Ask most Italians about where to drink a good espresso in London, and you’ll more than likely be met with silence. Truth is, Italians are quite picky when it comes to their favourite brew, even more so when outside Italy.
Most Italians I spoke to agreed that the south of Italy serves up the best espresso. Rich, bold, and with no acidic aftertaste — a good Sicilian espresso will usually hit the spot.
In the last 10 years, London has seen many independent coffee bars pop up in the capital. The more upcoming the area, the more likely an independent coffee shop will be there. Flat white, espresso, latte, cappuccino, you name it, they have it. That, plus a little latte artistry on top.
Less talking, more (espresso) drinking
Without stalling any further, these are the places where Italians (that I asked) go for their espresso fix in London.
The takeaway espresso
Algerian Coffee Shop – 52 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 4PB
The Algerian Coffee Shop has been around longer than most places in London’s Soho area (1887 in fact). They offer over 80 coffees and 120 teas from around the world, and are continuously adding to their list.
The espresso is a no-frills experience as it comes in a basic takeaway cup. However, Davide claims the coffee is ‘good quality, creamy’ and with ‘good service.’ At £1 a cup, it’s also incredibly cheap, especially for Soho.
Find them here.
The espresso in a chocolatier
Venchi – various branches around London, see website for more details
A visit to Venchi is double the pleasure for your palate. This chocolatier, originally from Italy, has been delighting people with its mouthwatering range of specialty chocolates since 1878. What’s not known is that Venchi also serves up a mean cup of espresso.
Related post: My road trip around Italy – part one: Sicily to Perugia
Cristiana tells me that the espresso ‘is good quality coffee, creamy and not sour.’
A single espresso costs £1.90, while a robust double will set you back £2.10.
Find them here.
The franchise espresso
Nude Coffee Roasters, various branches, see website for more details
I was slightly surprised by this recommendation, as many Italians don’t typically rave about franchise coffee shops. Nude Coffee Roasters is originally from Australia and New Zealand, and made its London debut in 2008.
Davide (no.2!) couldn’t be more complimentary: ‘The staff are really friendly, knowledgeable and have very good coffee for a small chain.’ What’s more, he says that they’re ‘really serious about coffee, as they have their own roasting place near Brick Lane.’
He’s right. Nude Coffee Roasters opened a roastery in 2014, which included the installation of the most eco-friendly roaster on the market.
An espresso/macchiato costs £2.40.
The hidden espresso
SoHostel Coffee Club, 91 Dean Street, London W1D 3SY
If you go down to Soho today, you’re sure to find a good espresso surprise. What you may not know, is that there’s a little hidden gem lurking in Dean Street.
You can find SoHostel Coffee Club right next door to the popular backpacker’s favourite, SoHostel. If you’re picturing this coffee haunt as a basic, mediocre establishment, think again. Inside is a vibrant and stylish decor, with more importantly, reasonably priced coffee.
Francesco tells me ‘there’s a barista from Salerno whose attention to detail is good, so he knows how to deliver a good product.’ Moreover, ‘the coffee tastes smooth, dense, intense and not sour.’
A cup of espresso costs a purse-friendly £1.70.
Find them here.
The classic espresso
Caffe Vergnano – various branches around London, see website for more details
Luciano Franchi opened the first branch of Caffe Vergnano in London in 2002. The Charing Cross Road branch quickly became a firm favourite with Londoners and Italians alike.
When asked why Caffe Vergnano makes a good espresso, Alessandro replied, ‘because it’s creamy, velvety and full bodied’.
Related post: My road trip around Italy – part two: Siena to Veneto
What’s more, it has a long finish and they make the espresso using the impressive Elektra Belle Epoque machine. If you’re curious to find out why Caffe Vergnano is an award-winning coffee shop, you’ll have to go there and find out for yourself.
A single espresso costs £2.00 and double is £2.60.
Nb – prices correct as of March 2017