Carter Lane Coffee House, Carter Lane EC4 ( St Paul’s Cathedral / Blackfriars tubes)

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Carter Lane, an area near St Paul’s which “has more lawyers than people” according to a sign in a barber’s window, also has some decent coffee.

This new (at time of writing – October 2012) little shop is barely more than a coffee machine, some pastries, and a bench at the window for sitting.

But that coffee machine is one of best in the world, and it makes a delicious smooth espresso.

So, as far as I am concerned, this new Carter Lane resident can stay.

Coffee *****
£1.20
Environment ***

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Trio d’Or Cafe, Guilford Road WC1 (off Gray’s Inn Road)

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Opposite a Costa coffee outlet, this little local place has a couple of small tables outside and in. Sandwiches, pastries and hot food are offered along with decently made Lavazza (not my favourite brand unfortunately).

Coffee ***
£1.50
Environment ***

Prufrock Coffee, 25 Leather Lane EC1 (Hatton Gardens diamond district)

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Prufrock is another gourmet coffee shop in this area offering great coffee and urban industrial chic. It does it well. More space, apparently more child-friendly, and very good tasting espresso. Staff can be a bit aloof, but not in a nasty way – just a bit distracted.

Espresso *****
£1.80
Environment ****
Service ***

Tito’s, Exmouth Street

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Tito’s is a decent, friendly little Spanish-speaking place in a convenient location. About eight small tables inside and a further few in the pedestrianised street outside, they serve a good variety of sandwiches and pastries, and also hot food like burritos and pasta. Unfortunately, the day I was there, the almond croissants were stale. Shame.

Coffee ***
£1.40
Environment ***

El Vino, Bridge Street EC4 (Blackfriars)

El Vino, Blackfriars

This is a hidden gem more suited to wine-lovers than coffee gourmands, but I love the environment and surrounds.

You are somewhere between a traditional Englishman’s Club and a Parisian cafe, with row on row of wines available behind the bar.

There are selections of tapas and sandwiches, and a waitress service area for hot food.

The coffee is bearable – quite “French” in style – but the atmosphere more than compensates.

Coffee **
£1.75
Environment *****
Others: great wines, beers and a selection of food available. Totally off the beaten track – you may be the only one in there.

Caffe Vergnano, Staple Inn, 337-338 High Holborn, WC1AV 7PX (Chancery Lane tube)

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“The best espresso in London” says The Times, apparently.
Well, it certainly is one of the prettiest. Made in a massive, chrome Elektra machine and served on a platter with a  goccia of water and a small chocolate, it looks great.

There are lots of tables inside and out, and friendly staff. Good place.

Coffee **** (not my favourite, but very good)
£1.90
Environment ****

Free Word Cafe, 60 Farringdon Road.

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Small and new, this cafe is not obvious, on the ground floor of an office block. However it does a great little Illy and, with 4 tables inside and 4 outside, offers some respite from the noisy road. Very Italian.

Coffee ****
£1.20
Environment ***