Cafe Pistou, Exmouth Market

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On the western corner of Exmouth Market, opposite the hipster hangout Caravan and beside Nero’s is this lovely, earthy, French-style cafe. New, I think – yes, since November 2014.

Probably about 20 small tables inside and a couple outside, it’s a relaxed place at 8:30 on weekday mornings. The central square bar has a commanding view over all patrons, so service was quick and friendly. It is more of a restaurant than just a coffee shop or café, but relaxed enough to be welcoming and family-friendly.

Espresso was – thankfully – Italian, not French style. Citrus, sweetness, very like a long Monmouth coffee. Very pleasant, though I am glad I put a sugar in.

Lovely place; I’ll come again.

Coffee ****
£2.20
Environment ****

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Caravan, 11 Exmouth Market EC1R 4QD

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On the corner of Exmouth Market, opposite the Cafe Nero, is this spacious licensed café full of well dressed architect-types – relaxed open shirts, jeans, expensive tweedy blazer and thick-rimmed glasses (for the men). Good, very short coffee. Complimentary glass of water (nice touch that you get in upmarket places). 14 tables and some stools. Windows all round and some benches outside. It’s also a bar, with food and a wide range of drinks. Nice, efficient staff.

So I don’t know why I felt it was a bit soulless?

(I’d come back again, though).

Coffee ****
£2.00
Environment ****

Veneticus, 97-99 Clerkenwell Rd (nr. Farringdon / Hatton Garden Market)

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A ‘proper’ Italian cafe, this serves alcoholic drinks, sandwiches and pasta as well as a range of pastries and ice creams, cold meats and biscotti.

It even has bottles of Amaro  liquor.

Needless to say, the espresso is excellent.

With 10 or so tables, a small number of seats against the window, and even a couple of tables squeezing onto the side of the busy road outside, there’s plenty to enjoy. Perhaps not somewhere to stretch out and relax (although there is Wifi if you need to work or surf), but a great place nonetheless.

Coffee *****
£1.60
Environment ****
Others **** (ice cream, beer & wine, Italian banter…)

Gray’s Inn Cafe, 188 Gray’s Inn Road (north of Theobald’s Rd)

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Not sure if it’s a sandwich bar, a ‘greasy spoon’ cafe, or an upmarket Starbucks alternative, this has a small sandwich and hot food bar upstairs and (surprisingly) about 9 tables in a modern basement seating area.

The espresso is pretty good too, although again that was unexpected, and the service is so business-like that it is difficult to know what to make of it. A coffee, wrapped in an enigma, surrounded by mystery.

Coffee ***
£1.50
Environment *** (tho faint smell of damp in the basement is unfortunate)

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 ***