closed on evenings and weekends.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, or just like the color teal, Curators Coffee is a 5-minute walk away. This tiny space grinds up Union and Square Mile coffees on teal-colored Mazzers, then pulls shots on a teal La Marzocco.
66 Great Titchfield
Just around the corner from Oxford Circus, Kaffeine is really pretty great – when you imagine “that perfect London coffee bar” experience, this is where you’re thinking of. Talented baristas pull shots of Square Mile on a Synesso Cyncra, and offer an espresso-based-only menu, including gorgeously textured espresso+milk drinks. The interior is slim and cozy, offering seating just inside the steamed-up window, or in the back on the wood-slat benches. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a guest roaster offering–they recently finished up featuring SF-based Ritual Coffee, are currently featuring Sweden’s much-loved Koppi on bar, and will be expecting coffees from Coffee Collective and Tim Wendleboe over the next few weeks. Highly recommended.
Fernandez & Wells- Somerset House
Strand W2R 1LA
To call it “stunning” would be an understatement. The setting of Fernandez & Wells’ Somerset House location, snug in the corner of a gorgeous Victorian courtyard, brings a visit to this British arts and cultural center full-circle by offering up stellar coffees from Has Bean, and providing plenty of seating for weary legs. In addition to exemplary coffees, the cafe is dedicated to good wines, craft beers, and Spanish ham—a little bit of something for everyone. Having a chat with the multi-tasking baristas can be a bit difficult due to sheer volume of customers and bar set up—the Synesso is awkwardly positioned at the far end in a corner—so, don’t expect a long discussion about the origins and processing of your coffee. What F&W lacks in chattiness, they make up for in availability. This location is open until 10pm most evenings, making it a great after-dinner coffee option. Take a walk along the Thames, then head here to grab a cappuccino and a window seat.
Store Street Espresso
40 Store Street
Narrow and unassuming, the front half of Store Street Espresso gives way to a bright, sky-lit back seating area. The cafe itself is only a stone’s-throw from the British Museum, and in between Goodge St. And Tottenham Court Rd. Tube stops. Although primarily offering Square Mile on a pretty Synesso, you’ll likely find a guest roaster on deck (Store St. Currently has a limited run of Denmark’s Coffee Collective). The space inside is cozy and compact, with a clean and modern look and feel. Be sure to check out the gobs of artwork on the walls and snag a seat beneath the central sky-light.
A walk north on Tottenham Court Rd. leads you to Tapped & Packed‘s original 26 Rathbone Place Rd. location.
75 Wigmore Street
Workshop Coffee‘s second (and significantly smaller) location is a gem. Friendly staff and a robin’s egg blue Synesso Hydra (now with matching ceramics!) give the cafe a welcoming atmosphere, made even better by great coffee offerings from Workshop’s own roastery across town. Limited seating makes this more of an in-and-out stopping point, but don’t miss the opportunity to talk coffee with the staff, who always seem to be dialing in something new. Oh, and Workshop Marylebone is right in between Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens and Regents Park, so if you fancy a stroll and it’s not too blustery outside…