Every capital city in Europe has a casual dining culture that transcends eating. Paris has its patisseries, Rome has its espresso bars and Berlin has its bakeries, and they all act as a symbolic extension of the people who use them.
For London, it is the caffs (not cafes).
London has a rich history of coffeehouses and cafes dating back to the 17th century. The establishments played a vital role in the intellectual and cultural life of the city, with prominent figures such as writers, artists, philosophers, and politicians frequenting cafes as meeting places for discussion, debate, and the exchange of ideas.
The caffs of London have served as inspirational spaces for renowned writers and artists. From the bohemian cafes of the Bloomsbury Group, including The Café Royal and The Fitzroy Tavern, to the modern-day haunts like The Troubadour and The Wolsley.
They also act as an expression of life in the city, encompassing the incredible diversity and multiculturalism London has to offer as well as providing an escape from the fast-paced city life and offer a welcoming environment for people to relax, work, or socialise.
As neighborhood anchors, caffs foster a sense of belonging and community cohesion. They are spaces where friendships are formed, business meetings are conducted, and ideas are shared, strengthening social bonds within the city.
Here’s a pick of the best:
1. Normans Cafe: A Modern Expression
Tucked away in a quaint corner of London, Normans Café is a true delight for those seeking an authentic café experience. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air as you step inside, and the friendly staff makes you feel right at home. Indulge in their delectable pastries and hearty English breakfast while admiring the vintage décor that transports you to a bygone era.
2. Regency Cafe: A Taste of Nostalgia
A favorite among locals and tourists alike, Regency Cafe has stood the test of time since it first opened its doors in 1946. This iconic café is a true homage to traditional British culture, with its retro ambiance and classic English breakfast. From their mouthwatering bacon sandwiches to fluffy eggs cooked to perfection, Regency Cafe is a must-visit for any café connoisseur.
3. Billingsgate Cafe: A Market Treat
Situated near the historic Billingsgate Fish Market, Billingsgate Cafe is a hidden gem for seafood enthusiasts. Start your day with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a plate of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. The café’s vibrant atmosphere and friendly staff create the perfect backdrop for indulging in their delicious seafood offerings. Whether you prefer a traditional fish and chips or a seafood platter, Billingsgate Cafe is sure to tantalize your taste buds.
4. E. Pellicci: A family-run caff in Bethnal Green
E. Pellicci has been serving the local community since 1900. It has a charming retro interior and offers a wide range of classic British dishes and comforting comfort food.
5. Polo Bar: For 24/7 Vibes
Located near Liverpool Street Station, Polo Bar is open 24/7, making it a popular spot for late-night or early-morning comfort food. It serves classic British dishes, including pies, sandwiches, and fry-ups.
7. Beppe’s: For The Charm
Beppe’s Cafe is a charming and cozy establishment located in the heart of London. Named after its Italian founder, Beppe, this café brings a touch of Mediterranean warmth to the bustling city.
8. Casa Fabrizi: Going Nowhere
Bringing the flavors and traditions of Italy to the bustling city, Casa Fabrizi (formerly Alpino) has been supplying London with hearty fry-ups, plates of pasta, kippers and chicken escalopes since it opened in 1959 on Chapel Market.