Once I had decided to take this dramatic step, I have the enviable task of visiting a number of coffee shops in London to get some inspiration. Armed with my trusty copy of the London Coffee Guide myself and Jen set off to explore.
Now the London Coffee Guide lists 100 places to try, so we limited ourselves to a small area of London, starting Holborn we moved East ending up at Exmouth Market. We had aimed to take in 5 Coffee Shops over the day, 1 unfortunately was shut, but to be honest 4 flat whites in 5 hours was probably my limit! It was a great day, we were both buzzing by the end of it (due to the coffee) but nice to wander and get some inspiration from some of the coolest coffee places in town.
First stop was my current favorite in London, Freestate Coffee.
Now I discovered this about a year ago on my way to work and have been a huge fan ever since. It has the look and feel of the kind of place I want to set up, black and white, stripped back, nothing fancy, mismatched furniture – and the best Flat White in London (IMO obvs). We settled in for a flat white and one of their pulled pork rolls, beautifully rich pulled pork in a thick BBQ sauce, served on a Brioche Bun with coleslaw, messy but very, very tasty.
Freestate also offer a wide array of foods and cakes, but they are a real Coffee specialist, offering guest coffees as well as having a dedicated brew bar to sample a range of coffee techniques. Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.
Next up it was a stroll down Theobald’s road to Leather Lane. If you haven’t been down this road I highly recommend it. It is a long road in with Market stalls down each side. The top half is the best with a wide array of food trucks and stands. I visited this a lot when working in Holborn, and to date have tried Korean BBQ buns, Smoked Pork platters, chorizo baguettes, amazing Thai Masaman curry and the best – a Pulled Pork, Mac ‘n’ Cheese toasted sandwich – yes, it was as good as it sounds! You can also get the best Burrito in London from Daddy Donkeys – next time you are in London i urge you to check it out.
Down Leather Lane there are 2 renowned Coffee Shops, Prufrock Coffee and The amazingly titled Department of Coffee and Socail Affairs (DCSA). Of the 2, Prufrock was top for me, but they both offers a great brew and are well worth checking out.
Prufrock is a bright and airy affair, with the coffee counter and their designed Coffee Machine taking pride of place. No mis-matched furniture here, but plenty of space to sit and enjoy. They also offer coffee courses if you are interested in learning more about the process. Their coffee is delicious, slightly creamier than at Freestate, and it didnt have quite the same hit of coffee that I like but it’s a really quiet peaceful and relaxing place to sit and while away the hours.
Prufrock also offer a wide range of coffee courses, under the title of 10,000 hours (the length of time to become a master of anything apparently – long way to go then!). So you can try your hand at coffee tasting, Barista training or even learn how to make the pretty patterns with Latte Art – I am currently working out what is next to do!
DCSA was a different kettle of fish. Large, but with very little decor inside, apart from some great art on the walls, this is a really stripped back coffee shop. The highlight is grabbing a flat white and sitting on the bench at the front of the shop looking out onto Leather Lane, you could spend hours watching London life pass you by! This coffee was good, but not quite up to the extremely high standards of the other 2, a little bit too bitter, and too much milk, but nonetheless another great place to try – and they played Johnny Cash when we arrived, which is always a great sign!
After this we popped into a very cool pop Department store in Farringdon called Brittania Best of British. This specialized in British manufacturers and sold everything from cushions to bicycles. It was kind of cool, in that annoying Hipster way, and also expensive so unsurprisingly we came away empty handed!
Finishing off we headed to Exmouth Market – again another great place to eat and drink. We popped into the New Zealand restaurant and coffee shop Caravan. Pretty much coffee’d out by this point, I managed one last Flat White, and whilst not a coffee shop of sorts, this was the best of the lot. Smooth and creamy milk, a deep, rich bitter coffee – right up my street and does go to show that the Kiwi’s really do know their coffee! Caravan roast their own beans on site in a roaster they have in the basement (well worth a look) – and I am sure this process ensures as good a cup as you could expect.
We wrapped it up with some well-deserved Pizza from Santore – still buzzing from all the coffee. Was a hell of a day, lots of inspiration, getting an idea of the range of coffee there is out there and how some of the top coffee shops in London do it.
I have done another coffee tour and I will report back on that one, once I find the photos!