There’s nothing more telling of the times we live in, than the café culture characteristic of one’s city.
If the early 20th Century saw a new school of existential thought in France, Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots were the Parisian institutions where erudite thinkers such as Jean Paul Sartre could most frequently be found. The original Bombay-Irani cafés took shape at around the same too, immortalising the influence of the Zoroastrian Iranian population who had set up home in India.
While the history buff in me could go on delving back through the decades, I can’t help but also wonder what future generations might make of us millennials if they were to ever step into any one of London’s zeitgeisty cafés…
We’re driven by digital consumption.
I reckon they’d first conclude that we decide where to eat based on our #feedfeed, and in turn cafés are often designed with us food-paparazzi in mind. Think pretty-in-pink exteriors (which turn into photobooths), rainbow lattes, unicorn doughnuts, and all sorts of other desserts which are usually too pretty to eat!
Case-in-point: Palm Vaults (Hackney); Peggy Porschen (Belgravia); Elan (Mayfair).
We’re partial to a flexitarian lifestyle.
That’s part-time vegetarianism, with the occasional addition of meat. It helps that the city’s vegan cafés are often the most Instagrammable destinations around and likewise for the plant-based dishes they offer – spanning from avo-toast (as basic as it now gets) to coconut “BLT”s (meaty enough to convert you into a vegivore), not to mention all those coffees loaded with nut mylks.
Case-in-point: Farm Girl (Notting Hill & Carnaby); Wild Food Café (Seven Dials); By Chloe (coming soon to Covent Garden)
We have an obsession with brunch.
All I’ll say is: thank goodness for the Aussie-inspired cafés in London which pander to our penchant for pancakes, waffles and other manners of brunch-time brilliance… all day, every day.
Case-in-point: Daisy Green Collection (Marylebone & Victoria); Ben’s Canteen (Clapham Junction and Earlsfield); Caravan (King’s Cross).
We visit cafés for more than just our next caffeine or foodie fix.
Some of us work out of cafés, while for others, a local coffee haunt is a blissful escape from the office. With cafés now situated within fashionable boutiques and concept stores, art galleries, museums and the like, they’ve also become ingrained in the wider social fabric of our city!
Case in point: Rail House Café (Victoria); Ralph’s Café and Bar (Mayfair); Fiorucci (Soho).
We love the thrill of a new trend or niche novelty.
What else could explain the thriving existence of a café dedicated to cereal or another which is a mecca for feline lovers?
Case in point: Cereal Killer Café (Camden); Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium (Bethnal Green).
We have globe-trotting tastes.
Experience the joys of fika over a cinnamon bun, or catch a matcha-marvellous moment hiding out from the rain. From Scandi-inspired bakeries to Japanese tea houses, London’s cafés represent a melting pot of cuisines and cultures, offering a journey across the world!
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Just a genmaicha mille crepe cake and matcha latte for tea @MachiyaLondon… What else does one do on a grey afternoon in London?! In case you're wondering, genmaicha is a type of green tea combined with roasted brown rice…. Generously layered with a white chocolate-based cream, the pastry had a mellow and soft sweetness to it! And as you can see, this was one of those rare occasions when I couldn't wait long enough for my camera to eat first 🙊. #TeaTime #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
Case in point: Machiya (St James); Kova (Soho); Nordic Bakery (Seven Dials).
… And yet the more things change, the more they stay the same.
We could be destined to jump from one Instagram-worthy find to the next; but that’s not to say that our millennial habits won’t find their own roots in history. Which leads me squarely to my final case-in-point: Jacob The Angel.
Cosseted within the storied Neal’s Yard, this exciting addition to London’s café culture takes its cue from England’s first coffeehouse, albeit enlivened by a zeitgeisty spirit. Expect the likes of tahini madeleines and coconut-filled cream pies to clog your feed soon!
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A few of my favourite things @JacobTheAngelLondon: tahini madeleines, coconut cream pie & a velvety flat white (in oat milk!) // Inspired by England's first coffee house, this new bolthole @7DialsLondon (from the folks behind my forever-favourites @BarbaryLondon @PalomarSoho) might just be one of the most thrilling openings this autumn yet! #AboutThisWeekend #JacobTheAngel #TopLondonRestaurants #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
You might also fancy a taste or desserts from around the world in London, or this coffee crawl across central London.
You could also explore more London Guides, here.