I recently wrote a guest post for theislingtonblog on my favourite coffee haunts in Angel Islington. As I put it together, I had a stark and uncomfortable realisation. Most of the better coffee I have in this part of east London tends to be south of Pentonville Road. More Clerkenwell than Angel. Quick sticks, I thought I’d rectify that with a tour of coffee, SoPen. That’s south of Pentonville, in case that needed further clarity.
Start at the corner of Amwell Street and Pentonville Road. Amwell is one of those cute, under-discovered places in London. Loads of local business and a huge dose of local atmosphere, yet minutes away from the centre of Angel and, conveniently, Angel tube. Head down Amwell and in seconds, on your right, you’ll come across the first stop on our tour.
61 Amwell Street, EC1R 1UR www.theethiopiancoffeecompany.co.uk 0207 502 1201
Don’t let the initial impression of National Geographic store meets urban bohemia deceive you. The ingredients may be earthy but this place is not. Ground control does brill coffee. Possibly because, like many others on this tour, they roast their own arabic beans (from the highlands of Ethiopia mind. It’s cozy chic and you can get yourself a good pastry too, even early on a Saturday morning, if needs be.
After Ground Control, you follow the water course (Amwell as the name suggests, was part of London’s original water supply and still is. Chosen back then, for it’s high ground) down toward Exmouth market. Take a detour if you choose, to Exmouth market for the likes of Caravan and Brill, but we’re looking for the less obvious. So for my money, you want to let gravity take you southwards. Cross Rosebery directly from Amwell and take a little pedestrian path with Spa Fields on your left and your right. Keep going! Follow your foodstinct, err, I mean instinct. You’ll trace the edge of St James Church garden and be spat out onto Clerkenwell Green. Ergo, stop two on our tour.
10-11 Clerkenwell Green, EC1V 0DP, www.lilymaila.com, 0207 253 4484
There, perched on the south side of the green you’ll find Lily Maila. Not only can you get a haircut (and manicure) with your coffee, but the staff will likely talk you through the history of coffee making in London. Three of us antipodeans debated the starting point of good coffee in London one afternoon. Was it Taylor Street, no. Flat White? Please. The consensus (at least to us) was that it probably was Flatwhite which bought the quality of coffee we were accustomed too to London. But certainly, it appears a whole tribe of Australian’s and New Zealanders have extended the reach of good coffee far and wide through this great city.
Having cropped follicles of all kinds, come out of the green and onto the bustle of Clerkenwell Road. Make a b-line across the underground tracks and quickly dive, into the Hatton Garden area. This oasis of Jewellers, traditional “caffs” and trendy foodstalls is a mecca of lunch time crowds in EC1. Head into the heart of the action on Leather Lane. Two worthy mentions here equal in their foodstinct, but for different reasons.
Department of Coffee Affairs
14-16 Leather Lane, EC1N, www.departmentofcoffee.co.uk, 0207 419 6906
Department of Coffee and Social affairs has had a nod from me before, mainly because their sandwiches and cakes have serious made-with-heart foodstinct. The coffee’s you’d expect are all here, served up in an uber friendly and industrial chic environment.
23-25 Leather Lane, EC1N 7TE, www.prufrockcoffee.com 0207 242 0467
With it’s double shop front, Prufrock is hard to miss. Also noteworthy are the artworks, on walls, coffee cups and the coffee machine itself. I’ve had many a lunch time latte here. Not to mention delicious brownie squares. There aren’t quite as many lunch time options as the Department… but the staff make up for that with their chitty chat and coffee knowledge. The coffee here, decidedly rich and they get the texture of the milk just right. Five star coffee, it seems.
And that’s where this coffee tour ends. Next time, I’m heading further east. I’m impressed with the way good quality, independent coffee has ballooned in London over the last few years. The fact the mainstream chains have had to add Flat White’s to their menu’s is testament to this. But it seems, without that little bit of extra something which the places on this tour have been able to find, they’ve not been able to pull off coffee with foodstinct.
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