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The Coffee Spot Guide to North London

The statue of John Betjeman at St Pancras railway station, by the sculptor Martin Jennings. The statue was designed and cast in bronze in 2007.The Coffee Spot Guide to North London includes everything with a postcode starting with N. This covers a large area, starting in central London around King’s Cross and St Pancras stations in the west and Islington in the east, then spreading out in a fan shape to the north, stopping just short of Barnet and Enfield. It’s bordered at its northern end by Edgware to the west and to the east by Walthamstow.

Unsurprisingly, the Coffee Spot’s coverage of North London is focused around King’s Cross Station and Islington, but that’s about it, other than the occasional outpost in the likes of Tottenham. As with all of my guides, it should not be taken as comprehensive, nor would I claim it to be so.

While you’re here, why not check out the rest of the Coffee Guides to London?


Header image: the Coal Drops Yard development just north of King’s Cross Station.


Coffee Spots

Caravan King’s Cross

The Caravan King's Cross Sign: "Caravan King's Cross" in black letters on a white backgroundSince I’m now officially London’s second best coffee blogger (behind Daniel of Cups of London Coffee), I thought I ought to blog about somewhere in London for a change… So, I present Monday’s Coffee Spot, Caravan’s roastery and second outlet, its wonderful space just north of King’s Cross station.

I popped into Caravan one Friday morning before work to pick up the new Coffee Spot Espresso Cup. However, while I was there I realised that the place was long overdue a write-up for the Coffee Spot, and thus today’s Coffee Spot was born…

A roastery, coffee bar and restaurant, Caravan, in its cavernous space in an old grain warehouse next to Regent’s Canal just north of King’s Cross, is many things to many people. To me, it’s a great place to sit inside at the counter at the back, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze with the baristas, or, on a summer’s evening, sitting outside with a carafe of one of Caravan’s many fine single-origins. As well as the single-origin pour-overs, I have always liked Caravan’s Market espresso-blend and generally keep an eye out for its coffee wherever I go.

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CoffeeWorks Project

The Slayer at Coffee Works Project, complete with bottomless portafiller, in actionLiterally a stone’s throw away from Monday’s Coffee Spot, Islington’s Tinderbox, we find relative newcomer, the CoffeeWorks Project, which recently celebrated its first birthday. In fact, you could see Tinderbox from the CoffeeWorks Project’s front window and vice-versa, were it not for the brick-built arcade, now occupied by a Jack Wills, which separates Islington’s Upper Street (Tinderbox) from the High Street (CoffeeWorks Project).

The CoffeeWorks Project, as the name implies, is all about the coffee, although that shouldn’t detract from the excellent sandwiches and cakes, plus the quirky layout and lovely garden (sadly closed in the winter). However, pride of place goes to the Slayer espresso machine, the only one in London and one of (I believe) just four in the country. Using this beauty, owner Peter and his team get the best out of their Has Bean coffee, throwing some very impressive pour-overs into the mix.

While I was there, the CoffeeWorks Project had two espresso single-origins, plus a decaf single-origin, to go with another three single-origin pour-over options and a bulk-brew filter thrown in for good measure. I did my best to sample them all, but may well have to return for another go!

December 2016: The CoffeeWorks Project is now a mini-chain with three branches (this, Leadenhall Market and Blackfriars Road) and, since the summer, it has been roasting all its own coffee.

September 2018: Good news and bad news. The CoffeeWorks Project is now a mini-chain with five branches, but sadly the Leadenhall Market branch has had to close.

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Craft Coffee, King's Cross

Some beautiful latte art by Craft Coffee at King's Cross in my Therma Cup.The spot around the back of King’s Cross station has a long and distinguished history when it comes to coffee stands, having housed both Weanie Beans and Bean & Gone (both before the Coffee Spot’s time) and, most recently, Noble Espresso. However, in November 2016, Shaun, the man behind Noble, made the hard decided to give up the coffee stand to concentrate on his booming milk business, Estate Dairies.

What could have been a huge loss to all concerned, not least his band of loyal customers, was averted by some forward-thinking by Shaun who invited Craft Coffee, veterans of the outdoor coffee scene with a long-standing weekend pitch at Maltby Market, to take over. Emily and Jamie, Craft’s owners, said yes, so now you’ll find them here during the week, turning out fine espresso-based drinks using an exclusive single-origin from Notes, plus tea, hot chocolate and a selection of pastries.

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Craving Coffee

The Craving Coffee logo, from the wall of the coffee shop in Tottenham.Craving Coffee celebrates its fourth birthday this year, a pioneering outpost of speciality coffee in northeast London, which is not somewhere I venture very often. While Craving Coffee has been on my list for a while, I am indebted (again!) to my friend, Daniel Stevens, who gave me the excuse to visit. A café, bar, community hub and evening social, Craving Coffee is also an art gallery, where different artists exhibit each month. And this month (August), exhibiting for the first time, is Daniel, who held his launch party on Friday, the excuse I finally needed to drag myself out to Tottenham and visit Craving Coffee.

When it comes to coffee, Craving Coffee uses Climpson and Sons, with the Baron blend on espresso, plus decaf and (usually) a single-origin on pour-over through the V60. During the day, there’s an extensive menu, including breakfast, lunch and cake, with all the meals cooked in the open kitchen behind the counter. This closes at 4pm, but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, it re-opens in the evening as Craving Coffee hosts a different pop-up each week as the Tottenham Social. Finally, Craving Coffee is fully licenced, with a three-page menu feature beer, cider, wine and spirits.

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House of Morocco

House of Morocco (HoM for short) with its slogan "HoM is where the heart is" is a new addition to London's coffee scene, occupying the site of what was Pattern Coffee.On Caledonian Road, around the corner from King’s Cross Station, stands a new name in a familiar spot. In the premises once occupied by Pattern Coffee, House of Morocco has been open for six weeks, offering excellent espresso-based coffee from Terrone & Co, Moroccan-themed lunches and a wide range of Moroccan merchandise, including pottery and textiles.

House of Morocco started life as a homeware store before taking over what was Patten Coffee, although it would be wrong to cast it as Pattern’s successor. The layout is similar, a long, thin bright space with high-ceilings and windows front and back. The counter is still on the right and the seating mostly down the left, but that’s about it as far as similarities with Pattern goes, House of Morocco very much being its own place.

Providing an interesting fusion of western, third-wave coffee shop and Moroccan culture, it’s a relaxing, friendly spot which can get busy, particularly during the lunchtime when I met up with fellow blogger, Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato. The seating, like the décor, can best be described as eclectic, with much of the Moroccan merchandise doubling up as decoration in a manner reminiscent of Oriberry Coffee in Hanoi.

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Le Cafe Alain Ducasse, Coal Drops Yard

The signature espresso at Le Cafe Alain Ducasse in Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, served in a double-walled glass cup and a small square of chocolate.Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is part of the new Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross, a few minutes’ walk north of the station. Alain Ducasse, a French chef who, over the years, has had 21 Michelin stars to his name, hit the headlines earlier this year with a £15 cup of Yemeni coffee, which had the likes of The Guardian and the Financial Times weighing in on the subject. High time, I thought, that I popped along to see what all the fuss is about.

Le Cafe Alain Ducasse is a rarity in London, a coffee shop which just sells coffee, whether it be by the cup or by the bag (all the coffee is available for sale in retail bags). It is also, by London standards, expensive, although, £15 cups of coffee notwithstanding, not outrageously so. My espresso, for example, cost £2.50. What you get for your money, other than some very fine coffee, is the whole experience. While you can just order a coffee to go, you would, in my opinion, be missing out if you did. Rather, you should linger, enjoying both the coffee and the company, either of your fellow customers or of the staff.

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Notes, King’s Cross

Note's slogan on the wall at King's Cross: Coffee for Early Birds, Wine for Night Owls.Notes was always more than just a coffee shop, mixing coffee by day with wine and small plates of an evening, in surroundings that spoke of elegance. For a while, there was Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and various coffee barrows. Then, two years ago, along came a roastery and now, within the space of a year, four new stores, with a heavily over-subscribed foray into crowd-funding to fund further expansion (albeit at the expense of Covent Garden and all but one barrow).

King’s Cross/St Pancras, just north of King’s Cross, between Noble Espresso (now Craft Coffee) and Caravan, is the only new Notes that I’ve visited, but if it’s indicative of the others, London’s in for a treat. Smaller (and hence more intimate) than the original Notes, you can sit downstairs, opposite the counter, or upstairs in the cosy mezzanine. Alternatively, try the great selection of outdoor seating on the secluded Pancras Square.

With coffee roasted at the nearby Notes Roastery, there’s a single-origin (which changes every couple of months) and decaf on espresso. Another single-origin is on filter, available either as a V60 or bulk-brew. This changes every few days, Notes rotating through its selection of single-origins as each bag runs out.

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Saint Espresso

From a black board behind the counter at Saint Espresso: "Crafting Coffee with Religious Care".Saint Espresso is an offshoot of Leyas in Camden Town, although it doesn’t advertise the link, so it’s easy to visit the two and not realise the connection. This is particularly true since the two are like chalk and cheese in almost all respects, except that they both serve excellent quality coffee from a regularly-rotating cast of roasters.

Saint Espresso is at the eastern end of Pentonville Road, just around the corner from Angel Tube station. The busy Pentonville Road does not, at first sight, seem the ideal location for a coffee shop, but Saint Espresso has perhaps the best spot, on the northern side of the road, well set back from the traffic on a broad expanse of pavement. This means that even the outside tables are well away from both pedestrian and road traffic, making it a comparatively sheltered spot.

South-facing and with a tall frontage that’s entirely glass, Saint Espresso’s a sun-trap. Even on a gloomy day, it’s flooded with light. Much smaller than Leyas, there is commensurately less food; just a decent selection of cakes and sandwiches for lunch. Where it excels, of course, is in the superb coffee (one espresso and one filter option).

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Vagabond N7

The interior of Vagabond N7, looking from just inside the door to the counter.How did it take me this long to visit the delightful Vagabond N7? For those not in the know, Vagabond N7 is the bigger offshoot of Vagabond N4, sitting on the Holloway Road at the north end of Islington. One of the gems of the London coffee scene, that I even visited it at all is down to The Café Cat who invited me along to talk coffee, café culture and Wales. I can’t even claim ignorance since my fellow coffee-bloggers have been raving about it for a while now…

What I’ve been missing is a lovely place with that just-moved-in-and-haven’t-decorated-yet unfinished look that is all the rage in trendy coffee shops. It’s the sort of look that, if you get it wrong, you just look naff, a wannabe trend-setter who missed the boat. Of course, if you get it right, like Vagabond, it looks the most natural thing in the world.

It helps that the coffee, from Has Bean, is excellent and the barista, Gabriel, is knowledgeable, passionate and committed. Rather disturbingly, it was the third Has Bean I’d had in a week that I liked and the first that I’d positively raved about. I think I’ve gone mad…

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Weanie Beans

The Weanie Beans logo, taken from a bag of its Citizen Kane espresso blend.Weanie Beans, the subject of the first Meet the Roaster of 2017, is one of the lesser known names in speciality coffee roasting, although the company, and its founder, Adeline, go back all the way to 2007 and market stall in west London. Along the way, Adeline used to have the patch at King’s Cross now occupied by Craft Coffee, who took it on from Noble Espresso, who took it on from Weanie Beans…

These days you can find Weanie Beans roasting coffee in its new north London home and, while the market stalls are gone, there is a new café, Heirloom, in the Buckinghamshire village of Edlesborough. Although best known for its espresso blends, such as Citizen Kane, and its seasonal espresso blend, Weanie Beans is branching out. It roasts bespoke espresso blends for cafés such as &Feast (Barnes and Sheen) and is increasingly roasting single-origins for filter. Recently it’s launched a new espresso blend, Scout, which is proving a big hit in Heirloom.

As well as finding Weanie Beans at a growing number of London coffee shops, you can buy all the coffee from the Weanie Beans web shop. There is also an increasingly popular monthly subscription service.

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Map

If you don’t like lists or just want to see where everything is, you can use the map to find your way around. Note that this shows the closest 50 Coffee Spots to the centre of the N postcode region, not just those Coffee Spots in North London.

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