Started by antipodeans Third Wave coffee has gained a strong and growing foothold in London and elsewhere. Even the giant supermarket chain Tesco has taken notice and partnered with the owners of Taylor Street Baristas to start the Harris and Hoole chain of “artisan” coffee shops. One of my most popular posts recently looked at a few of London’s many independent coffee bars. Here I review a further six indie coffee bars from around London.
Speakeasy Espresso and Brew Bar – 3 Lowndes Court near Regents Street
Just off Carnaby Street you could easily miss Speakeasy. It is bright, modern with plenty of bright, original artwork on walls. The staff are welcoming and the excellent service is something I would always return for; more so as the coffee is so good. They use beans from the Coffeesmiths Collective and have a rotating weekly guest espresso and a brew bar with featured coffees. The flat white I had was creamy with delicate and subtle notes of caramel. Unusually for London, I was also served water. There is a very good choice of food too; if you have a sweet tooth then this is the place to take your caffeine shot. I recommend the apple and spice muffins.
Fernandez and Wells – 73 Beak Street near Regents Street
An unassuming place close to Carnaby Street that you could easily miss, which would be a shame as their coffee is very good. This one of three F & W bars in Soho each with the same style of bare wood decor. You can choose to take your coffee at a bar with stools or sit in the window area.
Coffee is their own blend roasted by Hasbean to custom specifications. The flat white lacked the fine latte art common in coffee bars but who cares when the taste is so good. Food here is as good as the coffee and it is popular with the young lunch crowd. F & W are well known for their artisan breads. However, it is the honey and almond cake that you should try.
Notes, Music & Coffee – 1 St Martin’s Lane off Trafalgar Square
As you would expect from the name this coffee bar serves coffee and sells music; mostly jazz, blues and classical. The racks of CDs are down stairs in the cellar-like Underground Notes.
The decor is reminiscent of the Italian influenced London espresso bars from around the 1930s. You can choose to sit at the bar and discuss brewing methods with the baristas or choose to sit at small bistro tables with a friend. At the back under a huge skylight are large rectory tables where you can socialise with your fellow cafeinistas. They use Square Mile beans well and make a good flat white. Their mocha worth stopping by for. Well placed close to Trafalgar square and thearteland and stays open late to catch theatre goers. There is also a second branch in Covent Garden
Monmouth Coffee – 27 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden
There is not much room in here to sit. A few booths at the rear of the bar are all that is available and yet there are always people queuing. This the site of the original Monmouth Coffee and is popular with everyone seeking well-crafted coffee in central London. There are plenty of single origin coffees available for both espresso based drinks and as pour overs.
The flat white is rich and full-bodied and is made using single origin beans from their own roastery in Bermondsey. The current shop was where the original roastery was set up in the 70s. This is one of the best places to go to compare the tastes of different origin coffees.
Tried and True – 279 Upper Richmond Road, Putney
Putney is fast becoming Caffeine Central with the arrival of two more coffee bars. Tried and True is a relative newcomer that is attracting a loyal local clientele the coffee is so good. They use Red Brick beans. Modern and stylish with clean lines. There are large refectory tables and smaller more intimate bistro tables along the walls. I also noticed a small intimate courtyard.
The flat white has some real depth to it and challenges my other favourite flat white coffee bar, Grind Coffee, which coincidently is also in Putney. This south London borough must be the place to visit for a flat white (must be something in the water or perhaps contented baristas). Lots of tempting good eats on the bar which taste as good as they look. The service is excellent.
Artisan – 203 Upper Richmond Road, Putney
Yet another coffee bar in Putney which is fast becoming the place to go for a shot of caffeine. Inside the decor is coffee warehouse chic; that is, bare brick, recycled natural wood with a bit of metal thrown in. Large picture windows allow plenty of natural light to stream in. There is a real buzz about the place.
There is a small selection of locally made cakes and sandwiches. Their carrot cake is something that should definitely be tried. With two other coffee bars producing perfect flat whites they are up against it but they produce the third perfect flat white, mellow and creamy and full-bodied. Their macchiato is the best I have tasted anywhere.
What’s your favourite London coffee bar? Do you have any recommendations where to go? Let us know in the comments below.
Visit the coffee books page of the Travel Unpacked Shop for books on coffee including guides to coffee bars in London.