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 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.
There’s something distinctly New York-feeling about Esters, something a little bit East Village about this coffee spot in the north 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 meatball and labneh sandwiches, or wildly delicious takes on French toast. Expect flavourful dollops with whatever’s paired with your golden yolk, be it a spoonful of anchoïade or a smear of chimichurri.
Currently closed for holiday
Though 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. Their fried chicken sandwiches are McDz-like in the best possible way. Soft buns, crisp pounded chicken and completely inhaleable in under a minute. Gone in sixty 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.
Does a fancy McMuffin-inspired breakfast muffin sound like exactly the kind of brunch you want to be eating ASAP? It should do and our personal history suggests that Juliet's will absolutely have you grooving towards a slice of pistachio cake as well. Excellent brunch and ingeniously named ‘hungover sauce’ aside, this 9-3pm Tooting café 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.
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 kedgeree, handmade pasta at lunchtime, smoked trout salad, and a consistently decent fried chicken burger.
Ever since Snackbar first opened there has been an irresistible sense of fun and flavour about the Dalston coffee shop and work space. Freddie Janssen’s menu tends to mix Southeast Asian and South American flavours, whether it’s a brilliant mortadella banh mi 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.
Catalyst Coffee Roasters + Cafe
Catalyst’s menu may have changed but their bacon sandwich remains. Wedged between doorstop slices of pan de mi bread it’s a ketchup-sodden breakfast of the traditionally British variety, with a little onion and dill relish thrown in there as well. That said with a recent change of chef in the kitchen, the Holborn roasters is going to be doubling down on its Greek-leaning food focus. There’s a chicken and tyrokafteri flatbread, a changing daily special, and more delicious details to come once we’ve put them all in our mouth.
There was a stage during one of the now buried periods of ‘lockdown’ where 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 spot is as essential as orange-coloured lenses and and a half-arsed Raya account, while their lakeside café in the park serves delicious homemade soups, sandwiches, and more every day.
Lanark is probably now best known for the being the teeny-tiny home of Dom’s Subs, where freshly-baked semolina subs are generously filled with mortadella, bresaola, and more cold cuts, or brisket and cheese whiz, or tenderstem broccoli with confit garlic, and other marinated vegetables. But this shoebox coffee stop on Hackney Road has always been a go-to spot for an espresso and a snack. Their kimcheese toastie is the nemesis to white t-shirts all over E2 and if they’ve got any eggs on, spicy or otherwise, we’d recommend getting them as well.
Hideaway is, much like its glorious fine dining big sister, Hide, pricey. But importantly it’s also worth it. The eclairs 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 £18 lobster roll is the real star of the show at this Mayfair café though. It’s a rich, sweet hefty lunch that you’ll eat in Green Park with a big fat smile on my face.
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. Recently there’s been Mystic Borek and Mangal II. Plus, they also have a spacious and secluded patio which is perfect for when the sun is shining.