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!

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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.

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

Their Story / What I like About Them:

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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!

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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.

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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:

british museum cafe

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.

afternoon tea british museum

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
piccolo latte east london

London Cafes: Ozone (Old Street)

A review of an independent cafe, Ozone at Old Street, East London. 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. 

piccolo latte east london

Piccolo latte has its own “white” coffee espresso beans — Photo by Athena Lam

Cafe Overview:

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Ozone is close to Old Street Station in East London — Photo by Athena Lam

There’s something precious about a blank slate: its emptiness calls attention to everything we place on it. That was the state I wanted to be in for first impressions of Ozone (which conjured images of a chique New York City fuscia and magenta hued bar counter). So I didn’t look up anything.

For all its cavernous interior, its exterior was but a disrete black box sign jutting out of a red brick industrial facade. The line on a late Sunday morning was enough of to attract attention. I took my place at the back and was asked if I was alone and intended to be working — a detail that already piqued my interest. Since we were a party of two, I was told I should expect a 20-minute wait.

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Waiters will ask if you are alone plan to remote work — Photo by Athena Lam

As we inched person by person indoors, I began to take the wait as a bit of a luxury to observe the people already seated. Right by the entrance was one continuous row of work benches filled with laptops and notebooks (Wi-Fi and plugs are available). Ozone had thought about how to create space for this particular remote work clientele. The animated dining-focused area is naturally sectioned off with the open-kitchen in the middle of the main floor. The seating you will be directed to (if you’re socializing rather than working) includes booth seating, open-kitchen counter seating, and quieter seating in the basement roasting area.

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Groups have counter, booth, and high table seating — Photo by Athena Lam

But I wasn’t remote working that day. I was catching up with a friend and wanted to try this place’s brunch. As a traditionalist, I tend to be skeptical of the coffee in places that also have an extensive food menu. However, Ozone consistently topped many coffee lists when I was first doing research, so I gave it a shot.

piccolo latte east london

Ozone Coffee Roasters originates from New Zealand — Photo by Athena Lam

For starters, I ordered a double-shot piccolo latte. Another detail Ozone took care of was having separate espresso roasts for white or black drinks. They also serve single-origin pour-over and hand drip. All in all, it was a yummy acidic flavour I’ve missed in Asia.

pancakes east london brunch

Ozone’s weekend brunch includes pancake with a modern twist — Photo by Athena Lam

The highlight, I must say, was the food. The brunch menu had a range of items that went between £5-12, which was surprisingly reasonable for such a hyped and — despite its industrial themed decor — refined service.

I chose the pancake with chocolate mousse, macerated blueberries, cashew nut yoghurt, orange crunch & lemon balm, which is gluten free and vegetarian. I’m neither vegetarian nor gluten-intolerant, but I mention this because the menu is quite accommodating for people with various dietary requirements.

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Menu items include vegetarian and vegan options — Photo by Athena Lam

The even more interesting menu item was the beetroot and cumin fry-bread with crushed avocado, smoked yoghurt, apple, spring leaves, and a poached egg. All in all, the savoury fushion was quite good! I’m sure this is a great place to remote work, but it’s worth visiting for some culinary inspirations too.

Their Story / What I like About Them:

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Remote workers and meetings at Ozone — Photo by Athena Lam

Ozone is actually a New Zealand transplant in hip East London. East London gentrification aside, Ozone itself has a respectable history beginning from humble roots in 1998.

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Ozone’s open kitchen — Photo by Athena Lam

It’s one of the few cafes I can recall enjoying for both the coffee and the food (Monmouth, also in central London comes to mind for its pastries). Generally, I look for creative menu items that I wouldn’t make at home. In addition to flavour pairing, I’m a stickler for texture and optimal serving temperature. Neither dish we tried was entirely polished (for example, the fried bread could have been just a bit crispier), I still enjoyed them.

Booth table at Ozone is spacious for two-party meetings — Photo by Athena Lam

This is perhaps a roundabout way of saying that Ozone averages out well for coffee, food, seating, and service. London is not known for its service — not when I lived there anyway. In contrast, at Ozone I was greeted by a professional who could accurately tell me how long I was expected to wait, give my friend and me a generous booth seat that could seat between 4 (Europe) to 8 (Asia) people, and not rush us in any way despite the line. Whether from the menu, to the number of times a waiter came, to the coffee options, the attention to the small details lived up to the company’s public claim to hospitality.

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Ozone has a white and black espresso roast — Photo by Athena Lam

Hospitality is the ubiquitous word throughout Ozone’s website and articles. The company writes that they bought the first La Marzocco 2 Group Linea machine for Taranaki, New Zealand for Craig Macfarlane’s “hospitality business“. Coffee at Ozone is only part of their hospitality package.

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Coffee brewing methods include aeropres and filter — Photo by Athena Lam

But it is an important part. Ozone’s roasting operation is in the basement and the first thing you see while waiting at the entrance. The lower level is also far more quiet and you might be able to skip the line a bit if you request it, as I noticed the seats weren’t filled.

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Ozone’s in-house coffee roasting operation — Photo by Athena Lam

Unfortunately, because it’s so popular, one hardly has the chance to actually speak to anyone, but Ozone’s roasters do independent sourcing trips for their green beans. I would definitely recommend picking up a freshly roasted bag on your way out.

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Independent roasters are abound in East London — Photo by Athena Lam

As a last note, they also have their own independent print publication. You can get a sample of their writing on their online blog.

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Basement seating is quieter — Photo by Athena Lam

Good For:

  • Coffee: Espresso, pour-over, aeropress
  • Food: Pastries, brunch, lunch, dinner
  • Cafe Space: 50+ seats, 2 floors
  • Friends: Hangouts, catching up, readings
  • Workspace: along the windows by the entrance
  • Remote Work: Wi-Fi available, plugs available
Address:   11 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4AQ
Website:   http://ozonecoffee.co.uk/
Hours: Weekdays: 7:00-22:00
Weekends: 8:30-17:30



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

London
piccolo latte monmouth coffee

London Cafes: Monmouth Coffee (Covent Garden)

A review of the venerable specialty coffee shop, Monmouth Coffee, at its original location in the Seven Dials, close to Covent Garden, London. Notes are by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad.

piccolo latte monmouth coffee

Piccolo latte at Monmouth Coffee — Photo by Athena Lam

Cafe Overview:

monmouth coffee seven dials

Monmouth Coffee Company’s original shop at Covent Garden — Photo by Athena Lam

I must disclose that Monmouth is a discovery unique among my cafe reviews; I discovered it a decade ago on my first trip to London, became a regular in 2012, and visited again every time I’ve been in town ever since. The photos and reviews are from the latest, 2017, visit to my preferred location at the Seven Dials (though I have been to the Borough Market one several times, too).

independent coffee roaster london

Monmouth Coffee’s beans can be purchased in any quantity (including 50g) — Photo by Athena Lam

Monmouth is great for coffee, not remote work. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi or plugs. The narrow shop is virtually a shoebox with seats at the back. However, I have seen people over the years persevere with a laptop; many people come to read (I’ve seen books, newspapers, academic papers, business briefs, and reports). Even though the cafe seems to have a perpetual line-up, I’ve never seen the staff ask anyone to leave.

specialty coffee shop covent garden

Limited seating space in the cafe — Photo by Athena Lam

I think the hardwood bench seating can actually accommodate close to 20 people, as the place somehow does encourage a cozy cramming if a big group takes the corner table.

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Monmouth’s espresso roast — Photo by Athena Lam

Monmouth serves espresso and single origin pour-over coffee at reasonable prices that make me wonder why anyone would wander over to a Nero or Costa. On the table (and at the door if you do take-away), you will find a list of their latest beans, which they source directly from growers. The selection of coffees goes by region and includes detailed tasting notes as well as extensive information on the estate. Even after scanning, you may want to ask the baristas for their latest recommendation anyway as they will inevitably have stock that’s not updated yet.

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Croissants and other light pastries to accompany the coffee — Photo by Athena Lam

As one person, I usually manage a seat within 5-10 minutes if I go at an odd hour on a weekday. Even though I love to buy their single origin whole beans to take back, I usually order their espresso since I don’t have a machine at home. In my earlier years, I would usually order a cappuccino, but recently I’ve taken to a piccolo latte. Friends who are unfortunate enough to accompany me know that I stop talking until I’m done my drink here because exhaling after you sip allows the delightful aroma to last. They serve a Monmouth Espresso blend that is usually on the nutty end with a hint of acidity that pairs perfectly with the milk.

covent garden espresso coffee

Small coffee bar operation for an endless stream of customers — Photo by Athena Lam

Monmouth’s Seven Dials shop sells beans at the front and the coffee bar is in the back. I would highly recommend getting one of their pastries (my favourite is the croissant or chocolate croissant).

Also, if waiting and cramming isn’t your thing, just get take-out and walk 1-minute away into Neal’s Yard (yes, where the organic skincare product Neal’s Yard Remedies comes from) to enjoy your drink on the public seats in the courtyard.

monmouth coffee pastries

Fresh pastries — Photo by Athena Lam

Their Story / What I like About Them:

single origin coffee london

Mounmouth Coffee has passionate staff introducing the latest roasts — Photo by Athena Lam

Monmouth Coffee is arguably one of London’s first independent roasters when Anita Le Roy opened shop at the Seven Dials back in 1978. For the first two decades, they didn’t even sell coffee to cafes and they only opened their Borough Market branch around 2012.

She was ahead of her time, aiming for single-origin and microlot beans in an industry dominated by wholesale distributors. Her dream wasn’t feasible for a decade. Coffee as the second most traded commodity after oil, is traditionally sold in markets with spot auction prices in massive, mixed batches. In the past, by the time the green beans arrive for roasting, they have already been mixed. Unless a roaster specifies the stock is single-origin (and can be transparent about exactly which grower), you can safely assume that your beans have been mixed.

fresh coffee beans london

Beans are sourced directly from growers — Photo by Athena Lam

Roasters and coffee drinkers are increasingly appreciating is another layer: the importers. Most cafes even today buy through importers because they cannot purchase in bulk enough to source their beans otherwise. Monmouth’s growth as a single origin roaster came in tandem with Mercanta in 1996.

Even without the coffee history and industry backstory, Monmouth Coffee’s operations will likely strike a first-time visitor. You don’t buy prepackaged bags of coffee. You can pick from whatever they have behind the counter, clearly labelled with price by weight. A staff member will take your order, which can be from 50-500 grams, weigh it, put it into a bag, and tape the label for you. You can look at their catalogue or simply ask for a recommendation.

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A Monmouth Coffee barista who’s been around since 2011 — Photo by Athena Lam

The customized ordering of such quality beans at such reasonable prices (a 250 gram standard rarely breaks £9) means I as a consumer can try as many flavours as possible while they’re fresh. I wanted to get 5 different bags of whole beans to take back to Asia. After listing a few I thought I would like to one of the staff, we had a bit of a back and forth. I could see that behind the agreeable face, she thought there were alternatives to my options. After explaining my preference in tasting profiles, I left it entirely for her to choose.

In my decade of going, the staff have been consistently professional and friendly. They meet you where you are comfortable: if you want to call the shots, tell them exactly what you want and they will prepare it without question. If you want recommendations, give them your taste preferences and they’ll walk you through their latest options. That day, the barista ended up giving me 4/5 beans that were off the menu. Plus, the one she told me was the most interesting and unusual was spot on — I’m glad I got twice as much. And, as always, I’m glad I came, even though I only had a 7-hour stop over.

Monmouth Coffee at Borough Market also has the same hospitality once it’s your turn in the line, so don’t feel pressured to make a decision and ask as many questions as you need. Also, the Borough Market location has an unlimited bread & butter offering at the communal table not available at the Seven Dials location.

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Remote work is possible at Monmouth — Photo by Athena Lam

Good For:

  • Coffee: Pour-over, espresso
  • Food: Pastries
  • Cafe Space: About 10-16 in a tight squeeze
  • Friends: Hangouts, catching up, readings
  • Workspace: Tiny, but possible
  • Remote Work: No Wi-Fi, no phones, no plugs
Address:   27 Monmouth St, London WC2H 9EU, UK
Website:   http://www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk/
Hours: Mon – Sat: 8:00-18:30
Closed: Sundays



If you liked this post, check out my list of Off-Centre Tokyo Cafes.

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