Sunday, 1 March 2009

Coffee out

After spending Mondays to Saturdays serving people in the café, on Sundays I get immense pleasure from sitting in someone else’s café, reading the paper and drinking coffee. It really doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Unfortunately, it also doesn’t take much to send me into a blind rage. Bad coffee will do it.

I have discovered through bitter, and watery, experience that there can be no accidental good coffee finds in London. You need to know where you are going as the odds of walking into a random café and finding decent coffee are about 16 (listed below) in 1000.

The other weekend I was heading to the Tate Britain in Pimlico and wanted to stop somewhere en-cycle for my Sunday ritual. I sat at the computer googling ‘good coffee’ and the names of the areas I would pass through but after about half an hour decided to chance the coffee at the Tate Britain rather than waste the entire morning at home.

The café at the top of the Tate Modern actually does decent coffee – in a pretty amazing setting.
At the Tate Britain on the other side of the Thames, the café and the espresso bar are in the bowels of the building with no views to distract you. Straight away I knew my coffee was going to be a huge disappointment as I saw the disinterested, grumpy man behind the coffee machine ignoring the most basic coffee making rules - not wiping the basket clean of the old grinds, not tamping properly, not flushing between shots, scalding the milk…

My anger (why hadn’t someone taught this guy how to make coffee) and frustration (I was now dying for a coffee with no alternatives nearby) grew as I waited in the queue, desperately wanting to give him some tips before he made my coffee but knowing that I couldn’t as it would make me the most annoying person on the planet.


So instead I stood there quietly and seethed on the inside, hoping that by some miracle he would fluke a good coffee. Unfortunately this book could be judged by the cover: frothy over heated milk covering watery coffee. The final insult is that they charge £2.5 for the disappointment.


What I need, what London needs, is a map of all the places where you can get good coffee – something along the lines of Breakfastout, a website which lists only the best places for breakfast/brunch in Melbourne and Sydney.

I have developed a mental map of where to go for coffee but London is a big city and this list leaves a lot of soil unchartered, for instance, the Pimlico area.

My coffee out list so far:

Barbican: Dose Espresso
Bloomsbury: Bea’s of Bloomsbury, London Review of Books
Borough Market: Monmouth
Broadway Market: Climpson and Sons
Covent Garden: Monmouth
Fitzrovia: LANTANA
Marylebone: The Providores
Nottinghill: Coffee Plant, The Electric (both are a bit hit and miss these days)
Soho: flat white, Milkbar, Fernandez and Wells
Spitalfields: Taylor St Baristas, Nude Espresso, Market Coffee House

Does anyone know of other places doing good coffee in London?

Thanks Charmaine for letting me know that such a list already exists. Nice work.

27 comments:

Charmaine said...

Even when I took a job at my university's café, they got in a trained barista to show us the ropes. I am eternally grateful for that.

As for a coffee map - some coffee fiends have already created a good map for the best brews in the UK (not just London!):

http://www.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=100504603781333782717.00044d6c0a754e8848d58&ll=51.513156,-0.135183&spn=0.004206,0.011673&t=h&z=17

You'd be happy to know that Lantana is already on there ;-)

One place I keep meaning to drop by is Taste of Bitter Love in Bethnal Green. It looks adorable and word has it the coffee pretty brilliant.

Shelagh Ryan said...

Ah Charmaine that is brilliant. Thank you for the link and thank god for clever interweb people.

Eva said...

I was trained in Portland, Oregon (USA) when I worked in a café there, and I am both eternally grateful and annoyed that it has given me such high standards when it is now so difficult to find good places. That said, a little planning in London goes a long way -- as your lovely post demonstrates!

Sacred, just off Carnaby Street (and with a little counter in Kingly Court) does pretty good coffee, but I've had better ones at the kiosk than at the proper café. Also, various reports suggest it is rather hit-and-miss.

Also, near to LSE: Wild & Wood do nice coffees (they're on New Oxford Street, and don't have a website) and the café is absolutely, scrumptiously adorable. About the size of a postage stamp. And a new bakery/café just opened at the top of Lincoln's Inn Fields: Fleet River Bakery. I had a coffee there last week and it was very nice, though with a caveat. I'll do a post about them on my blog in the next day or two -- maybe I can beat Bellaphon to it!

Shelagh Ryan said...

Thanks Eva, I've heard about Wild & Wood a couple of times now- I'll make an effort to get there this week as that's not far from the cafe.

Rob Hinchcliffe said...

Hey Shelagh

Here's my 'Adventures in Coffee' guide on Qype:

http://www.qype.co.uk/lists/353269-Robs-adventures-in-coffee

and there's plenty of more if you disagree with me :)

http://www.qype.co.uk/lists/search?query=coffee

Shelagh Ryan said...

Well Rob clearly there is a gaping hole in your list....Lantana?

Anonymous said...

Hey Shelagh
Agree entirely on the cafe at the Tate Modern -- had one of best meals I've had in London last time I was there.
But as to other good coffee spots in London -- I will be guided by those who've posted here, when next there.
Cheers
Pia

bea said...

Thanks for adding us!

lauren said...

nesta in soho also makes great coffee - proper italian style.

Inkling said...

the food hall on old street does marvellous, friday-morning-saviour coffee - truly wonderful. they use monmouth beans, too!

also, as testament to lantana's epic coffee skills, i finally made it in about two weeks ago. unfortunately i was mid-detox, though, and had to order a decaf soy flat white (which i fully expected to be an abomination of a coffee) - and not only was i not sneered at by the lovely lady, it actually tasted great!

will be back soon for the proper version!

Gourmet Chick said...

Ottolenghi (in Angel and Notting Hill) is also quite good for coffee although not up to Lantana/Providores/Monmouth standards in my view

Paige said...

Hi Shelagh,
I edit a magazine called InLondo and have had one of your regulars write a (very enthusiastic) review of Lantana. Would you be willing/able to provide pictures of the cafe for the article? I'd be grateful.
Thanks!
Paige (paiged@blueskygroup.co.uk)

Pete said...

I'm becoming more of a cheerleader for Barny's on Houndsditch, just opposite Liverpool Street station. Today's Flat White was exemplary, mitigating the damage of last night's self-inflicted tannin tsunami.

London Review Cake Shop said...

Thanks for putting the LRB on the list! Just to let you know that the Cake Shop has its own little home on the Bookshop website: http://www.lrbshop.co.uk/cake

Vj , Messy, Ned, Jacko,Veej said...

Hola Shelagh!
I add Tomtom coffee house at Belgravia to the list (not open Sundays though). They pretty much get every cup spot on and have some tasty little treats to nibble on as well.
I was on my way to Lantana today (I am having banana bread cravings!) but only got as far as Charlotte Street: an elderly lady asked me if I could take her to the post office and then home again as she was feeling a little shaky on her feet. Turns out she has lived in the area all her life, and often passes through Charlotte Place on her way to church. I intend to meet up with her for a coffee and a little chat- I will bring her to Lantana :)

Little Miss Random said...

Try Wild & Wood at 1 New Oxford Street. It serves Monmouth coffee (but at cheaper than Monmouth prices) and uses organic milk from Jersey. It's one of my favourites - and I don't live all that nearby!

Little Miss Random said...

I'd also add Nordic Bakery on Golden Square, Soho to your list. The Finns do love their coffee, and the cinnamon buns are to die for!

ben said...

An old favorite of mine for a great coffee is Bar Italia in Soho, always been up there for doing proper cappucco

Kyrenia said...

Monmouth London Bridge is a regular for me during the weekdays. Opens 7.30 am.

Tate is also superb. But we have all forgoteen about a very, very good cafe - The Table. They also serve Monmouth http://www.thetablecafe.com/
83 Southwark Street
London, SE1 0HX

It's a must try. Food is exceptional. I think they are Aussies or New Zelanders? Not sure. I must ask.

Very good coffee.

The Young Vic as well on the Cut near Waterloo does a good takeaway.

Louise and Nivaldo said...

There's a lovely Italian guy who sells very good coffee out of a little orange VW Combi in Portobello market on a Friday (and maybe Saturday). He does a very good espresso indeed and he's always got a lovely smile on his face.

Shuna Fish said...

I can't tell you how happy I am to see you like the London Review of Books Cake shop too! yeah! It's absolutely one of my favourite places in London.

One more for your list: Tina, We Salute You!

James White said...

hey! Great blog....

I just came across a great website that shows all the good coffee venues in London. http://www.thecafehunter.co.uk

Lantana is up there too - well of course :-)

Loving the new lantana opening hours by the way!

James White said...

www.thecafehunter.co.uk

Nikki De Marchi said...

As an Australian living in Pimlico, there is really only one place to get truly good coffee, except it's actually just over the border in Belgravia, or upper Pimlico if you will...

It's called Tom Tom's Coffee House, corner of Elizabeth St and Ebury Rd - just up from Victoria Coach Station. They make very very good coffee and delicious cheese and tomato toasties made with Poilane bread. So good I go there every day.

Natalie said...

Providores/the Tapa Room is still my favourite for consistently good coffee, but I can also recommend Bullet, on the 4th floor of Snow & Rock. Lantana now next on my list to try....!

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Marta said...

As Vj , Messy, Ned, Jacko,Veej mentioned, Tomtom Coffee House on corner of Elizabeth and Ebury street has amazing coffee. They roast their own beans and have a unique espresso blend.
It used to be closed on Sundays, but now they are open all week.
They also extended their food menu, perfect place for a small lunch or big breakfast.
I am a regular and highly recommend it.