ONCE as common as a black cab driver giving you a reliable fare estimate, getting a decent coffee in London is now not quite the ordeal it once was. There are now plenty of cafes owned or run by New Zealanders (and Australians), offering a perfectly balanced flat white or a latte not drowned by half a pint of milk. To save you hours searching for that elusive perfect brew, not to mention wasting your hard-earned pounds, the New Zealand Times has scouted out some of the best spots. There is a slight bias towards the north side of the river, so any suggestions for places worth visiting south are more than welcome. And acknowledging that not every part of the city has a cafe worth mentioning, it’s also good to know that most Italian cafes/restaurants do a good coffee, especially if you like it short and strong. And even after their very public Mea Culpa for questionable, if technically legal, tax practices, Starbucks and its big brand cohorts are best avoided, in the interest in backing the small guy, which as Kiwis, we love doing.
Nestled on St Giles High Street, roughly located between Tottenham Court Rd and Covent Garden, Damson is a central London oasis for those looking to escape the hoards of West End shoppers, and overabundance of overpriced tourist traps. Managed by Hester, a New Zealander, expect friendly service, fresh food, and most importantly, a damn-fine cup of Red Brick (from Square Mile) coffee. The large table in the middle helps foster a welcome conviviality among customers and staff, and when the sun shines, the open french doors can help transport you away from the central city, in the mind anyway.
Address: 64 St Giles High Street, London, WC2H 8LE. www.damsoncafe.com
While Kiwis are rightly proud of introducing the world to the flat white, Englishmen Jason and Ian at Merito Coffee have gone a long way to perfecting it. You can find their stall outside the Hampstead Theatre by the Swiss Cottage tube from Tuesday to Friday, and at the trendy Broadway Market in Hackney on Saturdays. The pair are always up for a chat, about absolutely anything, and have a funky home-made drip filter system for those so inclined.
Expat Kiwis George Wallace and Nick Coates run this joint, which is well worth a trip south for those reluctant to travel over the river. Located in the Brixton Village Market, worthy of a visit in its own right for fancy boutique shops and some eclectic food, Federation now roasts its own beans, and provides a taste of home with Anzac biscuits and the like.
Address: Unit 77-78, Brixton Village Market, London SW9 8PS. www.federationcoffee.com
A visit to the behemoth that is Westfield Shepherds Bush is something to be avoided at all costs. If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself there, a trip to Sacred Cafe is a must if you want to keep your sanity intact. Unashamedly Kiwi in outlook, it balances its slick operation with good honest coffee. Sacred Cafe has six locations around London.
If you are in Shepherds Bush (which, let’s face it, as a Kiwi you will be at some stage) and have managed to avoid the mall (congratulations), Hummingbird Cafe is your best bet for coffee and tea. Run by a Kiwi/Moroccan couple, it also serves Square Mile beans. Doubles as a cosy spot for a meal and drink.
Address: 1c Oaklands Grove, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 0JD. www.hummingbirdcafe.co.uk
Mixes tasty and healthy food with its own blend of locally roasted coffee. A perfect spot to unwind after a day spent cruising the Brick Lane/ Spitalfields area. When it’s busy (which it usually is), it’s well worth the often long wait. Have also just discovered they have a cafe in Soho as well.
Address: 26 Hanbury St, London, E1 6QR/ 19 Soho Square London W1D 3QN www.nudeespresso.com
Ginger and White.
Ginger and White have three locations (Hampstead, Belsize Park and Soho), and while it is a proudly British operation, has a very south Pacific feel. Delicious sweets compliments the coffee, and it serves breakfast all day, which is perfect for those suffering the effects of the night before.
Clearly a host of awesome coffee spots will be missing from this list. If you have any suggestions, add them to the comment section below.