11 London Coffee Shops With Brilliant Food
The expert roasters serving excellent dishes.
London is lacking in neither excellent coffee nor cafes serving more than things that simply produce crumbs. But a combination of the two, with food that feels a little more restaurant-y, isn’t a given. The spots in this guide exist in a very serious world of coffee roasting and brewing, as well as running experimental kitchens. There are varying types of tacos as well as eggs with unexpected accompaniments, fried chicken sandwiches and fancy takes on McMuffins, and, of course, some brilliant (coffee) bean action to go with them.
Catalyst Coffee Roasters + Cafe
Catalyst’s menu may change but their bacon sandwich remains. Wedged between doorstop slices of pan de mie bread, it’s a ketchup-sodden breakfast of the traditionally British variety, with a little onion and dill relish thrown in there as well. The Holborn roasters has a Greek-leaning food focus, so expect things like a chicken and tyrokafteri flatbread, plus daily specials, and its own groundbreaking condiment in the form of their coffee sriracha.
££££20 Bedford Hill,
We don’t know what they put in the milk frother here, but the latte is the silkiest, smoothest cup of coffee we’ve ever had the pleasure of sipping. And yet it’s still not the best thing you’ll find at this super-popular spot in Balham. On Saturday mornings, you’ll almost definitely have to wait for a table, but the excellent food coming out of that kitchen is well worth the wait. From a fish sando that we’d cross London for, to a halva butter-topped banana bread that will give you—and your dentist—heart palpitations. Nobody comes here and stops at a flat white—the menu of inventive twists on classic brunch dishes makes that impossible.
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An Indonesian coffee shop that puts instant noodles into its toasties is always going to be a big fat yes in our books. Ngopi is just that. The cafe and roasters on Dalston Lane specialises in Indonesian coffee, as well as an array of sweet and savoury Indonesian snacks. There’s indomie (instant noodles mixed with corned beef, cheese, and onion, and topped with a fried egg) as well as an indomie toastie, martabak (a crispy beef-stuffed pancake made for dipping), and more. It’s a cosy, quiet spot—settle into one of the window seats which are perfect for a couple of hours doing emails or a satisfyingly beige and brown lunch.
Ever since Snackbar opened, there has been an irresistible sense of fun and flavour about the Dalston coffee shop and work space. The menu tends to mix South East Asian and South American flavours, whether it’s a brilliant mortadella bánh mì or a hash brown-heavy breakfast burrito. Few things here don’t make you salivate and if the Doritos fried chicken sandwich is on, then you know what to do.
There’s something distinctly New York-feeling about Esters, something a little bit East Village about this coffee spot in the north east of London. Stoke Newington locals swear by their coffee and even more people swear by their eclectic breakfast and brunch options. Things are always changing here, from their soy-glazed, pork-filled milk buns, to a meatball and labneh sandwich. Expect flavourful dollops with whatever’s paired with your golden yolk, be it a spoonful of anchoïade or a smear of chimichurri.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Although their coffee is good and their homemade pastries, cakes, and cookies quite irresistible (we’re looking at you salted caramel brownies)—it’s the weekend when you want to be eating at Bake Street. The fried chicken sandwiches at this casual spot between Stoke Newington and Hackney Downs are McDz-like in the best possible way. Soft buns, crisp pounded chicken, and completely inhaleable in under a minute. Gone in 60 seconds. Flavours, be it a Nashville-inspired hot chicken or a silky sweet and spiced makhani fried chicken, are above and beyond anything fast food-related though. Don’t ignore the tacos either. The birria consommé alone is superb and worth approaching like a cup of Bovril.
Juliet’s Quality Foods
Does a fancy McMuffin-inspired breakfast muffin sound like exactly the kind of brunch you want to be eating a.s.a.p? It should do, so head to Juliet's which will have you grooving towards a slice of pistachio cake with a creamy latte in hand. Excellent brunch and ingeniously named ‘hungover sauce’ aside, this Tooting cafe is also home to a spicy shrimp patty bun that brings the crowds and a smoked pumpkin omelette that has a massive whack of lemon salmoriglio. It’s walk-in only and the flavours always wake us up.
Ozone Coffee Roasters
The original Ozone still stands up as the most reliable all-day haven in Shoreditch, when you need respite from Shoreditch. Open from 7am and serving until 3pm, there are the usual takes on Turkish eggs, granola, and stuff on sourdough. But then you’ve also got QCH-inspired mince on focaccia with piccalilli and gouda—a light start to any day—as well handmade pasta at lunchtime, smoked trout salad, and a consistently decent fried chicken burger.
There was a stage during one of the now buried periods of ‘lockdown’ when Pavilion provided hope, comfort, and a fish stew that transformed a Victoria Park bench into something quite reassuring for us. The east London bakery is a favourite for good reason. Bread and coffee from their Broadway Market bakery are essential, while their lake-side cafe in Victoria Park serves delicious homemade soups, sandwiches, and comforting Sri Lankan breakfast plates every day.
Hideaway is, much like its glorious fine dining big sister Hide, pricey. But importantly it’s also worth it. The specialty coffee is hand roasted. The éclairs are rich, the croque madame is a soft, crispy cheese fest, and the pizzas come topped with quality things like truffle and wild thyme. The £22 lobster roll is the real star of the show at this Mayfair cafe though. It’s a rich, sweet hefty lunch that you’ll eat in Green Park with a big fat smile on your face.
Allpress Espresso Roastery & Cafe
You can get Allpress coffee from countless spots around London, but their two-storey Dalston Lane coffee shop and restaurant is the mothership. The food is eggs and avocado, caesar sandwiches, and whatnot done well. Most of all it’s worth looking out to see if they have any guest residences in. In the past there’s been Mystic Börek and Mangal II. Plus, they also have a spacious and secluded patio which is perfect for when the sun is shining.