For a city so full of Starbucks, Pret, and Costa, it's heartening to see that London's independent coffee scene is still efficiently booming. Though, considering it's London, we aren't really all that surprised. There are obviously a whole host of venerated haunts: Aussie-influenced Kaffeine in Fitzrovia, always-crowded Monmouth in Borough Market, and ever-trendy TAP Coffee in Soho, to name but a few. But look beyond the obvious, and you'll find far more quirky coffee shops begging to sate your caffeine needs. Here's six to get you started:
Hands down one of the most stunning coffee shops in London, The Wren is an architect's actual dream come true. Super grand and full of ornate stained glass windows, it has yet to be discovered by the masses, which makes it all the more charming and peaceful. Nestled in St Nicholas Cole Abbey, a genuine working church just south of St. Paul's, the coffee shop is (as you might expect) only open Monday to Friday. If you do pop in, be sure to check out the seasonal salads, sourdough toasts and freshly baked pastries in addition to the gorgeous Workshop Coffee.
Tip: This gem is right by the River Thames, so take a stroll there before or after.
It's possible you haven't tried The Attendant yet because it's genuinely that hard to find. Though situated in the midst of Central London (just off Great Titchfield Street), the renovated Victorian toilet-turned-coffee shop is underground, tiny, and ridiculously quirky. Yep, the 19th-century toilets are an interesting decor choice, but the place really does serve exceptional coffee, loose leaf teas and some killer sandwiches (try the brie and smoked grape). It gets super busy at lunchtime with workers all over Fitzrovia gathering hungrily, so if you're looking to Insta the interior in all its glory, then avoid peak hours.
Tip: This place is naaat cheap, so basically, don't arrive starving.
Located right by Old Street station, Shoreditch Grind is everything you'd expect from peak hipsterville: whitewashed brick walls, edgy diner-style signage, and a clientele of artsy twenty-somethings lounging around. Though the small chain boasts several locations, you'll definitely want to head to this one as it's quite the institution. In other words, the landmark boasts an actual recording studio, full-on kitchen, and cocktail menu that doesn't disappoint (mmm coffee-based cocktails). High ceilings and Macbook users abound here, but quality coffee does too, so prepare yourself for a treat.
Tip: Trust us and get the piccolo, which mixes espresso and foamed milk in roughly equal proportions.
The Espresso Room
If you find yourself in the no man's land that's known as Holborn, 1) how unfortunate 2) go check out The Espresso Room. To be fair to the area, Lamb's Conduit Street in particular is packed with cute independent shops, and this gem of a cafe is no exception. Though very small, offering few gimmicks and even less choices, the mainly espresso-based coffees are truly divine (many of which use beans from Caravan). The two last reasons we love it so? Cute outdoor seating in the summer and ridiculously friendly customer service.
Tip: The grilled pork and cheese baguette here is a wondrous beast.
Press Coffee & Co
For those looking for a coffee shop in the heart of London —one that really feels full of big city bustle, business people looking important, and iconic red telephone kiosks outside— look no further than Press Coffee & Co. There are two locations: Fleet Street and Chancery Lane, and honestly, they're both equally lovely. There's lots of bay windows for natural light, lots of European guest roasters (such as Barn Berlin) and a surprisingly vast selection of sweet treats from Galeta, Kooky Bakes and Crosstown doughnuts. All in all, Press Coffee is more than worth a try, not least for the blackboard notices that are actually funny.
Tip: Come early to get a table, as the locations aren't massive.
Farringdon's coffee creds have really shot up in recent years, mostly thanks to Leather Lane's delightful Prufrock Coffee. But here to respectfully compete with it is Sampa Coffee, a Sao Paulo-inspired coffee shop just down the street. Nicely unpretentious and decked out in art by Brazilian street artists, the spacious cafe is as inviting as it is full of good food and drink. The main espresso is Ozone, which is roasted locally, and the British-Brazilian fusion cuisine is hearty and on-point (though the peanut butter and banana porridge is also delish). Overall, it's quite the fun, refreshing addition to London's coffee scene.
Tip: If you're not caffeine-ed out, the fantastic Department of Coffee and Social Affairs is just down the road.