New cafes are opening all the time in London to meet the demands of the ever growing cafe culture in the capital. From eclectic converted warehouses and cozy dens to grand surrounds there is sure to be a cafe to suit every taste no matter how diverse. If like me you cringe at the thought of whiling away leisurely hours in a Costa or Starbucks (especially those located in retail parks with ‘convenient parking’ – I just shudder at the thought) then read on as I share with you just some of my favourite alternative cafes that this beautiful city has to offer.
Yumchaa Goodge Street – Shabby Chic
Yumchaa has quite a few branches across London from Camden to Soho, however it is the Goodge Street branch that I absolutely love and single out for inclusion here. Located on a side street just a moment away from Goodge Street station, Yumchaa is a loose tea specialist with a simple no tea bags policy. With extensive loose tea choices and freshly baked cakes each day it is a haven for tea lovers and sweet toothers alike. The cafe is set in what could have been an old warehouse or studio with high ceilings, exposed brick work, quirky light fixtures and mismatched furniture. This Yumchaa branch is the perfect place for solitary reading, group catch ups or just for getting some work done (I’m sure I’ve seen over three regulars work away at their novels here). I can personally vouch for the Chocolate velvet cake (finally, kicking red velvet cake back into the unworthy abyss it came from) and banana and Nutella loaf which really is as good as it sounds.
Address: 9-11 Tottenham Street, W1T 2AQ
V&A Café – Historic Hedonism
The Victoria and Albert museum cafe is unique for a number of reasons. Firstly it is obviously located in the museum meaning you can meander around taking in the collections from Japan, China and Ancient Greece and marvel at the fine intricacies of Islamic art before moving on to see how women’s fashion has changed over the years. All this whilst also taking in the stunning architecture of the beautiful museum building itself including the stunning outdoor courtyard which is especially spectacular during the summer. Moving on to the cafe itself which is set in grand surrounds with astounding ceiling art and light fixtures that will leave you in awe. Whilst at weekends the cafe can get very busy it can be a peaceful oasis during the week. The cafe also serves up sandwiches, hot food and a good selection of sweet items from scones with clotted cream and jam to an assortment of cakes. This cafe is a must for lovers of architecture, art and history and located in lovely South Kensington there is much to do in the area.
Address: Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
Tricycle Theatre Cafe – Literary
Located in the heart of north west London is Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre. Featuring plays as well as new and old films the Tricycle Theatre is a gem of the ever changing (and ever more gentrified) Kilburn high road. The cafe in the theatre is great for drinks before catching a film or after watching a play but is also worth venturing to independently. Mismatched shabby mahogany furniture, recycled dining tables alluding to a former past of grandeur and clashing colours give the cafe a rustic, homely and inviting atmosphere. Visiting outside of show times for films and plays the cafe can be extremely quiet and I’ve even had it to myself on occasion.
Address: 269 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR
Turkish Knafeh Cafe – Ottoman
This is an absolute must for Knafeh lovers. If you have not been fortunate enough to meet the beautiful sweet dessert item that is Knafeh allow me to introduce you. Knafeh is a Levantine dessert where soft white cheese pastry is soaked in a sweet sugary syrup, flavoured with rose water, doused with optional additional syrup for those with a real sweet tooth and topped with crushed pistachios. If I lost you at cheese then please retain an open mind and try this dessert for yourself – it is the food of Levantine Kings! Anyway back to the cafe…located in the culinary heaven of Turkish cuisine, Green Lanes (read my blog post on Green Lanes here) the Antepelier Knafeh cafe is a small no nonsense traditional Knafeh cafe serving only two things on the nonexistent menu (a menu containing two items is completely frivolous so is therefore obviously done away with)- Knafeh (with or without syrup) and tea (black, don’t even think about asking for milk unless you want to be harshly judged). Each Knafeh serving is made in individual circular pans and you can watch the process right in front of you at the stove. Décor is traditional Turkish – low mosaic style stools and little tables with heavily wooded walls. You can read our Istanbul food guide here to sample the real deal.
Address: 43-47 Green Lanes, N4 1AG
WA Cafe – Japanese Elegance
The newest addition to the list is the pretty WA Cafe – Japanese Patisserie in West London. Ealing is the unofficial home to London’s Japanese community which means it bags the award for the best and most authentic Japanese food in London. From great noodle restaurants, sushi bars and specialty Japanese supermarkets, Ealing has it all thanks to the Japanese expat community who have settled in ‘the queen of the suburbs’. The latest addition and personally most exciting serves up delicate sweet treats at WA Patisserie. WA Patisserie serves up intriguing items such as matcha rolls, green tea marble cake, melon bread and even soba tea (yes, from the soba noodles). More familiar items such as strawberry tarts, chocolate cakes, cookies and fresh bread are also on offer – all freshly made each day. If this has you yearning for a trip to Japan check out our Japan blog posts here.
Address: 32 Haven Green, Ealing, W5 2NX
Chapati & Karak – Knightsbridge Decadence
Imported straight from Qatar to Knightsbridge is Chapati and Karak – serving up a special type of masala tea from the Gulf and freshly made chapati. The menu is very simple – consisting mainly of the two items in the name of the establishment; both the karak tea and the chapati can be ordered either sweet or not. The chapati is not a conventional Indian style floury chapati, rather layers of delicate pastry and is especially good if ordered sweet. The concept is simple enough however the crowds of people here often necessitate wait times of up to two hours – especially during summer evenings. Patrons are mostly Arab tourists craving their beloved Karak tea from home but there is also a fair share of Londoner fans who enjoy the decadent atmosphere, the Arabian style seating which includes a cushioned seating area on the floor and the simplicity of the tea and chapatti menu. Being based in Knightsbridge of course helps get the crowds in.
Address: 144 Brompton Road, SW3 1HY
Sky Garden – Coffee with a London View
The sky garden located in what is commonly referred to as the Walkie Talkie building on Fenchurch Street offers some of the greatest views across London, from the Shard to the Tower of London and all the monuments in between. The space sort of looks like an airport terminal with the many levels and high arched glass windows however you are hard pressed to find anywhere with such a view at such an informal cafe. Friday and Saturday nights can get very busy with a queuing/security system but other days are relatively easy to get up and enjoy a coffee whilst looking out over the fair city.
Address: 20 Fenchurch Street, EC3M 8AF
Kahve Dunyasi – Turkish Delights
Visitors to Turkey will be very familiar with the impressive cafe culture that exists there – from the cultural capital Istanbul to the coastal tourist areas of Alanya and Bodrum the Turks do good coffee, good desserts and good décor. It was only a matter of time before the best of the Turkish cafe offerings made its way to London – and so we have Kahve Dunyasi in Piccadilly. With successful branches in Istanbul, Londoners now can experience firsthand the delights of amazing Turkish cakes, macaroons, ice cream (including real pistachio ice cream) and chocolates. Of particular noteworthy mention is the sahlep – an amazing Turkish drink and firm favourite of the ottoman empire which is made using rice flour, milk, rosewater and cinnamon and basically tastes like a warm hug (tasting is believing). When it comes to the dessert options here there are so many that I wouldn’t even know where to start (though I plan on remedying this) but from what I have sampled so far I can definitely vouch for the ice cream (especially pistachio) and chocolate truffle cake which has the perfect balance between being utterly decadent without being too rich.
Address: 3, 200 Piccadilly, W1J 9HU
Cafe Royal – Lavish London
For those days where only the plushest surrounds in the most exclusive of post codes will do then I present to you the grade listed Cafe Royal on Regent Street. Celebrating traditional European Cafe culture it is located in the 5* Hotel Cafe Royal. Decorated with golden marble and adorned with a lavish display of all the mouth watering cakes on offer Cafe Royal is the place to be when you would like to be waited on hand and foot for your tea/coffee needs whilst watching the world go by outside on Regents Street. Famous and celebrated patrons include Oscar Wilde (the hotel has even named their bar after him), Bridget Bardot, Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill and Princess Diana amongst others. Cafe Royal also serves up breakfast and does not close till after 9pm. At times reservations may be necessary.
Address: 68 Regent Street, W1B 4DY
Fulham Palace Cafe – Historic Haven
Hidden away between Hammersmith and Fulham is the quietly impressive yet often forgotten about Fulham Palace. Whilst not a traditional palace the estate was the home of the Bishops of London and is set in beautiful gardens in West London. The palace has free entry for all and the museum gives an interesting insight into the position and lives of the Bishops of London. The gardens are great for walks both in winter and especially in summer. Fulham Palace has its own drawing room cafe which serves up cakes, drinks and some hot foods that can be eaten in the cozy drawing room or outside overlooking the lovely gardens if weather permits. Fulham Palace is well worth a visit with its historic, unassuming and intimate feel it is usually very quiet and makes for a great place to while away the hours over a coffee and taking in the history.
Address: Bishop’s Avenue, SW6 6EA
Konditor and Cook – Cakes Galore
Maybe less ‘alternative’ than the other options on this list is Konditor and Cook which has an international reputation for its famed curly whirly cake and hot chocolates. The first store was set up in Waterloo and there are now a total of 5 across London as well as a cake school. There is a large branch located in the Gherkin building fulfilling the sweet tooth needs of London’s city workers (myself included). Thought to serve up one of the top hot chocolates in the world (it really is very good) their hazelnut and chocolate swirl cake really is as good as it sounds. If you are a cake fiend then Konditor and Cook should definitely be on your list to try if you haven’t already.
Address: 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8BF
Candella Tea Rooms – Vintage Chic
A personal favourite cafe of mine is the elegant and refined Candella Tea rooms in Kensington– one of those places I want to keep to myself and feel bereft sharing with a wide audience, but I could not conceivably have such a post whilst intentionally omitting Candella. Located on Kensington Church Street candela tea rooms is a small cafe decorated in lavish Louis style décor with elegant chairs, a piano that also functions as a table and the most delicious homemade cakes on offer each day (the chocolate fudge cake is one of the best I’ve tried). As indicated by the name, the Candella Tea Rooms know a thing or two about tea. Loose tea offerings only here which are sourced from across the world and served up in perfectly mismatched tea sets. One thing I really appreciate as someone who likes their tea scolding hot and utterly offended by the concept of the lukewarm is that the tea pots are served on candle pot warmers to keep the tea hot for as long as needed (it’s these little things one derives happiness from). The afternoon tea sandwich selection here is also great if you are in need of some savoury food before trying the delectable cakes on offer.
Address: 34 Kensington Church Street, W8 4HA
Host Cafe – Coffee at Church
For those days where you would like your coffee with a side of theological contemplation what better place than Host Cafe, located in the beautiful St Mary Aldermary Church near Mansion House. Host Cafe offers respite from the hectic bustle of London in the grand surrounds of the Gothic Church, offering a peaceful and beautiful space for your caffeine fix. Maybe this is as close as you can get to a Godly coffee experience in London – who knows?!
Address: St Mary Aldermary, Waiting Street, EC4M 9BW
These are just some of my personal favourites, I’d love to know yours – leave a comment and let me know!