Ruby, Hoxton Square

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More a cafe / restaurant than strictly a coffee shop, it’s a friendly little place with about 10 tables inside, and half that number outside in a small patio overlooking the famous square.

It appears to offer Caffe Vergnano coffee but I found it disappointingly weak. Not unpleasant, just not brilliant. Ah well – the good food at decent prices made up for it.

Coffee ***
£1.80
Environment ****
Others **** (food, drink and vibe – you’re in hipster heaven, after all)

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Fix, Whitecross St

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I’ve been here over the years and seen improvements. It’s family friendly, close to the local playpark, so often has parents and buggies squeezed between the sofas. Laid-back atmosphere contrasts with the City of London and Barbican just a hundred metres south, and the bustling Whitecross market just outside.

It is good for a lazy Sunday – even if it is Wednesday afternoon. The coffee is fine – good, strong taste. Perhaps a little too treacly, but not unpleasant. You could easily pass an hour or two.

Coffee ***
£1.50
Environment ****

Grand Union bar (Farringdon), EC1

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More of a cocktail bar, it’s a destination for friends or office colleagues more than a plain old coffee shop. However, during the day it is quiet and a great (if somewhat unusually styled) hiding place. You may even have the whole thing to yourself. Free wifi and bar food might keep you there too.

The coffee is alright, but overpriced. You pay for the location and facilities. Probably worth it, too.

Coffee ***
£2.50
Environment ****

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 ****

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 ****

Espresso Bar, Floral St. WC2 (nr Covent Garden & Leicester Sq)

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Espresso Bar is a decent little modern coffee shop just off the main shopping streets linking Covent Garden and Leicester Square.

It’s partly an espresso bar, partly sandwich shop with ice cream, and partly a coffee equipment shop. So if you’re in the area and need a new Bugatti espresso machine, a Bodium flask, a latte and an ice cream, then this is your one stop! (And let’s face it, if you’re shopping in Covent Garden it’s not an impossible combination).

They brew a great little Andronica’s espresso – one of my favourites. There are three small tables and a long bench, so not a lot of sitting – although there may be decent seating outside in warmer weather.

A good place to relax for couples out shopping, though children will probably wreck havoc with the displays.

Coffee ****
£1.50 (pleasant surprise)
Environment ***
Others **** (food, ice cream and coffee machines)