Coffee shops in central London

September 17, 2015 | Theo Kokonas

In a cosmopolitan city like London you’re spoilt for choice when looking for things to do.  Of all the entertainment available, my age has led me to enjoy most of all a nice sit-down at a cafe with a good friend and allow the jibber-jabber to run its course.  I don’t even like coffee (!) but the whole experience of a friendly, non-alcoholic time-out from the day is exactly the sort of thing that tickles my fancy.
For those that enjoy their coffee immensely, I’ve been told that Cafe Fratelli is the place to go (particularly if you’re at Oxford Circus) by a couple of self-proclaimed coffee snobs.  I went there recently and was a tad miffed by the fact that the loo was closed half an hour before closing time.  I asked if I could use it and the staff said they were being cleaned and wouldn’t open again.  I can understand staff wanting to leave for home quickly after closing time but denying a paying customer of a quick use of the facilities I personally found a bit shit.  My coffee drinking accomplice at the time was too enamoured by her coffee to note my grievances.
For those that like their tea and would like to be spoilt for choice, Camelia’s tea house used to be the place to go (just off Carnaby Street) but sadly has shut down.  They are looking for new premises so it’s worth keeping an eye out on that business.  It was one of the few places in London where you had a) a lovely setting, b) knowledgeable, friendly staff and c) so many teas you could spend an hour deciding on the different options.
London tends to attract droves of tourists (particularly during the warmer months), and coupled with a high concentration of people working in Central London you have a fairly captive audience when it comes to places to have coffee.
A recent cafe experience in a Soho cafe wasn’t so much the service (which was fine) or the hot chocolate I ordered (which was also fine) but rather the establishment’s cake management.  Joolz (you guessed it, Joolz of Joolzguides fame) and I were their last customers for the evening which gave us good insight into what gets done to close the cafe for the night.  It all was pretty straightforward and routine except for the storage of the cakes themselves:  Those lovely looking cakes were placed onto trays and slid onto rafters hung on the walls we were sitting in.  This would all be fine if the room was refrigerated (it wasn’t, we were sitting there), or if the cakes were covered (they weren’t, and there was the occasional fly doing its rounds).  Needless to say, I never ordered a cake from there again.  I won’t mention the name of the place but if you’re around Soho and you come across an enticing, quaint French-looking place with gorgeous cakes in the windows you’re in for a disappointment.

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Theo Kokonas

Theo is a Londoner of Greco-Australian extraction, living the dream of the daily commute from Sutton to London. He likes to tell you how many weights he can bench (without protein shakes!)

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  1. JoolzJoolz says

    Theo! I know exactly the place you mean! I remember that installment of Joolz and Theo contemplate the world and its issues.