Posted on January 28, 2014 in LUP Fall 13, Student voice, Tips by Emily
I hope you’ve all been enjoying your time in the city so far and trying your best to explore as much as possible. Exploring London is a pretty daunting task because there literally is everything for you to do. I think Samuel Johnson says it best when he says, “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Having spent 4 months there I couldn’t agree more and I’m so beyond jealous that you’re there right now.
Upon my arrival, I was trying to figure out what my “thing” in London would be. How would I conquer this city and become as much a part of it as I could. Being a Starbucks addict in the US and a wannabe hipster I decided to become a part of the London coffee shop scene. I Googled coffee shops in London and came across this awesome website called Cosy Coffee Shops. I made my “London Coffee Shop Bucket List” grabbed my Barbour and beanie and tried my hardest to fit in. Over the semester I tried to get to about one coffee shop per week in a different neighborhood or different area of a neighborhood. These are my favorites (so local).
Located right off Trafalgar’s Square and in Covent Garden this line of coffee shops has one of the best aesthetic atmospheres. It was never super crowded when I went which I liked. Big tables for going with friends or two-person ones you can take over for hours to do your Theo reading. The coffee was pretty great but there wasn’t a huge selection of pastries. Not great for breakfast pastries but wonderful afternoon muffins. My favorite part is that it turns into a wine bar at night and on Wednesdays the Covent Garden location has live music. If you pay 12 pounds ahead you’re guaranteed a table and then they take it off your bill.
This place is TINY. Don’t go expecting to sit down. Or do and make some new friends. I went there because I read that they make their own almond milk every morning. I went and they didn’t have it. Whomp. Nonetheless, my latte was stellar and I had this incredible custard pastry (upon recommendation from the barista). Since it was so tiny I went and sat in the courtyard of St. Paul’s Church by the covered market. Great place to watch old couples, birds and take in how incredibly old everything in London is.
AMAZING. This was for sure one of my favorites. I went to the location in Covent Garden by myself for a study break during finals. I didn’t know much about this shop so I walked in and ordered a cappuccino for there. When I asked to be seated they yelled back to the seating and asked if there was one seat. They said yes and I was thrown into a booth with 5 other men…apparently it was communal seating. I whipped out my Theo reading to look like I was reading when I was actually just eavesdropping on the adorable British guys next to me. I spent about an hour there just observing who came in and out of this booth. It was a super cool experience to just blend in in the back of this bustling shop and share the table with people from around the world. Another amazing thing about this place is that all of their coffee is legit fair trade. Like every coffee farm is listed on their website with an address and pictures. I heard the original shop by borough market is even better than the Covent Garden one.
Another favorite. This one is a little farther away than our easy walk to school. It’s over in Pimlico by Victoria station. Incredible and big cappuccinos but what makes this place stand out is their fresh squeezed juices and breakfast selection. If you’re a breakfast person go get the Spanish scrambler. You can thank me later. Super cool atmosphere – the menu is written on a chalkboard and there are big and small tables. A little off the beaten path so a fun adventure (also if you go to Westminster Cathedral for mass you can go there after – super close).
Superb. And not just because it’s my name. This classy posh establishment is in Chelsea off King’s Road. Tube to Sloane Square. Walk down King’s Road drooling over Reiss, Jigsaw, French Connection and LK Bennett and Megan’s will be on your left after the Town Hall. Amazing place for a healthy lunch (daily made salads, soup and fish) and delicious cappuccino. If you’re lucky they might be filming “Made in Chelsea.” And quite obviously it turns into a wine bar at night.
Another winner. Off the beaten road in Chelsea. Great for breakfast, people watching and feeling like you actually belong there. Highly recommend their squeezed juices and scrambled eggs. There’s a location right in Somerset house too. One of the best cups of coffee I had all semester and beautifully close to Conway.
I went here with some friends for a quick lunch and tea after work one day. You feel like you’re in a magical tea forest with fabulous people all around you. Obviously it would be in Chelsea in Sloane Square. We had sandwiches, tea and cookies and it was all wonderful!! I wish I could go back and try everything. They were some of the most beautiful pastries I’ve ever seen.
Another fun place in Soho. Coffee wasn’t super standout but the breakfast was incredible. One word…avocado. My friend got an avocado and goat cheese toastie and I was super jealous. I did enjoy my avocado and scrambled eggs though. Fairly close to school so it’s perfect for a study break or grabbing breakfast/coffee before class.
This one is one of the best locations because it can be quite difficult to find. I highly recommend looking for it on a map before you leave Conway and then getting lost in the streets of Soho on the way there. My favorite thing about Speakeasy is the selection of pastries. If you’re gluten free this place is for you. Their gluten free carrot cake was the bomb.
If not a coffee person, I hope this at least inspires you to go out and find something to make London your own. Get lost in the locals, explore by yourself, fake a British accent if you can. It’s way too much fun to get caught up in the daily life of London. One video that really inspired me for my semester in London was the book called “This is Water.” It’s about noticing the little things in life that we so easily pass by, like fish noticing that they are swimming in water. I found the book in video form. Check it out here.
Feel free to find me on Facebook or send me an email if you’re looking for “parent visit” restaurants (mine came three times…), more breakfast joints or additional coffee shops.
– Megan Pelino (London Undergraduate Program Fall ’13)
Image by Kevin Walsh under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic / Image by Giulia Mule under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic / Image by Stephengg under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic / Image by Sela Yair under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic