If there is one thing that London is not short of, its coffee shops – and other places good for a hot drink and piece of cake. They are plentiful and there is many a quirky one: whether its somewhere with a simple hipster vibe or somewhere on a canal boat or in an old public bathroom. I must admit, I don’t know that much about coffee (I am more of a tea girl) but, if there is one thing I do know, its cake.
The Attendant isn’t your average coffee shop or cafe. That’s because you’ll find it in an old Victorian public toilet on Foley Street. Don’t worry, it has been cleaned up somewhat since that time. Despite being only about a 10 minute walk from Oxford Circus tube station, it seemed a million miles away from the disgusting amount of crowds that frequent Oxford Street. The Attendant is not hard to spot and sits at the bottom of a few steps. I thought I might struggle to get a seat on a Saturday afternoon but there were plenty of seats for one (or a small group if you weren’t going alone). The place is still reminiscent of its original function. The walls and floors are tiled and the walls are decorated with a hand-dryer and couple of toilet cisterns. Several of the seats are designed as porcelain bathroom stalls – which is where I sat.
I ordered a coffee and took a moment to pick out one of the cakes displayed on the counter. I had planned on a savoury option but there weren’t so many and what was there was more expensive so I ended up with carrot cake. My order was soon brought over to me and I was too hungry to wait long enough to take a picture before tucking into my cake. I took one when I realised but didn’t come out well. Sorry. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was some good coffee and carrot cake – not the best carrot cake I’ve ever had but nice and the quirky surroundings made up for that fact.
Batch & Co
Where: Streatham Hill
Batch & Co is one of the most recent additions to Streatham Hill and since it is located conveniently close to my flat I can see it becoming my new regular on the days I am working from home (helpfully there is free wifi). On my visit – one Monday afternoon – it was quite quiet, with only a few tables occupied. The shop is very open and relatively big. It had a hipster/industrial feel, as it is quite dark, with exposed brick walls and light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. There were several cakes and sourdough sandwiches (ready to be toasted) on the counter and I settled on the lemon drizzle cake. I ordered it before I spotted the delicious looking brownies – that will be my order next time – but I was still not disappointed. It had a light, fluffy sponge and quite a strong lemony taste. I also had an Americano and, somewhat unusually, was charged 10p extra for milk – still at £2.30 it wasn’t exactly an unreasonable price (my whole order came to £5.50). However, the biggest thing of note at Batch & Co was the music being played: a Michael Buble album, complete with Christmas tunes. In July. I imagine that the DJ was just a Buble fan and didn’t spot the festive tunes listed on the album jacket. Having said that, I love a good Christmas song so it made me jolly.
Update! I’ve been back: my brie, bacon and chilli jam sourdough grilled sandwich (with a pot of Jasmine green tea – leaves, no tea bag) was nice (the two came to £7.60 altogether) but the ultimate winner of my second visit to Batch was the salted caramel brownie (£2.60). It was rich, soft and completely delicious.
Where: Chiswick, Clapham, Putney, Wandsworth, Wimbledon
As I wandered down Wimbledon high street, I spotted a cafe that looked busy on the inside but had a couple of empty tables on the pavement outside. The seats were covered with fluffy chair covers and there were even blankets for their occupants. This seemed like a place for me. The menu was big and the food options looked tasty but thankfully there were still plenty of choices for just drinks, from smoothies and juices to milkshakes and coffees. I went for a hazelnut latte and it was probably one of the best coffees I’ve ever had. The Flatmate went for her usual soy chai tea latte and she said it was one of the best she’d ever had – and I know that means something as she drinks them a lot.
I also had a brownie to go alongside my drink. These were rich and made of dark chocolate. I must admit, they weren’t nearly sweet enough for me but if you, unlike me, actually like dark chocolate, I’d bet they’d be really good.
Despite the good quality drinks and brownies, the best bit for me from probably the setting, sitting on Wimbledon high street, in the sun, watching the world (and the many a nice car) go by. All that, whilst wrapped in blankets – the blanket part was important.
Brickwood Coffee & Brunch
Where: Clapham Common
On multiple occasions, whilst passing through Clapham Common on the bus at weekends, I’ve noticed a queue coming out the door at Brickwood. So when I was working from home one Friday afternoon I figured I’d take advantage of the opportunity to visit when it would probably be a bit quieter. I arrived to find multiple tables occupied, both inside and out, but thankfully I didn’t have to wait for a seat. There seemed to be a decent amount of food options on offer but I was only on the look out for something sweet and something snacky, so settled on a latte and a Tim Tam muffin. I freaking love Tim Tams – which, if you aren’t familiar, are an Australian chocolate bar, similar to a Penguin bar, that all backpackers seem to come back loving. If you don’t know what a Penguin bar is then I’m out of description ideas – sorry!! I paid at the counter (£5.70) but it turned out that there’s table service so I could have gone right in and sat down. My muffin was basically a regular muffin with a Tim Tam bar stuck down the middle. It was nice but I think I would have preferred just a chocolate muffin with a Tim Tam on the side.
It was a good spot to get some work done but the piece of paper I was given with the wifi code did ask that customers didn’t linger too long when it was busy. That seemed fair enough and, although the place wasn’t busy enough for me to be stopping anyone from getting a table, I did order an orange juice to justify my continued presence. It was served in a cute glass bottle and it was good OJ (although I don’t know if it was fresh) but cost something like £3.60 and I didn’t exactly get a pint of the stuff. I may not have been hungry but considering how good the toasted sandwiches smelt I wish I’d just splashed out one of those.
From what I’ve heard, Burnt Toast in Brixton Village is supposed to be a good breakfast option but so far I’ve only been there for coffee and cake. I may not be able to confirm whether the meals are good but I can say the cakes are great. Piles of them are displayed in the window so you can take a seat outside and pick out your favourite. The coffee was nice but the best bit was my milk and white chocolate muffin, which was rich and practically melted in my mouth. After that success I had to go back and this time tried the carrot cake, which came with a good layer of cream cheese frosting slathered through the middle. It was also truly amazing.
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
Where: Carnaby Street, Chancery Lane, Covent Garden, Leather Lane, Piccadilly, Spitalfields Market
The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs is a small, London-based chain of coffeeshops. I mainly like it because I think it has a good name but I also liked the rustic and slightly hipster decor of the Holborn branch, with its exposed brick, walls that were missing a few chunks of plaster, old wooden floors and black and white patterns on the walls. My £2.50 small filter coffee was much more expensive than the one I usually get for 99p from Pret but even my unrefined palette could tell that this was the good stuff. I was given two options for the type of coffee I wanted (I couldn’t tell you what they were) but mine was smokey and strong. The free wifi and tasty sandwiches make it a good place to get some work done if you’re not there for the social affairs.
F.Mondays is one of the two places in Brixton (Stir Coffee being the other, see below) that I regularly pass by on the bus, on my way to the tube station, and that has taken me ages to get round to going to. The inside feels a bit bare – as though the past contents of the room have been stripped out and replaced with a counter area and a few tables and chairs. There’s a decent sized list of food and drink options on a blackboard by the counter. I went for a pot of spiced citrus tea (having been told it was like Chai) and a ham, cheese and pickle toasted sandwich. Now, I have had a lot of ham and cheese toasties in my time but I think I can say with some confidence that this was one of the best – if not occupying the top spot. Not only was there the pickle addition (as far as I’m concerned, pickles make all food better – savoury food anyway, it probably won’t add anything good to your cake) but the ham was proper ham – thick and tasty – and there was a decent portion of melty cheese.
Once I’d finished – and managed to stop myself from ordering another – I went and got a salted caramel brownie for dessert. I’d had one of these before after The Flatmate took her brother to F.Mondays and brought back his leftover brownie for me as he didn’t like it. I have no idea why because it was great. This time, it lived up to my memory of it. It was rich and each bite melted in my mouth. I could probably have stayed in F.Mondays all afternoon, working and ordering tea and cake (the place wasn’t particularly busy and I had managed to log into the free wifi and find a spot next to a plug) but sadly the small stall I was sitting on became quite uncomfortable. Still, I will certainly be back for another one of those sandwiches. And a brownie. And maybe another sandwich again.
Fika Bar & Kitchen
Where: Brick Lane
Fika is a Swedish bar on Brick Lane which does serve food but which I only ventured into for a cup of tea. The place was dark and quite busy and the service was quite slow. I was served my tea in a mug, while the table next to me was served their’s in a metal teapot, meaning I only got the one cup but they got more. I feel like a mistake may have been made there.
Le Pain Quotidien
Where: basically everywhere!
Le Pain Quotidien is a chain of French restaurants which you can find all over London (and a couple of other places in the UK too). It’s great option for breakfast, lunch and dinner but I also like it for afternoon tea. On occasion, when dining elsewhere on the Southbank, I’ve actually changed restaurant and gone there for dessert. Before we lived together, it was the destination of choice for The Flatmate and my meet ups. The chocolate bomb, with a rich chocolate mousse on a sponge base, has become my regular – so much so that The Flatmate has even picked one up for me when I’ve been having a hard time. The mini Victoria sponge is also incredibly good, the carrot cake is tasty, the scone with cream and jam is so delicious and the flourless chocolate brownie – which comes more like a muffin – is also pretty nice (I’m running out of adjectives). I could easily have a three course meal of desserts in this place.
Living in the tube-less area of Streatham Hill, I often end up passing Stir at least twice a day, on my way to and from Brixton station. I’ve always meant to go on but since its pretty much halfway down Brixton Hill, I’m always on the bus and I’ve never got round to getting off early. Finally when I was working from home the other week I thought it would be a nice way to break up my day. Stir was just as cute on the inside as I expected from the outside. There were a couple of long, communal tables at the front, a high table in the window opposite the counter and a window-less room in the back, with a few artsy bits and pieces lying around that made it feel like it could double as a small (and albeit a little bit empty) vintage shop. I sat in there for a few hours, firstly with a coffee then with a chocolate muffin which I felt I just had to buy to justify staying in there for so long and taking up space. I don’t know how it’s taken me over a year to work out that when working from home I should really move into a coffee shop.
Where: Soho and Leicester Square/Covent Garden
The Timberyard is a cool and trendy speciality coffee shop with a branch close to Leicester Square and Covent Garden. The interior is made up of squashy chairs, stripped walls, old furniture and industrial pipes visible along the ceiling. There are also a couple of benches along the outside of the cafe, one of which I had to sit on because the inside was packed. It’s the kind of place that when I asked for a filter coffee, I was asked what type of coffee I wanted. I had no idea what to say to that. My coffee was served in a small glass jug (meaning I got two cups out of it). My second was a bit lukewarm but that may have been because I was sitting outside! The highlight however was my breakfast cookie – made with white chocolate and Frosties (for anyone not familiar with UK cereal – these are pieces of frosted flakes), an unusual and incredible combination. It was possibly one of the best cookies I have ever had.
The Waterside Cafe
Where: Little Venice (Paddington)
Little Venice is an area of London made up of canals filled with canal boats. At one point near Warwick Avenue, where two canals converge into a bigger pool of water, one long boat on the water’s edge has a few table and chairs outside placed outside – the floating Waterside Cafe. For obvious reasons, the wooden inside isn’t huge but it did have more space than I expected, with several tables lining the walls. The food wasn’t massively expensive but it wasn’t cheap either. Lunch would have cost me £7+ so I just opted for the mocha cake with an iced green tea with pomegranate for less than a fiver. My cake was good but not amazing. The sponge was rather dense but it did have a lot of flavour – I could certainly taste the coffee – and the icing helped. My companions were served very healthy sized portions of hummus and pitta bread. I think the main draw is of this place is the pretty location and being able to sit in a cafe that gently rocks on the water (even if this did cause my motion sickness to kick in slightly – I am a delicate little thing apparently).
WAG Free in Brixton Village is a wheat and gluten free eatery with a Brazilian inspired menu. I’ve only been there for the tea and cake – but I did go for a Brazilian cake (with white chocolate, pineapple and coconut flakes) to stay within the places theme. I was a little unsure about the pineapple but it turned out to be a delicious combination. My Earl Grey tea was served in a mug as opposed to a tea cup, which as far as I’m concerned is how it should be – you can fit more in and there is something comforting about a mug – and with tea leaves in a stick with holes in so it could diffuse into my tea. It was fresher than a tea bag but without any bits floating in my drink.
2 LOVE Tea and Coffee House
Where: Clapham Junction
I ended up at 2 Love Tea and Coffee House on a hot day because the place advertised the fact that it had air conditioning in the shop window. However, when I walked in, I could see the machine but couldn’t feel it. However, I did spot shelves stacked with different types of tea and a counter top covered in cakes, so I decided to stick around and just sat by the table next to the drinks refrigerator.
The decor was kinda quirky – one of the tables was actually a piano – and our cakes were good. I mean, my Red Velvet cupcake wasn’t the best cupcake nor the best Red Velvet cake I’ve ever had but it was still nice enough and my companions very much enjoyed their lemon cupcake and banana loaf. I also ordered a fresh orange juice, which may not have been the obvious thing to order as a tea lover in somewhere named the Tea and Coffee House, but I was really hot and I needed it.