A good cup of coffee is not always easy to find in London and I avoid a bad burnt tasting cup (aka what Starbucks, Café Nero and the like call “coffee”) like the plague. Over the years however I have found some truly great spots that I thought was about time to share with you and to which I can head knowing the coffee snob in me will leave satisfied!
Friends of Ours is my favourite place to stop by on my way into work to get my much-needed morning caffeine hit. The coffee is outstanding, I am yet to have a bad cappuccino here, and the staff are friendly and of the kind to start making your usual beverage order as you walk through the door. Their brunch offering also happens to be fantastic if you are after some grub, with their Antipodean inspired dishes being a world a way from you bog standard English breakfast.
The Japanese soufflé pancakes served with bruleed apricots, tonka bean & espresso chantilly cream, smoked almond praline, espresso caramel sauce, flowers I sampled the other week were simply divine and also beautifully presented, while their salmon and chilli eggs with beetroot & gin cured salmon gravlax, chilli & feta scrambled eggs, chimichurri, baby greens, mixed seeds showed that they are even able to liven up your standard eggs with some unique flavour twists. This place is a real neighbourhood favourite that has never let me down! One last tip – try their freshly baked Anzac cookies, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with these coconutty, oaty disks of goodness!
Most of you will know Arket as the super cool and minimal Scandi fashion and lifestyle brand that is part of the H&M empire, but only a few of you will have stumbled across the café space that is located at the back of their Covent Garden store. And what a lovely little spot it is, a peaceful and stylish (the Scandi minimalism has been beautifully executed here) café haven away from central London’s crowds which also serves up great coffee, lovely baked goods and surprisingly rather incredible salads. Their beetroot mousse salad with tahini dressing, nuts, fresh leafs, roasted beetroot and dark rye bread was one of the best salads I have EVER had and a steal at £6.50 for a huge bowl of feel good food. It is also never gets too busy in there so for me it has often been the ideal place to camp out for a good few hours to get work done while nibbling on one of their excellent blueberry oat cookies. A hidden gem I am happy to have discovered.
I am a big fan of all the Grind locations around London, it being a mini chain that I can totally get on board with as each of their cafes manages to retain a totally unique character, always has friendly staff and serves up consistently good coffee. I often stop by for a quick cup at Shoreditch Grind post Barry’s Boot Camp but my favourite of theirs has to be Clerkenwell Grind. It is a lot more spacious so you can have a proper sit down and I still gush at their plush pink Wes Anderson inspired interiors, plus I love that it is just around the corner from the Barbican, perfect if you fancy a little wonder after.
I love this vibrant coffee shop bang in the middle of Angel’s picturesque Camden Passage, Yes, it can get pretty crowded in there (both with coffee dates and freelancers looking for a working space for the day) and I, at times, have struggled to get a seat but that is only testament to how fantastic the coffee served here is. If you are in the area the Coffee Works Project is a must visit for a caffeine pick-me-up, you won’t leave disappointed!
Location is what makes this outpost of Spanish inspired café Fernandez and Wells so special, being inside one of my favourite buildings in London, Somerset house, with views across its impressive courtyard and also with some fantastic outside tables bang in the middle of exactly that courtyard when the British weather allows it. Not that it is all style over substance here, they also serve excellent coffee, fresh Spanish charcuterie and cheese as well as a great and cheap cava by the glass which will cost you £5 a pop) . For me it’s a great place to people watch, catch up with friends and take in the amazing architecture around you.
I have tried many, many London foodie spots since I started this blog - from the sublime to the mediocre to the downright overhyped, which is why I thought it was about time to compile some of my all-time favourites, presented to you in an easily digestible and concise manner, meant to encourage you to try them for yourself, particularly as friends and colleagues have increasingly been asking me for more specific tips such where to get the best Italian food in London, where I like to go for sweet treats or where I like to enjoy a great coffee. I hope you enjoy this new series and feel free to share if you agree with my top 5’s or if I missing the best spot London has to offer for each category yet! I for one am always on the lookout for the next number on the list!
Let’s start off proceedings with my favourite baked goods and where to find them in London because there is always time for something sweet, no matter what time of the day- especially when they are as good as these!
Fabrique is a stone oven bakery that originally stems from Stockholm and now has a few cosy branches across London, all selling their outstanding selection of Scandinavian bread varieties and pastries. I love their London flagship, located in a converted railway arch by Hoxton station, where everything is freshly baked on the premises and where they sell their outstanding selection of sweet buns.
There are vanilla and cinnamon buns (which are also fantastic FYI) but my all-time favourite is their cardamom bun which has a delicately aromatic note and which works so wonderfully when combined with its moist interior and perfectly baked exterior. My tip: grab a few buns to take home and warm them up for a couple of seconds. You can’t get a much better sweet comfort food on a cold autumn day than this and they are a steal at around £2.5!
On to another Scandi chain that has recently arrived in our city and which brings to London more amazing baked goods that I am not sure how we ever lived without! Ole and Steen hails from Denmark where they have been serving Danes delicious breads and pastries, made by hand, for over 20 years, with recipes handed down from generations. They have quickly expanded in London with various locations and their cafes can have a little bit of a upscale canteen feel about them (very minimal, with an element of Ikea canteen) but what they produce is bloody brilliant, with one baked good in particular having very quickly acquired somewhat of an online cult following in the U.K.
I am talking about their cinnamon social slice, a slice of heavenly pastry you can get your hands on for £2.5 and which is filled with custard and a gooey cinnamon mixture, topped with icing sugar and no exaggeration is one of the most moorish and delicious things I have ever eaten. It is far from your standard bun but instead a heavenly combination of everything that is amazing when it comes to baking. Once you have tried one you won’t stop dreaming of your next slice and trust me it won’t be a “social” or sharing occasion when you get yours, you will want it ALL to yourself.
What can I say, Ben’s Cookies are known to make the best cookies in town (if not the world) and I can’t disagree. I remember having my first one whilst visiting London with my dad on a day trip to go the National History museum and the sensation of biting into one of their freshly baked, still warm, slightly undercooked in the middle cookies will never get old. God knows how they make them because I have never gotten close to recreating them at home but maybe I wouldn’t want to anyway because to me Ben will forever be the king of cookies whoever he may be and seeing a red sign with his name at one of their many branches in London will always excite me even before I get a whiff of the gorgeous little things coming out of the oven.
I don’t treat myself to them too often (when I do its usually as dinner party dessert when I go for a box of 7 for just under £8 which is reasonable) but when I do my favourite has to be the Macadamia nut and white chocolate cookie, sweet and creamy from the white chocolate yet with a slightly salty note and crunch from the nut, it’s pretty hard to beat and any Londoner should be ashamed if you have yet to make your way to a Ben’s! It’s a ride of passage that is also damn tasty!
This was a recent discovery as I sipped on a perfectly made cappuccino at my favourite local neighbourhood café, Friends of Ours. They do a mean brunch here (review to follow) but as I hit a sugar low after a particularly draining week I saw a rather scrumptious looking cookie out on their display of baked goodies (all baked downstairs in their kitchen), so I went on to order what was labelled an ‘Anzac cookie’ not quite sure what to expect.
If you like me didn’t know an Anzac cookie is a sweet cookie, popular in Australia and New Zealand, made using rolled oats, flour, sugar, butter, golden syrup, baking soda, boiling water, and desiccated coconut which makes sense as Friends of Ours has a Kiwi head chef and is firmly rooted in Antipodean coffee culture. It could have turned out a little bland or dry but oh this was like a long, wholesome hug in cookie form. Soft, yet with chewy edges, buttery and with a hint of coconut and so perfect with a cup of coffee that I had to stop myself from getting one every time I pop in for my daily caffeine fix. This little number is a dark horse in terms of its unassuming appearance but heck I think we should all be eating Anzak cookies if they taste as good as this one!
Can you tell I like my cinnamon buns? Before you judge Bageriet's Swedish ‘kanebullar’ is totally different from the offerings at Fabrique or Ole and Steen and as bloody delicious so that I simply HAD to include it in my top 5.
The bun is made using a recipe that has been handed down the generation to pastry chef Daniel Karlsson, who started making pastries aged 20 in Gothenberg, and comprises of a heavenly mix of sweet dough rolled together with a sweet cinnamon filling, topped with sugar crystals for an added sweet crunch. They are utterly divine but that is not all, this tiny bakery and cafe (there are about 8 seats so be prepared to take away), hidden away from the crowds on a little side street in Covent Garden, also serves some other delicious Swedish baked specialities with another must try being the wonderfully named ‘prinsesstårta’ or Princess cake – a green and pink cake fit for a sweet toothed princess which is constructed of a light sponge filled with raspberry compote, vanilla custard, fresh cream and encased in colourful marzipan – indulgent yes, but royally worth it!