Cafe|2 Westbourne Grove, Bayswater|£
Family bakery and coffee shop located at the very end of Queensway, meeting Westbourne Grove. A cute, little cafe, with wooden big tables, a lot of good light and good people watching location. This is the best option at Bayswater, if you are looking for a nice, relaxed place and want to avoid the tiresome looking chain coffee shops.
Perfect for: people watching
Try: good feta cheese pastries and a lot of biscuit delicacies (chick peas flour biscuits are very good)
Cafe|116-118 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill|£
This no frills Brazilian cafe has the most coveted outside terrace. I can guarantee that ‘posh’ Notting Hill pretentious cafes would do anything for this size of external space. I love this little place especially on a Sunday early morning on a sunny day which feels really quiet and serene. Offers both sun and shade with two well located trees and the best spot for people watching.
Perfect for: lazy long coffee chats, chilling
Try: iced latte, pastel de natal
Clean and Lean Café
Café|222-224 Westbourne Grove|£££|Have a look!
I love this café. Clean and Lean’s main role is actually to be a private gym (behind the café) but this beautiful space ended up making one of my favourite café hang outs. Love the light and the window that spans across pretty much its entire space. It is not a huge place but it has a lot of good vibe, heightened by its welcoming and always cheerful people. Everything I tried here is delicious and healthy, albeit a bit on the pricey side for some of the items that are literally tiny! Coffee is of great quality and strong!
Perfect for: mobile office, healthier sweet treats
Try: flat white and banana loaf, the acai bowl.
Farm Girl Cafe
Cafe|59 Portobello Road, Notting Hill|££|Have a look!
Tucked within a court yard of a former church, this is a charming country-house kitchen type of space. If you can get a table, the courtyard is beautiful on a sunny day but equally love the interior. The cafe’s objective is to serve ‘healthy’ options, although this is a very subjective term these days. The menu has something for everybody, vegan, vegetarian or those (like me) who need their eggs to fill fulfilled at brunch! I have mixed feeling about this place. Admittedly, I return for the beautiful ambience more than anything, rather than the food (and definitely not its coffee), although in fairness I haven’t tried everything on the menu! To be updated!
Perfect for: girly catch ups
Try: fluffy berry pancakes
Fernandez & Wells
Cafe|8 Exhibition Rd, South Kensington|£|Have a look!
Perfect for your post-museum coffee break. Exhibition Rd on a summer day offers the illusion of a Mediterranean piazza. Inventive sandwiches, home made cakes using top end ingridients.
Perfect for: people watching
Bakery|138 Portobello Rd|£|Have a look!
Amazing selection of cakes, savouries, sandwiches and salads. There are a few tables outside but the inside area, above street level, offers a nice panoramic spot to enjoy people watching over Portobello road. I like this place for lazy winter afternoons. Note: there is a toilet but it never (ever) worked.
Try: strawberry & rhubarb/almond & rasberry tartlet
The Hummingbird Bakery
Patisserie|133 Portobello Rd, Notting Hill|£|Have a look!
This is the original location of the infamous cupcake bakery. The cupcakes are really as good as ‘they say’. Prepare to queue in the weekends. Very limited sitting area, this place is to pick up and go. Try as many cupcakes as you can!
Try: red velvet cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes
KITCHEN & PANTRY
Cafe|14 Elgin Crescent, Notting Hill|£|Have a look!
My favourite cafe, off Portobello road, with big leather sofas to chill or big tables to set up a ‘mini office’ and focus on your internet browsing. Great choice of sandwiches and cakes. Best to be visited during the week when the scene has a village feel to it and if weather permits you can enjoy some time at the tables placed outdoors. The cafe offers free wifi.
Perfect for: lazy long coffee chats, book chilling, internet browsing
Try: pistachio or vanilla macaron, almond tart and great choice of gluten-free cakes
Cafe|85 Duke of York Square, Chelsea|££|Have a look!
The casual alternative to the a la carte restaurant just next door. A great variety of homemade cakes and fresh Italian produce at the deli. I like to visit for coffee or lunch. The outside terrace is perfect for summer alfresco dining while inside there is a beautiful conservatory for the winter time.
Perfect for: people watching
New Tom’s Cafe
Cafe|226 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill|££|Have a look!
Formerly ‘Tom’s Deli’, the ‘New Tom’s Cafe’ remains a Tom Conran establishment. The ‘old fashioned’ american deli style is gone and was replaced with a more contemporary look. The menu is based on produce from Conran’s Herefordshire farm. I preferred the old, unpretentious look but the cafe, with its ‘hard to find’ garden is still a trendy place to meet friends for breakfast or enjoy a coffee break.
Perfect for: breakfast
Try: brioche french toast
Deli|63 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill|£££|Have a look!
With those prices, Ottolenghi is definitely a ‘treat’. But ingredients are top notch, desserts are beautiful and salads are fresh. Only recently I tried its infamous granola and now I know what the fuss is all about!
Perfect for: pick and go!
Try: macadamia nuts and caramel cheesecake
The Fifth floor, Harvey Nichols
Cafe, champagne bar, restaurant, food market|109-125 Knightsbridge|£££|Have a look!
Big space, tactfully located tables, gorgeous light and beautiful food. There is nothing not to love about the Cafe at Harvey Nicols
Perfect for: out with mum
Cafe, Bistro|150 Bayswater|££|Have a look!
This is Hilton’s main restaurant but it is also operating as an ‘independent’ bistro. Located opposite Hyde Park, it has a big outside space surrounded by trees which makes it perfect for summer afternoons. Inside area is also spacious with great light.
Perfect for: breakfast, brunch
Café|22 Frith Street, Soho|£|Have a look!
Dating back from the late 40s, this historical café, is an institution amongst Soho-ers and anyone else in need of a strong, good quality espresso during the day or in the morning hours (it stays open until 5am). Serves coffee, cakes and pizza any time of the day!
Perfect for: late night snack
Try: the tiramisu and espresso is a late night ritual for most
Cafe|33 Earlham Street, Covent Garden|££|Have a look!
Portuguese cafe in one of the busiest areas of London. Minimal deco of wooden tables and brick walls. It is the best coffee solution in the area.
Curzon Cinema Cafe
Cafe|99 Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho|£|
Located within Soho’s Curzon Cinema, on the ground floor, this arty cafe is perfect for coffee and people watch before your film or if you find yourselves in West End (desperately) looking for a civilised coffee stop! Good, strong coffee and cakes!
Try: coffee and cafe combo just £5. Love the orange polenta cake.
Cafe|295 Regent Street, Oxford Circus|££|Have a look!
You can never go wrong with Illy coffee. This place is an ‘oasis’ for those looking to have a relaxed cup of coffee away from the dirty, fast food coffee chains that are dominating this area. Illy is a European style cafe, with clean lines, colour and most importantly very friendly table service. Good, strong coffee and freshly made desserts. Opt for the upper level area as it is a bit more relaxed.
Try: tiramisu for sure
Goswell Road Coffee
Cafe|160-164 Goswell Road, Barbican|££|Have a look!
Goswell Road Coffee is my latest discovery, a quirky, relaxed cafe with a dash of attitude. Comfortable sofas are scattered around and retro deco dominates the space. All food and coffee are organic – best decaf I ever had (usually tastes disastrous). Crowd is a mixture of hipsters and students (proximity to City University) but the best thing about it is the music; only plays English rock. Thumbs up!
Try: blueberry cake
Café, Restaurant| 36-38 Old Compton Street, Soho|££| Have a look!
Mostly marketed as a restaurant, but ambience is mostly suited to a café. I always go for coffee and a sweet bite with friends because of its ‘cute’, old kitchen style relaxed space. Its salads are great too.
Cafe|13 Ganton St, Oxford Circus|£|Have a look!
What a mission to find a descent cafe in Central London! Off Carnaby street, this place offers a relaxed environment to enjoy a mid shopping break, good organic cakes and drinks. Although now a part of wider coffee chain, this original branch still keeps its ‘independent style’ authenticity. Don’t be put off by the small space upstairs, there is a spacious sitting area downstairs.
Try: carrot cake
Cafe|193 Wardour St, Soho|£|Have a look!
This is a minimal cafe in the heart of Soho. It has a very small window front but the place extends several metres back. The green house glass ceiling is a huge advantage because of this bizarre layout and keeps the place very well lit until the very back. Feels very New York, has to be said. I think because London only recently started developing its coffee scene is still trying to find its deco identity. Wood minimalism dominate, an industrial feeling to it and the absolutely necessary; coffee, tables and chairs and state of the art coffee brewing methods.
Deco aside, the place takes its coffee very seriously. And for hard core coffee lovers this is (finally) great news. Quality range of different coffee varieties and brewing novelty guarantees you a tasting experience different to other cafes. I had filter coffee, which is usually not my choice when I am out, but wanted to try the effect of drip-filter brewing.
This is a neighbourhood cafe, it provides a great setting for a relaxed catch up in the weekend or an alternative to office working.
The borough barista
Cafe|60 Seymour Street, Marylebone|££|Have a look!
Off Edgware Road’s madness and lack of any decent coffee loungers here lies The Borough Barista. The space is not very big but it has a feeling of an old cottage sitting room with large windows on both walls (taking advantage of its corner position), clean wood deco and cute little furniture. Sandwiches are good but the best part is the place’s strong, tasty coffee. Great for both casual catch ups or a quick business meeting – although the place was full when I was there, noise was kept at a very tamed and comfortable level.
Try: definitely the coffee!
The Life Goddess
Greek|29 Store Street|££|Have a look!
I wouldn’t do The Life Goddess any justice if I just called it a ‘coffee shop’. This is a coffee shop and a restaurant and a deli – but all three are providing a little taste of delicious Greece. This is the story of three fellow Greeks from my homeland of Macedonia and the city I spent a good chunk of my life, Thessaloniki.
Tucked in a pretty street in Bloomsbury, amongst other traditional cafes, The Life Goddess pays a tribute to Greek country side with dark wood furniture dominating the space and products, fresh produce and spices are lined up and hung harmonically imitating the layout of traditional Greek delis as you would find them in small villages spread across Greece. Products are excellent and representative from various Greek regions. There is a very good selection of Greek wine; Greek wine comes to a surprise for many (maybe because we are guarding it as our secret due to small produce) but it is excellent and unique due to the different variations of soil and climate across the different Greek regions. If you haven’t tasted Greek wine yet this is the place to buy your very first (of many to come) bottle.
As you would expect from famous Greek hospitality, The Life Goddess staff is very friendly and accommodating making you feel ‘at your Greek home’.
Try: ‘bougatsa’ (a breakfast classic from Northern Greece, warm custard in phyllo pastry with icing sugar and cinnamon on top and served warm), ‘galaktoboureko’ (semolina custard in phyllo pastry dessert sank in sweet syrup)
Buy: Greek spices – ‘oregano’ is the essence of Greek cooking and at The Life Goddess you will find some of excellent quality. ‘Mountain tea’- abundant in Mediterranean countries, this is a traditional tea enjoyed for centuries in Greece, it has a special flowery blend and many medicinal properties.
The Mae Deli
21 Seymour Place, Marble Arch|££|Have a look!
Vegan Mae Deli offers a relaxed environment, it doesn’t have much seating upstairs but if you are lucky to get a seat by the window bar you can enjoy people watching over the pretty little street. It has more variety on savoury options (salads, warm dishes) but I chose the Mae cake (which is a strawberry filled cake with coconut yogurt topping) and an Americano with brown rice milk. I absolutely loved the cake and from all the veggie milk options I tried so far the brown rice milk one definitely gets my vote.
Perfect for: healthier sweet treats
Try: definitely the Mae cake!
7 Upper St Martin’s Lane, Seven Dials|£|Have a look!
West End for coffee would never be my choice, I am getting panicky just thinking of spending time in Theatreland, unless I am there only for the theatre. I was introduced to Timberyard by a friend, and it made me see the area in a different light. Then again, small detail, Timberyard is located in Seven Dials – the area would claim its own post code – a small trendy planet in the midst of commercial shops and tourists.
Timberyard is definitely a coffee shop with British character and the place is flying the flag for British suppliers with breads and baked goods all freshly made by local bakers. I really loved the ground floor with its randomness of furniture, objects and general colourfulness. The coffee and food is well presented when served.
The basement, is almost double the size of its ground floor and resembles a trendy workspace dominated by Apple macs and creative types either working alone or holding their business meetings. Although not a fan of basements in coffee shops this is definitely the most pleasant I have seen with a lot of natural light and in the winter time I wouldn’t object sitting there.
After discovering this cafe, coffee hunting in the West End will never be a painful experience again.
Cafe|45 Berwick Street, Soho|££|Have a look!
I am in love with this coffee shop. I could sit and write, read here for hours and people-watch Soho’s trendy crowd passing by. Although, the Yumchaa coffee shops are expanding (already now four in London, practically a small chain) this still pretty much feels like an independent, neighbourhood café. I love the combination of industrial brick, softened with romantic silver flowery paper wall and a mix and match country chic furniture. There are solid, wooden benches which makes it an ideal place for laptop work (and as expected it is heaving with freelancers). Most of all I love the peace and quiet, and civilised atmosphere to it which makes it perfect for a relaxed catch up with friends or catching up with some work.
Perfect for: lazy long catch ups, people watching, mobile office
Try: This place is famous for its amazing range of teas (it is part of its name after all ‘chaa’) but I cannot recommend anything as I am a coffee drinker – the tea menu looks pretty impressive though. Great artisan cakes.
I love coffee spaces located in museums or galleries. Convenience following a cultural outing is not the reason. These cafés are uncompromisingly beautiful, usually located either in gorgeous historical buildings like the National Gallery or the V&A or offering some of the best London views like Tate (as well as gorgeous food). Here is a list of my favourites:
Blueprint Cafe (The Design Museum)
Cafe|The Design Museum|£|Have a look!
Contemporary setting and 180 degree views over the Thames, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf.
Perfect for: the views
Gallery Mess (Saatchi Gallery)
Restaurant,bar & cafe|Duke of York Square, Chelsea|£££|Have a look!
Love this place equally for its beautiful gardens or its internal space which is so light and airy. It offers a good venue for a few evening cocktails as well.
Perfect for: dessert, girls lunch
Try: cream tea
The Orangery (Kensington Palace)
Palace cafe|Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park|££|Have a look!
Built in 1704 under Queen Anne’s order to serve as a greenhouse for her citrus trees, this elegant palatial style building now is an elegant setting for afternoon tea and lunch. In the summer, you can sit at the terrace and enjoy the beautiful gardens. In the winter, the interior offers light and beautiful architecture. This is a very special place.
Update, August 2015: Unfortunately, the last couple of years priority for The Orangery is to get people in and out quickly enough to maximise on profit than offering the original elegant experience. The beautiful cakes are gone and the venue is only offering breakfast, lunch and tea to guarantee fixed profit.
Perfect for: out with mum
Try: afternoon tea
The National Dining Rooms (The National Gallery)
Restaurant|Sainsbury wing, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square|£££|Have a look!
Serene and sophisticated. Go for the amazing views over Trafalgar square if not just for the pure peace and quiet it offers.
Palace Cafe (Kensington Palace)
Cafe|Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park|£
Inside the cafe is nothing to write home about but get a table outside and you will find yourself in the middle of Kensington Gardens. Gorgeous surroundings.
Tate Cafe (Tate Modern)
Cafe|Tate Modern, 1st floor|££|Have a look!
It’s all about the views. Overlooking Thames and St. Paul cathedral. Particularly majestic at sunset or evening.
Tom’s Terrace (Somerset House)
Beautiful terrace for summer afternoons and evening. Offers beautiful views across Thames. Note: terrace closes end of September.
V&A Cafe (Victoria & Albert Museum)
Cafe|V&A, Cromwell Rd, South Kensington|£|Have a look!
Set in the original Morris, Gamble and Poynter Rooms this is a beautiful venue to enjoy lunch or coffee. On Friday evenings a table service is operating, would definitely recommend for dinner following a Gallery visit, if not for the grand settings.