BEST COFFEE SHOPS IN LONDON

What would I do without coffee? It’s been a part of my routine for basically my whole adult life, making it’s grand entrance to support me through my dissertation like a hot, black, pair of crutches. Before that, it was builder’s tea. Strong but milky. But tea just wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore and I needed propping up with something stronger. Enter Arabica beans and their mysterious energy-giving, wallet-draining powers.

Coffee is such a big part of my day now that I’m wondering what my life would look like if those little beans never existed. Meegan and I had our first date at a coffee shop. I’ve made good friends over coffee. I had a big career move into the coffee industry. To be honest, it probably wouldn’t have been that different. I’d probably be writing a blog about where to find the best Earl Grey in London instead. Basically, I needed to find a way to share my heartfelt belief that life really is too short for shit coffee, so I’m writing this blog.

Let’s face it, there are too many London cafés for one person to write about in a lifetime. And I’ve probably been to less than 1% of them. But I’ve had okay coffee here, bad coffee there, and unbelievably good coffee in a certain few places. These are my Hall of Famers. And like my Vegan Food in London post, I’ve added the closest tube stations, ‘cause that’s just the kind of guy I am.

Friends Of Ours, Old Street

What is it about Australians and good coffee? I swear, if the barista serving me has an Aussie accent I’m almost guaranteed to get an amazing cup of joe. I spoke to a friend from Brisbane about this recently and they said bad coffee just doesn’t exist Down Under. That philosophy can’t come to these shores quick enough! When Brits do bad coffee we do not-fit-for-human-consumption coffee.

Back to Friends Of Ours; if you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know I love this place, if you don’t follow me, come say hi! FOO do a great Americano, their filter is always spot on, and their vegan options are cracking too. Also worth mentioning the front of their shop is a sun trap, making it the perfect spot for a brew and some Vitamin D.

Hucks, Walthamstow Central

Tucked away in Walthamstow Village is the coffee shop slash music venue, Hucks. By day it’s a cosy little hideaway in a quiet and idyllic part of East London. By night, it’s an intimate music space and cocktail bar.

The charm is certainly in the almost-Parisian vibe the building emits, but the coffee is well worth a trip too. I love taking my laptop here at the weekends and getting lost in work, powered by a conveyor belt of great filter coffee. They also do a mean veggie and hummus sandwich which is perfect with a bag of Soffles, the baked pitta bread chips that are waaaay better than a bag of standard crisps.

Roasting Plant, London Bridge

If you want variety and fancy yourself as a bit of a coffee connoisseur, Roasting Plant just south of the river on London Bridge needs to be on your visit list. The coffee menu behind the counter is bigger than I’ve ever seen and the beans are beautifully displayed in big clear tubes on the opposite side of the shop.

Place your order with the barista and a complex system of vacuum tubes running along the walls and ceiling transports your coffee beans straight to the machine where they’re ground and brewed into incredibly good coffee. The whooshing, tinkling sound of the beans shooting around the café is something of spectacle and the final brew is sublime. I had a cup of Jamaican Blue Reserve last time I was there and whilst it was pretty pricey, it was unlike any coffee I’d ever tasted before. Not to be missed.

Vagabond, Highbury & Islington

When I first came to London I worked in the north of the city. I was commuting from Sheffield at the time (it’s brutal, don’t try it) and Vagabond became something of an escape for me. The small garden at the back of the café is insulated from the hum of the busy main road out front and provided enough quiet for me to relax over a frankly outstanding caffeine hit.

This was the first coffee shop I found that did V60, my personal go-to. I remember watching the barista weigh out the coffee on a small digital scale, carefully get the temperature of the water just right, and painstakingly brew a phenomenal cup of coffee over about 15 minutes. The result was a naturally sweet, floral, coffee that completely changed my view on what great coffee was.

Dark Habit, Queens Park

Dark Habit is where science meets coffee. Never have I seen so much consistent care and attention taken over the coffee-making process; I’ve stopped here more than a few times and am always blown away by the quality. Everything in this small North-West London café is about the art of good coffee and it’s stripped-back, minimal decor gently reassures you to put your phone away, shut the laptop off, and get lost in a phenomenal cup.

Dark Habit really are all about the coffee and I can’t recommend them highly enough. They don’t do food so if it’s lunch you want, I’d recommend stopping off at one of the many brilliant food places on Salusbury Road. The falafel wraps at Mount Olive are my favourite. Head to the back of this unassuming convenience store for amazing deli-style wraps for less than a fiver.

So that’s it, my top places for coffee in London. If your favourite isn’t here, let me know where it is and I’ll try and swing by. Good coffee with friends is one of life’s simple pleasures and I’m looking forward to seeing where you recommend!

Images by The Standard, Ozone Coffee Roasters, brownguycoffeeconnoisseur, London Coffee Guide

EAST LONDON VEGAN FOOD

One of the big changes I noticed when I developed veganism was losing the spontaneity of going into any restaurant or cafe and finding something to eat. My wife and I ate out two or three times a week so it was tough.

In the two short years since, there’s been an explosion of new vegan places washing over London like a giant wave of hummus and while I haven’t been to every one of the now over 100 fully vegan places in the city, here are my favourite places for quick, tasty food. I’ve saved you the hassle and given the closest train station so you can get there quick too. First up, it’s the Eastenders…

Biff's Jack Shack Jackfruit Wingz on a pink and blue neon background

Biff’s Jack Shack, Walthamstow, Victoria Line / Overground

Biff is getting a big reputation for his amazing ‘Wingz’ which are hand-shaped from jackfruit around an edible sugar cane ‘bone’, deep-fried, then smothered with a variety of insanely good sauces and toppings. I’m a big fan of puns (for they are the highest form of comedy) and have to give the Shack top marks for their burger names too – if you want the spicy version you’ll be ordering a ‘Sam Hell Jackson’.

They only moved into their first full-time spot at the end of 2018 but 2019 has already got off to a flier with their Spar Eat 17 partnership up and running. An unassuming space at the back of this East London convenience store has been transformed into a pink and blue neon den of vegan food.

Get there first on the Victoria Line to Walthamstow Central (20 mins from Kings Cross St. Pancras), then a short walk to the picturesque Walthamstow Village, a place that feels like it’s been teleported to London from the sleepy hills of Derbyshire.

CookDaily chickn dish in biodegradable bowl

CookDaily, London Fields, Overground

CookDaily is arguably the most well-known casual vegan food place in London. Founder, King, and his team have been serving up innovative vegan food drawing influence from Asia, the Caribbean, and elsewhere since 2015.

Having started selling their wares from the place where England football fans struggled to hold onto their beers last summer (Boxpark, for the uninitiated), CookDaily now have their own super cool place under the railway arches near London Fields.

Expect hip hop music, celebrity diners, and food that you’ll keep coming back for. My go to is the House Pad Thai or anything with their soy-based ‘chickn’ in it, combine that with a few of their spring rolls and some High Grade sauce and you’ve got a trio almost as good as the Bee Gees.

Temple of Hackney seitan fillet with chips in a rectangular white and blue bowl

Temple of Hackney, Hackney Central, Overground
In what’s a perfect example of London’s melting pot of culture, you’ll find the 100% vegan Temple of Seitan sitting right next door to a butcher shop. Irony at it’s finest. As the name suggests, their patties are made from seitan, a lightly spiced and very tasty meat substitute made from wheat.

Controversially though, I don’t go to Temple for their burgers. Sue me. Yes, it’s their creamy, facon (fake bacon) topped mac and cheese that you’ll find me wrist-deep in. If you don’t fancy a trip on the Overground, there’s also the newer Temple of Camden that’s worth checking out; it’s right by the canal so lends itself well to lazy Sunday walks along the towpath, burger and chips in hand.

Genesis Shoreditch vegan tacos on pink plates

Genesis, Shoreditch High Street, Overground

With a menu longer than a Drake album, Genesis in Spitalfields is the place to go if you want great food and something different every day of the year (only exaggerating slightly). Their store is also very Instagrammable, if you’re into that kind of thing. The only downside is having to avoid being pistol-whipped by selfie sticks as you’re finding a place to sit.

The Smoked Chorizo Tacos are always spot on and it’s well worth getting the Yuca Fries with Garlic Mayo too – if there’s a tastier chip & dip in London, I haven’t found it yet.

Colourful vegan Indian food in metal bowls

SpiceBox, Walthamstow, Victoria Line / Overground

The UK’s first vegan curry house has recently opened its doors in The ‘Stow and it’s been fully booked since. And with good reason. Founder Grace had been tweaking her recipes for three years by selling food from her front door, street food stalls, and an evening pop-up at the Hornbeam Café (great place for a vegan fry-up) and the result is a menu of unbelievably good Indian food.

I tend to go for the Jackfruit Jalfrezi but the less spicy Chick’n Korma is sublime and well worth heading to the end of the Victoria Line for. If you can’t get a table, fear not, there are lunchtime walk-ins available on the weekend and if that fails, you can always collect your food and eat it from the comfort of a Tube carriage on your way home.

Regardless of whether you’re vegan or not, these places all serve up amazing food; I’ve taken non-vegan friends and family to each of the above and had nothing but thumbs up, high fives, and promises of bringing elasticated trousers next time. There are so many great places in London now I’m going to do another post for each area but in the meantime, what’s your favourite place for casual vegan food in East London?

Images by @kimburrowsvegography, CookDaily, healthista.com, SpiceBox, & Genesis

GET THE LONDON FEELING

‘Wanderlust’ is the love of moving, a brilliant rock song, and a word that perfectly sums up my life. Before I moved to London I’d lived in over 30 different places, as far west as Wales, as far North as Sheffield, and as far east as Germany. I am not in a travelling circus.

I love London but am almost certain I’ll move again. Leaving the Big Smoke behind won’t be easy – there’s just so much to love. That’s why I’ve decided to make this list of easy things you can rely on to take you right back to the city.

Stand in your wardrobe, wearing everything you own

Woman standing in the dark with covered face, wearing scarf, hooded jacket and ski goggles

Recreate a perfect summer day on the Tube by donning way more layers than would normally be appropriate, grabbing a small candle and standing in your bedroom cupboard for half an hour. The mix of darkness, poor light, and mild suffocation will have you singing ‘Back in the Summer on the Central Line’ like Bryan Adams in no time. Thirty minutes might not be enough to get the full experience so make sure to stay in there until you see your breath dripping down the walls.

Have someone tread on your heel

London is physical. I’m basically numb to anything but a suplex from my fellow Londoners at this point. Nothing is quite as evocative of the city though, as a full de-shoeing from someone slightly miscalculating how much they can invade your personal space.

A few weeks ago I was approaching an escalator at Euston when a guy cut across the back of me, knocked my bag off my shoulder, scraped his boot down my entire left calf, and closed with a firm stamp on the back of my shoe, taking it clean off and exposing my Darth Vader sock to the world. I didn’t even look up. Just clumsily snaked my foot back into my flattened trainer and apologised to the queue of people I’d inconvenienced with my selfish need to wear two shoes.

Walk behind a smoker

Hooded man with cigarette smoke all around him, covering face with his hand

Just ahead of a grease fire, the smokiest thing in the world is the dude walking in front of you. And then the dude after him. Whether it’s a light, vampire lair mist of cigarette smoke, or a ground-zero Hiroshima cloud from a vaping machine, it’s always right ahead of you, and you’ll always inhale every last particle like you’ve just started a ‘Who Can Hold Their Breath The Longest’ competition.

There’s something about the ritual of fresh(ish) air followed by an unexpected gulp of tobacco smoke that feels so inherently London. Next time you find yourself standing in the great outdoors and missing city life, smoke an entire pack of Malboro Reds that you’ve taped together and be immediately transported back to Oxford Street.

Chuck £0.30 into the toilet

It’s a Saturday, you’ve been walking around London all day, drinking coffee and eating avocado toast like the good millennial you are. You’re on your way home and all that diuretic caffeine catches up with you. Nature is calling and asking it to leave a message will upset everyone on the Tube and certainly ruin your trousers.

You race up the escalator at Paddington, dart into the toilets, and are faced with a shiny metal barrier between you and sweet relief. That’ll be £0.30, please. Oh you don’t have it? Guess you’ll have to piss yourself then. Next time you’re away on your travels, why not bring yourself right back to Central London by throwing a handful of coins into the toilet bowl when you’re finished.

Be sure to have just changed a £20 note into two hundred 10p coins to really complete the experience.  Or save yourself the money and be whisked back to the glorious memory of the free toilets at St. Pancras. Bliss.

Hit yourself in the face with your umbrella

London man and woman holding umbrella while it's snowing

Aaah spatial awareness. There’s a drought of the stuff in London and when it rains, sadly it dries up even more. Whether it’s the common jab to the temple with those spiky things on the side, or the rarer uppercut to the jaw as it’s popped open, a bit of light umbrella assault will get you dreaming of London. Backpacks worn on both shoulders also work well for this kind of thing – look for bags so packed that the zips are barely holding them together.

Share your private info with the people around you

Most people will have a quick glance at your screen if you’re using your phone right under their nose but only on the Underground will you get an audience utterly engrossed in what you’re doing. So now you’re away from the Tube, how can you get that feeling back when you’re checking your bank balance at a restaurant in Berlin? Or working on something personal in an Italian coffee shop?

Buy yourself a mini projector and whack that sensitive information up on the wall for everyone to see. Alternatively, run around outside and shout your PIN as loud as you can. Aaaah… feels like London again.

Got any more tips for bringing a bit of the city to your life?

Images by Matthew Fournier, Jaroslav Devia, & Craig Whitehead