Food & Drink

The best London cafés to kick back and relax in

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We’ve found half a dozen spots that nail European café culture

Who else has recently returned from somewhere continental a few shades browner, a couple of pounds heavier and with a newfound love of European café culture? They just get it so right. There’s no ‘grab and go’ coffees, or gallon cups of some cream-topped mocha-frappa-latte concoction. They take coffee, and the experience of drinking it, seriously. And we should all take a leaf from their book, in terms of slowing down and enjoying our daily coffee break a little bit more. With that in mind, here are six London cafés that invite you to linger a while longer.

Beam

North Londoners will undoubtedly know – and have queued for – a Beam brunch in recent years. The café’s popularity has extended far beyond the margins of leafy Crouch End, to the extent that a second, highly anticipated space is opening in Highbury’s Blackstock Road at the end of this month. And it’s not just the Mediterranean menu, huge portions and decent, Allpress coffee that draws the crowds, but also the cosy interior with large armchairs and European-style al fresco seating – ideal for catching a few rays of sun with your morning flat white.

40-41 Topsfield Road, Crouch End, N8 8PT cafebeam.co.uk

Yumchaa

No, it isn’t difficult to find good coffee in Soho. But if you want to find a café worth hiding away in with a good book, then your task suddenly becomes a lot tougher. Enter Yumchaa. An unprepossessing spot on the corner of Noel St and Berwick St, Yumchaa’s shabby chic interior invites you to stay awhile, and linger over your latte or one of their many bespoke tea blends. Large windows keep things bright and light above stairs, while the basement has temptingly squashy sofas ready to be sunk into. An oasis of calm just a stone’s throw from Oxford Street.

45 Berwick St, Soho, W1F 8SF yumchaa.com

J&A Café

Tucked away in the depths of Clerkenwell, J&A Café is the venture of Irish sisters Joanna and Aoife Ledwidge. Their bright, cheerful cafe is on the ground floor of an old diamond-cutting factory, with bare brick walls, large windows and long tables ideal for spreading out on for an afternoon with friends. With good old-fashioned Irish hospitality at the heart of the café, you can be sure of finding a warm, unpretentious welcome here, as well as a freshly-baked soda bread, homemade cake and large pots of tea. Their sheltered, bunting-strewn courtyard is just right for when the sun makes an appearance, too.

4 Sutton Lane, Clerkenwell, EC1M 5PU jandacafe.com

Gitane

From the outside, Gitane is the kind of café that wouldn’t look out of place in a trendy Parisian square. Its al fresco seats are perfectly positioned to catch the afternoon sun, meaning taking your time over your 3pm coffee – perhaps with a book in hand – is a given. However, it’s inside where the magic happens, with a vibrant breakfast and lunch menu inspired by founders Bahman and Negar Rahbari’s Persian heritage, and their family restaurant in Iran. Stop off here for lunch after a morning of meetings in the West End, and stay a while afterwards.

60 Great Titchfield St, Fitzrovia, W1W 7QF gitanelondon.co.uk

Nordic Bakery

Anyone who’s spent the summer in Scandinavia can attest to the ultimate wisdom of fika, the Swedish concept of a coffee and cake break. However, the word implies so much more than just elevenses: the Swedes see it as an essential daily ritual for catching up with friends, family and colleagues. And where better to put fika into practice than the Nordic Bakery? A Scandinavian-style café in quiet Golden Square, it’s provided the good people of Soho with traditional cinnamon buns, rye bread open sandwiches and great coffee since 2007. Gather a group together, and enjoy your own fika.

14a Golden Square, Soho,W1F 9JG nordicbakery.com

Look Mum No Hands!

The name may not be to everyone’s taste, but the friendly, convivial atmosphere of this bike workshop-cum-café will appeal to everyone – whether you’re a cycling fiend or not. Established on Old Street since 2010, cycling café LMNH serves coffee made with beans from Square Mile Coffee Roasters, and has a rotating food menu and draught beer on tap. Long scrubbed wooden tables, colourful flags and plenty of greenery ensure that, once you’re here, you won’t want to leave again for quite some time. There’s also a packed schedule of exhibitions, film screenings and live broadcasts of cycling competitions like the Tour de France.

49 Old Street, EC1V 9HX lookmumnohands.com