A stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square, Notes is a bright, stylish cafe that also serves cakes and sandwiches. They use Square Mile coffee (who supply Prufrock and Association coffee) and treat it very well. My flat white was adorned with beautiful latte art and the milk treatment was very good with extremely silky microfoam. The espresso was decent but not astounding and would probably not taste great without milk. I also had a muffin which was stale, doughy and tasteless – I do not recommend their baking. They have coffee tasting evenings and jazz nights every fortnight.
Machine: La Marzocco Strada
Coffee score: 6/10
Food score: 2/10
Look Mum was one of London’s first cycle cafes – it combines a working bicycle repair shop with a cafe bar. This is a place for bicycle lovers: they show live cycling throughout the season, you can buy cycling prints, biographies and even branded cycling jerseys. They also do great brunch food – my black pudding with eggs and spinach was freshly prepared with good quality ingredients. Their coffee comes from Square Mile and they use the bog standard Red Brick for milk based coffees. My flat white was unremarkable – it was served lukewarm and the milk had been over-frothed so it did not integrate fully with the coffee. The espresso was light and citrusy and would have been a great partner to a properly prepared microfoam.
Machine: Kees Van Der Westen Mirage
Coffee score: 4/10
Food score: 8/10
Workshop roast their own beans and supply many of London’s independent coffee shops. The interior is slick, metropolitan with polished wood and exposed brick. My flat white had wonderful milk treatment – the microfoam was very creamy and beautifully integrated with the coffee. The espresso had bags of dark chocolate and hints of sherry and raisins – uncomplicated, but perfect for a milk-based coffee. For me, Workshop serves the best coffee in London.
Machine: Synesso Cyncra
Coffee score: 9.5/10
The east side of the square mile has a dearth of decent coffee shops which is odd given the long working hours and high caffeine requirement of the local bankers, brokers and barrow boys. For good coffee I would recommend stepping outside of the city and heading for White Mulberries next to Tower Bridge in St Katharine docks. They use Allpress coffee and also have a range of guest roasts. The shop is right next to the docks and has outside seating with a great view of the moored yachts. My flat white was served piping hot and the milk treatment was very good – the espresso was quite a dark roast and stood up well to the creaminess of the milk.
Machine: La Marzocco
Coffee score: 7/10
Just about the only Clapham entry in the London Coffee Guide, Black Lab has been open since 2010. The owners (a couple of Aussies) source their coffee from Climpson & Sons of Hackney and treat it with antipodean care. My long black was citrusy and fresh, a bit soft for my taste but certainly well treated. I also had a decent coffee and walnut cake (I think they are from Konditor & Cook) which was fresh and light.
Machine: Gaggia D90
Coffee score: 6/10
The original branch of the Tap chain is still the best; situated opposite Lima on a Fitzrovian backstreet, the interior is stylishly unkempt and the house roasted coffee exquisite. This is one of the best flat whites in London and it comes served with a retro crested teaspoon. They also have a good range of baking and sandwiches.
Machine: Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II T3
Coffee score: 8/10