Cafes


Cafés

Last updated: 26 October 2013


Bar Italia ****
22 Frith Street, W1D 4RP. (020) 7437 4520

Founded in 1949, the family-run Bar Italia is one of London's oldest Italian coffee bars. It stays open extremely late (almost all-night at weekends) and is nothing short of an institution. The coffee is expensive but usually pretty good. The panini are mouth-wateringly delicious (I recommend sun-dried tomato, mozzarella and basil) and are much cheaper than the pizzas. The cakes are also excellent, but avoid the croissants. The interior is small but oh so stylish — with one wall completely mirrored — and is only spoiled by the large TV screen and fruit machines. The pavement seating is great for people-watching and is in use all year round; in the winter, outdoor heaters and canopies are employed to protect customers from the elements.

Gastronomia Italia ****
8 Upper Tachbrook Street, SW1V 1SH. (020) 7834 2767

A traditional Italian snack bar and delicatessen in Pimlico which serves wonderful food and decent coffee. As well as the delicious pasta, they also make fresh sandwiches to order using any of the many ingredients from the deli counter. There is pavement seating in use during fair weather, but the inside itself is so small that it only has room for one table. Regulars tend to eat on their feet while chatting with the friendly proprietor, which gives the place a warm and welcoming neighbourhood feel.

Marine Ices ****
8 Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm, NW3 2BL. (020) 7482 9003

Café, restaurant and gelateria artigianale serving lovely ice-cream and some of the best sorbets in London. Established in 1931, this Italian ice-cream parlour has gone from strength to strength. The interior is fairly standard fare, with the café section decidedly smarter-looking than the restaurant. The walls are decorated throughout with framed autographs of Marine's many famous customers. It's worth noting that the restaurant is very popular with families and is therefore often over-run by noisy children. Not the place for a quiet date! It's also worth knowing that the coffee is sadly not up-to-scratch and that the service can sometimes be a little slow. The food, however, is quite simply in a league of its own. My personal favourites are the spaghetti al pomodoro and the heavenly strawberry sorbet (try it and I promise you'll be addicted).

E. Pellicci ****
332 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AG. (020) 7739 4873

From its steel logo and classic Vitrolite exterior panels to the beautiful marquetry interior crafted by Achille Capocci in 1946, Pellicci's is a stunning example of a classic Anglo-Italian café. It was originally opened in 1900 by the Pellicci family but was substantially remodelled in the late 1940s. It's unique Art Deco design is so special that it was awarded Grade II listed building status by English Heritage in 2005 — one of only two 20th Century cafés to be so protected (the other one being the former S&M Cafe on Essex Road — originally Alfredo's). Still run by the Pelliccis, this popular café is an East End institution and forms a social hub for the area. Catering primarily for breakfast and lunch, the café opens from 7am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday. The greasy spoon menu includes all the traditional English breakfast ingredients as well as a set vegetarian breakfast and some classic Italian pasta dishes. An espresso coffee is a must, but I would suggest avoiding the cappuccino.

Princi ****
135 Wardour Street, W1F 0UT. (020) 7478 8888

Princi were already well established in Milan when they opened shop in London's Italian quarter in late 2008 and must now rank as the best Italian patisserie (pasticceria) in Soho. The decor is modern and minimalist and the place has a very urban Italian feel to it. The friendly staff are all Italian, as are a large proportion of the customers. They conveniently open from 7am till midnight (9am-10pm on Sundays) and throughout the day bake lovely fresh croissants, brioches, cakes, pizza al taglio, pasta and rustici (make sure you ask for your food to be heated if you want it hot). The initally reasonable prices have unfortunately gone up now though, making this an expensive place to eat. The quality of the coffee seems to vary depending on the barista; at times it can be perfect, while at other times very disappointing. The tiramisù is also rather unusual in that it is made with orange flavoured cream; not a taste that works for me personally. But other than that, there are no complaints and I envisage Princi remaining a fixture for many years to come. Custom is so good in fact, that it is now usually impossible to find a place to sit.

Richoux ****
172 Piccadilly, W1J 9EJ. (020) 7493 2204

Open 7 days a week, this elegant restaurant and patisserie radiates early 20th Century charm. It serves a lovely afternoon tea as well as all day English and Continental breakfasts.

The Troubadour ****
263-7 Old Brompton Road, SW5 9JA. (020) 7370 1434

This famous café has great decor, a fantastic atmosphere and a lovely little garden out the back (which is great for the summertime). The place is truly unique and needs to be seen to be believed. The only faults I can find are the lack of malt vinegar for the chips and the variable quality of the coffee. In February 2002, the café (which opened in 1958) was expanded; the management having taken over the premises on either side of the original Troubador. There is also a club in the basement which hosts live music.

Amalfi ***
29-31 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JS. (020) 7437 7284

A small but beautifully decorated Italian café which adjoins the restaurant of the same name. Apparently they've been trading since 1963. The ice-cream is nice, but I cannot recommend the coffee.

The Poetry Café ***
22 Betterton Street, WC2H 9BX. (020) 7420 9887

A friendly café hidden down a small Covent Garden back street. They usually do a decent cappuccino and also serve alcohol. The basement hosts a poetry club with regular readings. The café itself is decorated with some lovely contemporary paintings and the shelves are lined with poetry books, available to read over a coffee. It's not as busy as nearby Soho's coffee bars, and hence makes a nice relaxing change. Many of the clientèle naturally tend to be artists and poets.

Pogo Café ***
76 Clarence Road, Hackney, E5 8HB. (020) 8533 1214

Pogo is one of London's only independent vegan cafés. It's a relaxed space, run entirely by volunteers and has an arty, bohemian feel to it. It does nice food, including a very good vegan ice cream, though the coffee is somewhat disappointing.

ScooterCaffè ***
132 Lower Marsh, SE1 7AE (020) 7620 1421

Previously known as Scooterworks, this old-fashioned, Italian-style coffee bar in Waterloo was once a scooter shop. The coffee is usually very good and is made using a beautiful, vintage Gaggia espresso machine. In the summer, seating is also available in the small back yard. A nice place to relax or meet friends. Open until 11pm most days.

Zippy ***
42 Goldhawk Road, W12 8DH. (020) 8740 5473

An original 60s burger bar which serves great vegetable burgers as well as a huge range of delicious milkshakes. The Zippy Bar started out life as part of a sister chain to the Wimpy, but this Shepherd's Bush branch is now the only one left. Its great interior has been untouched in around 40 years and boasts red leather seating, chrome bar and bar stools. They even still have the original hand-operated milkshake mixer. The chocolate and caramel flavour shakes are particularly nice, but I wouldn't recommend the coffee flavour.


Tinseltown **
44-46 St. John Street, EC1M 4DF. (020) 7420 9887

Tinseltown is a diner and milkshake bar situated between Barbican and Farringdon tube stations. It used to open 24/7 but unfortunately its opening hours have now been reduced. It is located in a basement which, as the name suggests, is decorated with a Hollywood theme. Although I can't personally vouch for the rest of the food, the veggie burgers and chips are delicious, and the large range of milkshakes are divine (I highly recommend the Mars Bar flavour). Internet access is also available. Popular with the post-club crowd, the only criticism I can make of the place is regards the state of its toilets at night.