As a coffee lover with an aversion to working from home, one of the first things I do when I move to a new city is to suss out the best local cafés for me to work in.
Last year, I wrote a blog post about Barcelona’s surprisingly burgeoning café culture (in a nutshell: the city has a surprising number of tree-lined narrow streets harbouring independent coffee-shops that are filled with locals hidden behind a laptop or book). But would I find such rich pickings on my return to London that summer?
As The Big Smoke is so spread out, it can be tricky to thoroughly explore what it has to offer in a short space of time. Consequently, discovering the quota of its cafés will take time and patience. However, having already embarked on my quest to find a decent place to rest and put pen to paper (or, rather, fingers to keyboard), here are four places that I have sanctioned thus far.
Take note, whilst all of these spots are definitely conducive to a couple of hours’ worth of writing, I have no idea what their rules are regarding freelancers using their space for particularly long periods of time.
Idyllically located on The Mall, the Institute of Contemporary Arts has a cool, relaxed and understated feel to it – a rare quality to find in the centre of London. A regular visitor to its medium-sized café, I always feel at home here, and have never felt awkward about using one of its tables as my work-place for the morning. Seldom overly-busy and designed in a fresh, contemporary (obviously) and minimal way, it’s a good spot for those who – like me – appreciate their own space when freelancing. Established 70 years ago, it is a membership institute “promoting and encouraging an understanding of radical art and culture”. It’s worth checking out its colourful programme of exhibitions, films, talks and events whilst your there.
I stumbled across Look Mum No Hands! whilst strolling down Old Street, E2, searching for a place to hide away with a cup of coffee and prepare for a meeting. Part café, part bicycle workshop, it has a laid-back but hands-on feel that is great for those wishing to do a bit of reading or note-taking. There are plenty of magazines lying around to peruse at your leisure, and even hosts a plethora of cool events, such as a live screening of the annual Milan-San Remo on the 22nd March.
The Café at Sonos Studio was specifically recommended to me by a writer, so it’s no surprise that it is now one of my favourite spots. Situated in the nucleus of Shoreditch, it is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 6.30pm. With work-appropriate music (from indie-folk to dream pop), plenty of vibrant foliage, good quality coffee and a creative clientele, this venue will attract freelancers with a penchant for flat-whites and east London vibes.
Cosy in size and bursting with quaint antique furniture, this coffee house must be the raison d’etre for most residents of Canonbury Road, N1. It opened in the summer of 2011, when baking guru Kim “gave up her career in advertising” and joined forces with coffee-loving Kostas to follow their shared vocation of having their own coffee shop. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up taking countless photos of the eclectic interior design and nicely crafted hot drinks.