Sushi dai honkan tsukiji ginza

7 Sushi and Ramen Lunch Deals in Ginza

fresh sashimi japan

I’m cheating. Sashimi platters are rarely lunch specials.

This post teaches you how to search for your own value sushi lunches in Ginza and Tsukiji Fish Market. Sets start at ¥1000 for 8-10 pieces of nigiri, plus rolls and miso soup. Below is a guide of how to use Tabelog (Japan’s Yelp) to search, what to expect for sushi lunches, and my list of personal lunch recommendations (sushi, ramen, and tempura) around the area. 

Tokyo Life
天満宮 hofu yamaguchi travel

San’in-Sanyo JR Pass Trip: Tottori, Shimane, Yamaguchi Prefectures

If you’re a seasoned Japan visitor (or an adventurous first-timer), I would recommend trying the two least-known JR Passes: the San’in-Sanyo JR Pass, and the All-Shikoku Pass (for another post). The San’in-Sanyo JR Pass covers a vast area from Kyoto down to Fukuoka and the historical heartland of Japan. My post focuses on the least-visited prefectures of Tottori, Shimane, and Yamaguchi because these local places are where the tourist crowds thin out and the thick layers of history are well settled.

Japan
russell square cafe

London Coffee Walks: Clerkenwell, Soho, Fritzrovia

A shortlist of independent coffee roasters and coffee shops from Clerkenwell, through Soho (Covent Garden, Leicester Square) up to Fitzrovia (Bloomsbury). I’m a frequent traveller and remote worker (aka digital nomad), but in London, I tend to visit places mostly for the coffee and catch ups. 

trafalgar square espresso

First thing off my flight is a cuppa coffee in Covent Garden — Photo by Athena Lam

How to read this coffee list:

These are independent cafes I’ve visited or mapped out for my 2 week trip in London. Cafes I visited in previous years don’t have their own reviews because I don’t have photos. Below, you will find a photo of the cafe, a brief description, and the address that links to the above coffee map.

You can pre-load this map onto your phone. 

Note that cafes in Central London, many independent cafes often don’t have plugs, Wi-Fi or much space. I highly recommend getting a prepaid data SIM at the airport. 

Feel free to leave a comment or your suggestions! Happy exploring!

Monmouth Coffee Company (Seven Dials)

independent coffee roaster london

Pay per gram for your coffee beans at Monmouth Coffee — Photo by Athena Lam

The original Monmouth Coffee shop is a hole in the wall. Nonetheless, people still bring papers to mark, books to read, and friends to chat with. No WiFi and forget plugs, but if you want good coffee and fresh beans (at whatever amount) this is the place to go.  Another shop is at Borough Market.

Coffee: Single-origin pour over, espresso
Remote Work: No Wi-Fi or outlets
Hours: Mon – Sat: 8:00-18:30
Closed: Sundays
Address:  27 Monmouth St, London WC2H 9EU, UK
Website Website

Workshop Coffee (Clerkenwell)

workshop coffee barista

Mikey, my friendly barista — Photo by Athena Lam

A huge (by London standards) cafe that includes even a skylight and living wall. This original shop was opened by a coffee fanatic and remains unpretentious. Mostly locals, as it’s in a low-rise office area. Has some plugs but no WiFi. One of my favourite roasters in London.

Coffee: Single-origin pour over, espresso
Remote Work: A few outlets, no Wi-Fi
Hours: Mon: 8:00 – 18:00
Tues-Fri: 8:00-19:00
Sat-Sun: 9:00-18:00
Address:  27 Clerkenwell Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 5RN
Website Website

Look Mum, No Hands

clerkenwell bike shop coffee

Coffee and cycling tribe — Photo by Athena Lam

This hippster bicycle shop x cafe was one of London’s earliest Third Wave coffee places. You’ll find many others here with laptops, and still more watching races on the TV screen. It also has a patio outside that’s perfect for summer!

Coffee: Single-origin pour over, espresso
Remote Work: Wi-Fi, maybe a plug or two
Hours: Mon – Fri: 7:30-22:00
Sat: 8:30-10:00
Sun: 9:00-10:00
Address:
Website Website

Coffee Island

trafalgar square remote work

Coffee Island has wifi and plugs for remote work — Photo by Athena Lam

Coffee Island is actually a Greek coffee chain, but their flagship store between Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden in London’s Theatre District is the best remote work haven I’ve found. Its two-story space is outfitted with plugs and the shop has good Wi-Fi. They also serve authentic Greek-style coffee!

Coffee: Single-origin pour over, espresso, Greek coffee
Remote Work: Tons of plugs and Wi-Fi
Hours: Mon – Fri: 7:30-21:00
Sat – Sun: 9:00-21:00
Address:  5 Upper St Martin’s Ln, London WC2H 9NY, UK
Website Website

London Review Bookshop Cafe

russell square cafe

London Review Bookshop serves Monmouth Coffee — Photo by Athena Lam

Just separated from the bookstore by a doorway,  this small cafe right across from the British Museum is a good spot to get some work done in between meetings. The staff are friendly. I saw one plug in a corner,  and there are pastries and food. They serve coffee using Monmouth beans.

Coffee: Espresso, maybe single origin
Remote Work: 2 Outlets in a corner, no Wi-Fi
Hours: Mondays – Saturdays: 10:00 – 18:30
Sundays: 12:00 – 18:00
Address: 14-16 Bury Pl, Bloomsbury, London WC1A 2JL, UK
Website Website

Kaffeine

soho third wave coffee london

They use beans from the Coffee Collective — Photo by Athena Lam

Hailed as one of London’s best independent cafes, this small shop always has a lunch rush (because it also serves the likes of salads and quiches). The space isn’t really designed for working, but if you get a small table, you can pull out your laptop.  They serve beans from Coffee Collective.

Coffee: Single-origin pour over, espresso
Remote Work:  No Wi-Fi or plugs
Hours: Mon – Fri: 7:30-18:00
Sat: 8:30-18:00
Sun: 9:00-17:00
Address:  66 Great Titchfield St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7QJ
Website Website

Attendant Coffee

fritzrovia specialty coffee

Underground coffee, literally — Photo by Athena Lam

Just a block down from Kaffeine, Attendant is much more low key and friendly. Its entrance looks like an old subway gate, which brings you to a brightly lit subterranean refuge. WiFi available!

Coffee: Single-origin pour over, espresso, aeropress
Remote Work: Free Wi-Fi
Hours: Mon – Fri: 8:00-18:00
Sat: 9:00-18:00
Sun: 10:00-18:00
Address:  27A Foley St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 6DY
Website Website

J + A Cafe

london specialty coffee

Spacious courtyard seating in Clerkenwell — Photo by Athena Lam

J + A are actually more like a restaurant and bar,  but they consistently pop up as a location for coffee too. The restaurant is tucked in a courtyard in an old diamond cutting factory. It’s a great hideaway that’s just a turn in from Clerkenwell’s bustling traffic.

Coffee: Espresso
Remote Work: Outlets
Hours: Weekdays: 8:00-18:00
Weekends: 9:00-17:00
Address: 1-4 Sutton Ln, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 5PU
Website Website

Last random tips

I discovered a few things from local friends during the week I was here, so I’ll pass them on:

  • Public spaces like the National Theatre make better remote work places (Wi-Fi, plugs, and spacious seating)
  • Get take-away, save a few pence, and work in a public park or along the River Thames
  • Sundays are quieter, especially at places like Clerkenwell.

If you liked this post, you can check out my other coffee maps:

Of course, would always appreciate a share! Thanks!

London
Yahiko-6501 弥彦神社 Yahiko Shrine

16 tips for travelling rural Japan

japanese countryside tokushima

View of Sanagouchi, the last village in Tokushima Prefecture — Photo by Athena Lam

0. Some Tips & resources:

These may make more sense after reading through the explanations below. But in case this piece is too long to read, I’ve listed some resources here first:

1. Business hours are recommendations.

Time has a different meaning in the rural areas. While websites may give specific opening times, sometimes shops close because an owner needs to run an errand or the restaurant has sold out for the day. The words “営業中” is pronounced eigyo-chu, which means they a place is currently serving customers.

2. Use cash.

For a super advanced technology and service country, Japan has some things that remain resolutely analogue. Payments in cash is one of them. Since Japan is a safe place, people regularly carry north of ¥20,000 (US$200) on them. For some years, it was a popular style for men to have long wallets waving out of their back pockets. Of course, use common sense such as splitting up your cash between your wallet and a safe spot in your bag.

When getting Japanese Yen, I suggest you get ¥10,000 (US$100) bills. It will save you a massive pile of money (¥10,000 / US$1000 is only 10 bills!). Then, break your change at a 24/7 convenience store or train station. There is no minimum purchase to break a bill, so you can buy a ¥100 (US$ 1) bottled drink and they will give you ¥9,900 back in bills and coins.

Unless you’ve pre-paid for your accommodations and transportation, I would suggest bringing enough cash to cover both that and your daily food and activity expenses. My Mastercards didn’t work half the time in Japan; AE worked if it was accepted. I was using cash most of my year in Tokyo, too.

3. Local trains and buses are reliably…sparse.

shikoku JR yosan line ishizuchi train

Rural areas also have special scenic train lines — Photo by Athena Lam

Many local trains wind through mountains and sail along the coast. Unlike the Shinkansen, bullet trains, that race through the urban centres, local trains stop at every sleepy village along their routes. However, many of the most untouched rural areas also have infrequent service. Trains heading from main stations to the countryside may stop at different stations. For example, some will only travel half-way, and some may travel turn at a fork along a different route.

If you are adventurous and want to try reading the signs (which are in Japanese), look up your stop in Japanese first to save the name. Then, check all the stops along the train route to see whether your station is along all the trains passing through.

Tip: Stick to the train you searched on Hyperdia or Google Maps.

For buses: Take buses only if you are prepared. Prepared means knowing your exact bus times and stops, and having the name of your destination printed in Japanese to show the bus driver. Japanese bus drivers are super polite and try earnestly to help, but they also cannot be expected to understand English (written or spoken). They probably cannot answer any questions in English. As long as you can show them your exact bus stop (not just an address of where you want to go, because they may not know which is the closest stop), they will make sure to stop for you and signal to you.

4. Drive…if you can.

The highlight of rural Japan is the scenery, which is easiest to access with a car.

Note that Japan drives on the left side of the road like the British system. Also note that you need an international driver’s license to rent a car.

The great news about driving in Japan is that everything is much slower. In cities, many local roads have a 30 km/hr limit and drivers always yield to cyclists and pedestrians. There’s rarely honking, so you can take your time to figure out where you’re going.

Many of Japan’s most scenic spots are in the rural areas, such as in the mountains or along coastal routes. I would highly recommend driving in places like Hokkaido so that you can maximise enjoying the scenery at the most optimal time rather than trying to catch the one bus that goes somewhere.

National car rental companies include: ORIX, Nippon-Rent-a-Car and Toyota-Rent-a-Car.

5. Use a map.

Reception is sometimes unreliable in rural areas, so having a backup is always good! I recommend the offline Maps.me (available on iOS and Android) and downloading an area map before leaving the city. Google Maps also has ‘geo-tags’ for spots, so you can copy your favourite places into your new app to see the pins.

Offline maps are particularly useful for hiking in remote areas to find trail heads.

6. Eat what you can’t read.

Hotel Gujo hachiman ホテル郡上八幡

Gujo Hachiman is also just as good for Hida beef — Photo by Athena Lam

Japan’s local villages may look similar on the surface with their tiled roofs, wooden structures, and tatami mat rooms. However, the real charm is in their hidden specialities, such as katsuo tataki in Kochi Prefecture or Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki with yakisoba. Japanese communities are proud of their traditions and show them off with posters and stores on the main street. If you see a line-up, join in and order whatever everyone else is ordering (most places have one signature food).

7. Take maps with a big grain of salt.

map of mount ishizuchi shrine

Japanese maps are general ideas, this one of Ishizuchi — Photo by Athena Lam

Many of rural Japan’s most scenic spots have no English signage. Famous spots usually have Japanese signs, so be sure to copy the Japanese text onto your phone before heading out so you can recognise them later.

Don’t only look for signage! Stop and you will probably be at a breathtaking vista or look out the train window! Whether you are in the Japanese Alps or facing the Sea of Japan, rural Japan will instantly charm you with its hills, valleys, rushing rivers, rice paddies, and splatter of houses.

8. Use daylight

6698 Mount Yahiko Sunset 弥彦山 夕方

Sunset over the Sea of Japan on top of Mount Yahiko, Niigata – Photo by Athena Lam

While Tokyo is known for its city lights and 24-hour life, Japan’s rural areas are known for their harmony with nature. Farmers rise at dawn between 4-6am. Many famous sights are also known for a view at a specific time of the day. Some places are known for their golden sunsets, others for their evening birdsong. Some villages set up community dances and activities in the evening.

The bottom line is, follow what locals normally do to get the fullest experience of the Japanese countryside.

9. Please learn some Japanese

A few Japanese phrases will take you a long way. People are kind and often friendly. In addition to the functional phrases in pocketbook guides, many easy expressions will make locals feel like you understand them a little bit better.

Daijyobu – It’s okay / I’m fine.

Osusume wa? – What would you recommend?

Kaikei onegaishimasu – Bill please.

Arigatou – Thank you.

Artigatogozaimasu – Thank you very much!

Pro Tips:

Sumimasen – Excuse me. But this phrase is used in many contexts, and often before or as in replacement of thank you. You can use it when someone gives you their seat, offers you a drink, and of course if you need to get attention.

Gochisosama – Thank you for the meal / that was a feast. Personally, I think this makes chefs and restaurant people even more happy than if you tell them oishii (it’s delicious). A common expression when leaving a restaurant.

10. Download a translator

Yomiwa and Google Translate (Japanese offline package) are life savers for translating individual words. Type simple sentences (preferably 3-5 words) to get a more accurate translation.

They are invaluable for translating menus and signs. Yomiwa is good for taking screenshots. Google Translate can only take screenshots if you are online. For writing Chinese characters that are often used for signs, you can do a handwritten Chinese input to draw in the character that you see as common Chinese and Japanese characters are mostly interchangeable.

11. The countryside is…not Tokyo, Osaka, or any Japanese city.

Traditional Japanese house that I stayed in

The countryside has plenty of traditional Japanese houses amongst the farms.

In the Japanese countryside, the pace of life is more relaxed and people are friendly because everyone knows each other. Houses are often not locked and neighbours will often stop by to drop off fresh picks from the garden. Shopkeepers may pause to greet someone who walks in even though they’re helping you. In this case, don’t be offended, as they will come back to you!

Strangers will often say ‘ohaiyo‘ (good morning) or ‘konichi wa‘ (hello). Say hello back!

For travellers going off the beaten track, the villages you encounter may not see many (if any) foreign visitors. If you have light skin and hair colour, you may be stared at. The locals do not mean to be rude; they are just a little surprised!

For onsen visitors, note that country onsens may have young boys in the women’s area. As going to the onsen is usually a family outing, grandmothers may bring in their grandsons who could be up to 10 years old. Tattoos are often frowned upon as they are associated with yakuza, Japanese gangs. If you have a small tattoo in a discrete area, use your towel to cover it.

12. Restaurants are houses 

rural japan dining

Flags with these characters mean restaurant.

Truly rural Japan is basically made up of only houses, traditional or modern. Many shop keepers live right above the shop, just like they have done for generations. お食事 indicate food. Because these restaurants are often traditional houses, they may also have a raised genkan area where guests are expected to take off their shoes.

13. Pretty rice paddies and mountains are homes for bugs, too.

japanese rice paddy

Fall rice growing during summer for Fall harvest — Photo by Athena Lam

The Japanese countryside means nature, which also means some crawly friends! Whether you are up in the mountains or down in the fields, be prepared for mosquitos! One of the best mosquito repellents is local Japanese incense that looks like a spiral that is called ka-tori-senko. Alternatively, just bring a bottle of bug spray to keep the critters away.

14. Ryokan and minshuku are experiences, not hotels

Hotel Gujo hachiman ホテル郡上八幡

A traditional ryokan room at Gujo Hachiman, Gifu Prefecture — Photo by Athena Lam

Ryokan and minshuku are the traditional bed and breakfasts of Japan. Some are large country houses while others have expanded to have more modern amenities like spa and game rooms. The important thing to remember is that ryokan and minshuku offer excellent service, but are not run like hotels for convenience. Many are still traditional and family run. Here are some tips on what to do:

  • Pay on arrival
  • Cash only: independent, family-run places don’t take credit cards
  • Usually one or two meals (usually dinner, and maybe breakfast) are included in the price. Some places accept sudomari (bookings without meals).
  • Make same day bookings by noon (after that, the places do not have enough time to prepare your dinner)
  • If there is a same-day cancellation, there’s an expectation you will pay the full fare.
  • Don’t arrive until after 3pm. Preparations are being made.
  • Arrive by 5pm because they need to serve your dinner!
  • Take off your shoes in your room and leave them by the door
  • Use the provided slippers to walk around the ryokan or minshuku rather than your street shoes

15. Accept generosity by graciously refusing, then accepting

The rule with receiving gifts is first to pretend that you don’t want it. You can gesture this by maybe shaking your head mildly and a gentle “stop” sign. You might also add a smile and say, “dayjoubu” (I’m fine), as a rough explanation. If they stop after your first smile and gentle refusal, don’t feel offended if they don’t offer again.

But, generally the approach is to refuse not once, but a few, times. If they still insist, they probably mean it, so just say “sumimasen” (excuse me) with a slight bow and “arigato-gozaimasu” (thank you very much). It won’t hurt to say it a few times, such as when you’re getting up to leave, putting on your shoes, and as you do your final goodbye (close the door to the restaurant or walk down the block).

People in the rural areas can be mind-bogglingly generous and I’ve gotten everything from free drinks at vending machines, to rides, full day tours, off the menu fresh catches, and even hand-made crafts.

16. Natural, not polished.

japanese vegetarian

Fresh foraged bamboo shoot in my friend’s backyard — Photo by Athena Lam

Don’t always expect to be wow’d. Rural Japan is quaint more than grand. Ryokan can be quite simple, even rough around the edges. If you want a polished establishment, choose one of the bigger places with English websites on Rakuten Travel. The food likely not dazzle in the same way Osaka does, impress with its delicacy as in Kyoto, or show the same innovation as Tokyo. But your food will be served an honest fare with vegetables that are picked within a day or two and fish that probably comes from the closest river. I say this only to manage expectations because I love rural Japan. I am even more at home in the rice paddies and on mountain lodges than Tokyo. But just bring no expectations and enjoy yourself!

If you are looking for other tips, check out my post Top 10 Apps to Travel in Japan like a Local.

Rural Japan
east london independent coffee roaster

London Cafes: Nude Espresso (Spitalfields Market)

A review of Nude Espresso’s Spitalfields Market branch in East London. Review by a digital nomad who loves coffee and sometimes needs remote workplaces.

Cafe Overview:

east london specialty coffee

Spacious seating for a central London cafe — Photo by Athena Lam

While the stalls at Spitalfields Market may be a bit of a tourist trap, the historical landmark still has some local shops that are worth a visit. One of them is a spacious Nude Espresso branch that has plenty of seating, natural sunlight, and distance between tables. The cafe has a simple set up with just its coffee and a handful of daily pastries on the counter.

east london espresso

Pastries to go with coffee — Photo by Athena Lam

Being close to both the Liverpool Street offices and heavy-traffic commercial space doesn’t give much incentive for the cafe to give out free Wi-Fi or offer much in the way of plugs. In other words, remote work here only if you have a fully charged laptop and want to bang out a document without any online distractions.

east london independent coffee roaster

A piccolo at Nude Espresso — Photo by Athena Lam

Nude Espresso has both espresso and single origin filter coffees. They also have one decaf roast. Their espresso drinks are made with the ‘East Blend’ unless you specify that you want to try their seasonal espresso.

As an aside, they have soy on the menu. I feel like it’s growing more available in London, but I only noticed it this one time.

I ordered a piccolo latte, which I thought was pretty good. I admit I can’t quite remember the profile, but it wasn’t good enough to stop my conversation with my friend. I remember thinking that the temperature was a bit off, which created a slightly more bitter (not just smokey) aftertaste. But hey, everyone has their off moments, and the Nude I tried at Hanbury Street about 5-minutes away was decent. I would definitely be willing to try again.

east london third wave espresso

Nude Espresso’s locations are all in London’s E1 area — Photo by Athena Lam

Their Story / What I like About Them:

east london espresso

Nude Espresso also has cold brew coffee — Photo by Athena Lam

One of the reasons I’m more forgiving of my latest (summer, 2017) experience is because Nude Espresso is one of East London’s earliest coffee roasters. Since opening in 2008, they’ve only woven deeper into the fabric of Shoreditch. Despite its fame and growing success over the past decade, Nude Espresso’s 4 locations are all within the E1 area — literally a 15-minute walking distance.

Also, they serve coffee at East London prices — a latte is still £2.80, unlike the coffee shops south and west of Liverpool Street. Plus, also unlike some other specialty coffee shops close by, they do their own bean sourcing (partially direct trade) and roasting.

spitafields market coffee

Free papers while you enjoy your coffee — Photo by Athena Lam

 

Good For:

  • Coffee: Espresso, cold brew, slow brew, decaf (soy milk available)
  • Food: Pastries
  • Cafe Space: Approx 30 people
  • Friends: Hangouts
  • Workspace: Individual, 2-person, and group tables
  • Remote Work: No Wi-Fi or plugs
Address:  4 Market Street, London E1 6DT
Website:  Website
Hours: Weekdays: 8:00 – 17:30
Weekends: 10:00 – 17:00

If you liked this post, check out my East London Coffee Walk!

London
third wave coffee london workshop coffee

London Cafes: Workshop Coffee (Clerkenwell)

A review of an independent coffee roaster, Workshop Coffee at Clerkenwell. Notes are by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad. Descriptions are equal parts coffee and remote-work suitability. Most photos are shot with a second-hand Fujifilm X100.

Cafe Overview:

remote work cafe london

Workshop Coffee’s original shop at Clerkenwell — Photo by Athena Lam

I first stumbled upon Workshop Coffee Bar in Marlybone while waiting to go for dinner with a friend. Though it was on my list of cafes to visit, that location seemed a bit too posh and hip, so I instead saved my first tasting impressions for its original shop in Clerkenwell.

specialty coffee london

Workshop opened in 2011, before London’s coffee scene took — Photo by Athena Lam

Clerkenwell may look a bit out of the way, as there are so many other must-see places in London that are right above a Tube station. Clerkenwell Road is a great cross-town cycling route because the road is wider and the traffic less dense compared to Fleet Street. Also, the area is filled with low-rise office buildings that sustain many no-nonsense restaurants and cafes. Walkers can consider clustering this visit with Leather Lane (where Prufrock Coffee is), The Barbican, and even Old Street (which is where I walked from that day).

workshop coffee barista

Mikey, my friendly barista — Photo by Athena Lam

I went on a Sunday afternoon and was delighted to find I had my choice of seats from the front long-table to the sky-lit individual square ones at the back with a towering living wall. The baristas and space were so inviting my friend and I ended up sitting down, though we had originally intended to get take-away.

third wave coffee london workshop coffee

Cappuccino at Workshop — Photo by Athena Lam

Workshop Coffee roasts its own beans and had a choice of single origin pour over or espresso. I chose a cappuccino as it was my third coffee that day. Note to remote workers that there isn’t wi-fi and I think only one or two outlets.

The cappuccino (a reaonsable £3.10) I got was excellent. The milk was well frothed, though a bit light. The espresso was well blended with the milk and had a smooth bright note. I later learned from the barista, Mikey, that Workshop is one of the few roasters that does slightly lighter roasts.

remote work cafe london

Spacious seating for remote work — Photo by Athena Lam

The cafe also serves breakfast, lunch, and pastry items. You’ll be able to find everything from a yoghurt for £3.50 to a full risotto for £10.

remote work cafe london

Workshop’s Clerkenwell shop has 2-storeys — Photo by Athena Lam

Their Story / What I like About Them:

workshop coffee living wall

Living green wall with a skylight — Photo by Athena Lam

As it turns out, Workshop Coffee opened up shop in 2011 and I missed out on this gem of a roaster. Another friend told me that the founder tends to sit at the counter, only being roused from his seat when he feels someone isn’t brewing the beans exactly as they should. I didn’t meet the founder that day, but I spoke with the barista who made my drink, Mikey, and we immediately clicked on our bottom line about brewing great coffee: being clean. During our brief exchange, he was wiping the machine and lining up all the cups and equipment.

workshop coffee single origin

Workshop has signature roasts and single-origin beans — Photo by Athena Lam

Yet, despite being particular about how they thought quality coffee should be brewed (tips on their website here), Workshop makes “no bold claims about having answers”. Like many other quality independent roasters, they go doing coffee tastings, working with farmers, producers, and exporters from both Africa, Central America, and Brazil. I just like their honest prices and lack of pretense. 🙂

independent coffee roaster london

Unlike popular commercial areas, Workshop at Clerkenwell is more quiet on weekends — Photo by Athena Lam

Good For:

  • Coffee: Pour over, espresso, aeropress
  • Food: Pastries, breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Cafe Space: Seats 50+, industrial
  • Friends: Hangouts, catching up, work
  • Workspace: Many individual tables, 2nd floor, skylight
  • Remote Work: A few outlets available (no Wi-Fi)
Address:   27 Clerkenwell Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 5RN
Website:  https://workshopcoffee.com/
Hours:  Mon: 8:00 – 18:00
Tues-Fri: 8:00-19:00
Sat-Sun: 9:00-18:00

If you liked this post, check out my coffee walk through Soho and Fritzrovia!

London
russell square cafe

London Cafes: London Review Bookshop – Cake Shop

A review of the London Review Bookshop’s cake shop in Bloomsbury, a block from the British Museum. Perspectives come with a digital nomad on the hunt for friendly places that are remote work friendly and serve good coffee.

Cafe Overview:

british museum cafe

Look for a bookshop by the British Museum in Bloomsbury — Photo by Athena Lam

It is fitting that the London Review bookshop still has a claim in the corner of London where Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and E. M. Forster — the better known members of the Bloomsbury Group — once congregated. I must also add that Arthur Waley, one of the most influential British Sinologists, was also a part of this group. But it was history, rather than literature, that was on my mind on the summer afternoon I dropped by this establishment.

russell square cafe

The London Review Bookshop cafe is called the “cake shop” was using Monmouth Coffee beans when I went — Photo by Athena Lam

That day, I was seeing a friend who was remote working at the cafe — one of her regular hide outs as a graduate student in another respected academic institution just beside the British Museum: the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Immersed in her writing, she probably never noticed how, ahem, cozy the cake shop was. Clearly, despite the limited space, the staff didn’t seem to mind the academically inclined hanging around with their newspapers, readings, and laptops. Wi-Fi isn’t available, but they made a quiet work corner with a plug for the lucky remote worker who could claim it.

russell square cafe

The cafe has nice homey cakes and an afternoon tea set — Photo by Athena Lam

When I arrived after a brief walk through the British Museum, my friend had already finished her cake. But she recommended virtually every pastry item on the menu as I looked through. I finally settled on a pistachio rose-icing cake to go with my latte. Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of coffee given that this was a decidedly British bookshop, but I was pleasantly surprised by the latte art and the extraction. The London Review Bookshop has served two of my most respected roasters in London: Workshop Coffee and Monmouth Coffee.

The cake that it came with was fragrant and flavourful. The pistachios added body to the icing and texture to the soft sponge.

As my friend and I sat catching up, the lady who was crammed into the window corner beside me wrapped up her work and we had to get up to let her out. The groups of two who came in to chat couldn’t fill that spot, so I took a photo to remember the remote work corner for future reference.

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One remote work corner spot with plugs — Photo by Athena Lam

Their Story / What I like About Them:

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The entrance to the cafe is through the bookshop — Photo by Athena Lam

As the name suggests, the London Review of Books opened a store that could house the books it recommended. Despite the classical wooden storefront, the shop opened as recently as 2003. The cafe is actually called the cake shop and to get there, you must walk through the bookshop entrance.

The shop is not big, but it is home to 20,000+ titles that include world literature, contemporary fiction and poetry, history, cooking, essays, history, and politics. While I don’t want to encourage buying books just for the sake of having something to hold while sipping your coffee, I do recommend taking a pause at the doorway.

After racing through central London, and down the bustling entrance outside the British Museum, my first instinct was to charge into the cake shop for my late appointment. But with the table of books greeting me just at the doorway, I couldn’t help but pick up a cover. After scanning a few, my mind became as serene as the shop. As I strolled through the open archway to the cake shop, it felt like I had walked home into a warm living room.

And if you want to stay for longer than just a coffee, the cake shop has a seasonal menu of salads and creative lunch options inspired by a chef from Australia.

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What is a cake set without some bubbly in the summer? — Photo by Athena Lam

Good For:

  • Coffee: Espresso, tea
  • Food: light pastries, cakes, lunch
  • Cafe Space: Approx 20 people
  • Friends: Good for a quiet catch up
  • Workspace: Individual tables, one big square table, and one corner working spot
  • Remote Work: 1-2 plugs in a corner, but no Wi-Fi
Address:   14-16 Bury Pl, Bloomsbury, London WC1A 2JL, UK
Website:   Website
Hours: Mondays – Saturdays: 10:00 – 18:30
Sundays: 12:00 – 18:00

If you liked this post, check out my coffee walk through Soho and Fritzrovia!

London