It may seem an unhelpful cliché to say that in the battle of the London compass points, East has it better than West when it comes to specialty coffee. It may seem an even more unhelpful cliché to say that clichés become clichés for a reason. It might be most helpful to say that somewhere between those two statements lies the truth about coffee in West London.
The reality is that as the Sprudge guide to East London details, the flowering of speciality in the city was mostly focused on its E postcodes. The most foundational roasters and cafes began there, and as drinkers of and at them made moves of their own, they tended to congregate around there, too. It’s important to remember that all of this was still not even 15 years ago, and that the diffusion into Central London’s bustle was always going to be quicker than the more residential areas of West London.
But as one can find bad coffee anywhere, one can find excellent coffee anywhere too, and a surfeit of shops—some on busy shopping thoroughfares, others firmly embedded on residential streets—are ensuring that any modern coffee drinker wanting to understand where London’s at in 2022 simply must go West.
A slick, warmly minimalist cafe a couple of streets from Hyde Park’s west side, Lift’s most striking feature is a shimmering staircase that gets its effect from potassium chromate—well, aside from the excellently brewed coffee. Going by the mantra “coffee is a fruit,” the space has both an espresso bar and a dedicated filter brewing area, a rarity in the city. This affords baristas the space and time to focus on getting the best out of a panoply of outstanding coffees, whether from Square Mile’s reliable Red Brick on the machine, or a rotating filter line-up that leans on European legends like Tim Wendelboe, Coffee Collective , and newcomer Dak.
With two locations, one in Hammersmith and one in Fulham, and both just far enough from bustling main roads (unlike most west London entries) to feel authentically neighborly, Carbon Kopi has made the transition from exciting newcomer to reliable excellence with aplomb on both occasions . A simple formula helps—Square Mile + Estate Dairy milk might sound familiar, but it still has to be done right—along with monthly guest roasters and an innovative filter brewing method via its Victoria Arduino Maverick machine, “Pure Brew.”
Kiss the Hippo Richmond
This newish roaster and cafe operator recently moved its flagship cafe in riverside Richmond, having outgrown its original space (which had also housed its roastery.) London to brew filter directly over ice, alongside a steady and strong espresso program. There are now numerous locations across London, but in the case of Kiss the Hippo, west remains best.
Sadiq Merchant’s Amoret started life in Hammersmith, before moving across to Notting Hill (the original location closed following the COVID-19 pandemic). Becoming a flagship location didn’t just mean adding a stunning illustration that crawls up the wall like a vine; it also meant fully embracing what Merchant really wanted to become, roasting small batches of coffee on an in-house Giesen and fueling the cafe’s output entirely on his terms. This allows for interesting coffee decisions, like offering two differently processed coffees, or beans that are close in origin but worlds apart in flavor profile. In an area whose coffee offerings often lean towards wellness diktat, Amoret’s seriousness in keeping it simple stands out.
Levant Book Cafe
Park Royal is one of London’s most singular areas: an industrial estate of prophouses, design companies, and storage units that within it a remarkable community of Iraqi, Iranian, Lebanese, and Syrian restaurateurs, cooks, and caterers. Among them is the bustling tranquility of Levant Book Cafe, where water trickles in a fountain, patrons play chess over baklava, Palestinian nabulsia, and ice cream, and coffee comes thick and rich in ornate cups. “Specialty” this is not, but one of the best places to drink coffee in west London, it is.
Store Street Espresso
This west London debut for one of the city’s most respected cafe operators is a welcome addition to Hammersmith. Another Square Mile mainstay, Red Brick espressos and flat whites are there to fuel laptop workers and readers, it’s true, but there is the care and attention here that anyone would come to expect from Store Street, whose Bloomsbury original is one of the outstanding cafes in the city.
In a tiny spot on Northfields Avenue, right across from a London underground station, founders Natalia Moozarmi and Louis Wainwright-Vale have created a space that feels entirely insulated from the roar of the traffic outside. Originally brewing Origin Coffee, but soon transitioning to roasting their own, Element’s coffees are named for Water, Air, Earth, and Fire, with the origins rotating according to the seasons and the espresso blend known as Fifth Element. Quality is consistent throughout, and the welcoming spot has quickly become a local favorite.
My Little Cup
My Little Cup’s story began not in West London, but in Brussels, where Bertrand and Marc Lucas opened its first cafe in 2014. It arrived in London via Montreal, and it’s been installed in South Ealing underground station for some time. But it has found a new lease of life in Soane’s Kitchen, where, in the grounds of beautiful Walpole Park and Pitzhanger Manor, creamy milk drinks and delicate, fruity filters sit among the greenery and flowers. They come courtesy of revered Bristol/Bath roaster Colonna, founded by multiple UK Barista champion Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, which is still rarely found as a mainstay roaster in the capital. The pour-over filter is always expertly brewed.
Tab x Tab
Between Paddington and Notting Hill, Tab x Tab makes something that is ordinarily difficult for coffee shops in London look easy: bridging the gap between cafe, restaurant, and cocktail bar with aplomb while maintaining high quality in all departments. Its beautiful Mavam espresso machine puts out sweet, rich espresso from a blend developed with fellow west Londoners Kiss the Hippo, while a rotating filter might feature the likes of Sweven, a Bristol roaster. This is probably the most “West London” coffee shop on this list, with avocado toast galore, but its food menu is executed a few notches above average and the space is a delight.
James Hansen (@jameskhansen) is a London-based journalist and an associate editor at Eater London. Read more James Hansen for Sprudge.