Brill Cafe

Brill is a lovely local cafe in Exmouth Market. The Flat White is near perfect.

Brill Exmouth Market
Brill is a combination music store and cafe in Exmouth Market.

Milk is a smooth texture. Temperature is lukewarm (not as hot as most, but perfect for drinking as soon as it arrives). Taste is smooth and mellow. Recommended.

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Coffee cups of London

I’ve just finished a pilgrimage to 24 independent cafes. I’ll be posting short reviews focussing on the coffee, the whole coffee and nothing but the coffee. No more comments about music, architecture, staff, wifi or ambiance. For the next few weeks it’s all about what is the best coffee in london.

Best coffee in London
I’ve been hunting for the best coffee in London

From small coffee carts to large roasters and hidden independent cafes I’ve tried as many coffees as I can. I’ve had a a Flat White and a Latte in each cafe so I’ll be summarising my thought on the best Flat White in London.

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Dose Espresso

Dose Espresso was the first cafe that we visited in Clerkenwell. We were exploring the Barbican while apartment hunting and needed a coffee to help brace us for the steep local property prices. It was early days in London for us so I was pretty impressed when we bumped into two Sloan Rangers in mock riding gear. I thought to myself, this is a haven of modern classiness in a sea of grungy hipsters. In the year or so since then, Dose has continued to impress as a clean, efficient and modern cafe. City bankers mix easily with Farringdon web designers and Clerkenwell architects.

Dose Cafe in Farringdon
The latte at Dose is small but perfectly formed.

The seating, architecture and vibe are welcoming, but not too welcoming. The staff aren’t quite “too cool for school” but somehow the whole layout does make you accutely aware that you are somewhere that knows that it’s “cool”.

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Flat White Cafe

Flat White in Soho started in 2005 before the flat white was widely available in the UK. It was the original antipodean cafe in London and therefore the first place that I went when we landed in London after living in Colorado for a ski season.

Flat White in Soho
A flat white from Flat White and a peak of the best chocolate brownie in London.

I vividly remember the feeling of sitting in Flat White in Soho on a grey London day. Homesick for the fist time and hearing the first New Zealand accents that I’d heard in months. Suddenly I understood China Town in San Francisco, the Jewish Quarter in Paris or the British expat bars in Asia. When we are a long way from home, we take some comfort in familiar accents, customs and foods.

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Coming Soon Cafe

Once you get more into coffee, you might start to ask yourself why you can’t choose the coffee beans that go into your flat white. It’s almost always a generic blend chosen by the cafe and there is no chance for you to learn by tasting different beans.

Coming Soon Cafe
You have a choice of single origin beans for your flat white at Coming Soon

The same thought occured to architect Hoi Chi Ng and the itch eventually turned into The Coming Soon Pop-up Cafe in Exhibit Gallery at the Barbican. Hoi Chi is using as many different beans as he can get his hands on. This is a definite journey of discovery for him, but he’s inviting all of us to come on the journey with him.

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Nude Espresso

Nude Espresso in Soho and Shoreditch are probably the best cafes in London. Prufrock and others may have great coffee, but Nude seem to always have the right mix of staff, music, interiors, clientele and vibe. Nude Shoreditch is my idea of the perfect cafe. Big enough to find a seat at any hour, but small enough to feel local. Consistently good coffee and a great ambiance. But this review focusses on my most frequented cafe in London, Nude Soho.

Nude Espresso Flat White
The Mocha, Flat White and Latte from Nude in Soho are excellent.

When I was working in Soho at a PR firm, the Soho branch of Nude Espresso was my daily regular. I was mostly drinking takeaways but we used to go there as a team for a sit down whenever we got the chance. Now that I’ve finished up that gig, I still make the pilgrimage to the Soho branch for a quiet coffee on the weekend or drop by for an occasional city hangout.

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St Ali Workshop London

St Ali is a Melbourne based cafe that has made the leap into London whole-heartedly. Their cafe in Clerkenwell started slowly but is now one of the benchmarks for modern cafes in London.

St Ali London
St Ali in Clerkenwell makes an excellent Latte

St Ali London have recently changed their name to Workshop Coffee. The name change helps give the UK outlets their identity. I’m not sure I like the change but the coffee is still good.

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World Barista Championships London

The 2010 World Barista Championships were a turning point in the coffee culture in London. Suddenly, London was on show to the world and the new wave independent cafes had a chance to shine.

World Barista Championships
Map of venues associated with the World Barista Championships

The 2009 champion Gwilym Davies provided inspiration and the 2010 championship left a lasting impression on coffee culture in London.

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