The first coffee houses to open in London were brewing grounds for novel ideas in the fields of science and culture. People from all walks of life gathered to socialise, read newspapers and discuss current affairs: it was here that the physicist Isaac Newton debated with astronomer Edmund Halley about the orbits of the planets.
Now London’s café society is being revived by a refreshing new trend for social and cultural innovation, with all sorts of speciality services on offer along with a cup of coffee. Fancy some laser printing alongside your latte, or would you rather read a book or play a board game? There are even places which cater for the capital’s pampered pets as well as their owners. Here’s where to find the perfect pick-me-up for creatives, commuters, cat-lovers and anyone else who enjoys a cup of coffee in surroundings with a great social ambience.
At Ziferblat in Old Street, you could browse the bookshelves or view an art exhibition while you enjoy refreshments. Customers are charged according to the length of their stay, which includes unlimited tea and biscuits. Just take an alarm clock from a cupboard upon arrival, note the time, and keep it with you until you leave. A flat rate of five pence per minute, or £3 an hour, applies.
Makers CAFÉ specialises in laser cutting and 3D printing (read our interview with them here). Customers are invited to grab a coffee from la Marzocco in Old Shoreditch Sation, and make use of the collaborative space to develop their creative ideas, with the back-up of technical support. Through interactive workshops and themed events, the café aims to make 3D printing and laser-cutting accessible to pretty much anyone with a laptop.
Shoreditch is also the location for Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium – a home for rescued cats, where customers can relax and enjoy lunch or high tea surrounded by feline friends. Check out the kittycam on the website if you’d like to see how cute they are. If there’s a cafe for cats, there has to be one for canines too, and sure enough, Scooby’s Boutique is the place. The dog-friendly café in Muswell Hill offers a selection of treats including “dog-gestives” and “Flap Jack Russells” for its four-legged friends, in addition to fresh coffee, cakes and biscuits for its human customers.
Inside the Cereal Killer Cafe, Brick Lane. Image credit: Bianca Dubois
Based in Brick Lane, Cereal Killer Café claims to be the country’s first eatery to serve only cereal – offering over 120 different varieties from around the world, with a choice of 30 different types of milk and 20 toppings. Enjoy your favourite cereal for breakfast, lunch or even dinner in nostalgic surroundings decorated with memorabilia from the 80s and 90s.
Draughts in Haggerston offers a wide range of board games for customers to enjoy along with snacks and drinks. Customers are charged a cover fee for entry, and are welcome to bring their own board games or to buy one of the games available at the café. There are theme nights, tournaments and workshops led by professional board game designers.
Look Mum No Hands! is equipped with a workshop, with mechanics on hand for bicycle repairs and maintenance. The cycle-themed café also hosts a variety of events, from film screenings to knitting classes and speed dating nights.
In among all the newcomers, let’s not forget well-established venues like the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, the home of the Poetry Society since 1909, which hosts frequent evening events, including Poetry Unplugged, an open mic session held every Tuesday at 7.30pm.
The Silicon Roundabout is a good place to find corner cafes and creative spaces – take a look on a Tech City tour.
What’s your favourite unusual cafe in London? Let us know in the comments.