Holborn Grind, 199 High Holborn WC1V

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Part coffee bar, part evening cocktail bar. Nice sandwiches on offer. Like Carluccios: fat focaccia and salamis. Expensive though, and only about 5 small tables and a bar at the window.

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When I have visited, there seemed more staff than customers – and then hundreds more customers than the small size could cope. Worth dropping in when you are in the area. There are others nearby (not as many as there used to be), but this has a cool vibe.

Coffee ****
£2.20
Environment ****

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Shoreditch Grind, Old St Roundabout

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Well, at £2.20 for the cheapest espresso it’s hardly a low cost option, and the two wood tables and benches around the windows provide only wooden stools and chairs, so comfort’s not premium.

Service (on a Sunday morning) is business-like rather than friendly, and so slow that a croissant and espresso took nearly 15 minutes to be brought to the table (there were probably four orders ahead of mine). In fact, I had to remind staff of the food order. So it has to be the coffee that justifies the price tag. Right?

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Well, it’s nice – treacle-ish and powerful. It’s good coffee. But overall, this place was very hard to love.

Coffee ****
£2.20
Environment **
Others ** (service & speed were poor)

Tesoro Gelateria, 39 Goodge Street (nr Goodge St tube)

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Ice cream is the theme here – proper Italian ice cream. So where better to get a proper Italian espresso too?

Italian voices ring around the shop too – this is no ersatz copy, but the real thing.

So the coffee is excellent, I am relieved to say. Thick but not syrupy, short but not a smear. Full of rich flavour and textures. And for £1.40, a decent price for somewhere just 5 minutes off Oxford Street.

The shop is narrow but has a bench and about 5 high chairs. Downstairs there’s a lot more space, and tables. It looks clean, new and modern – very pleasant.

Coffee *****
£1.40
Environment ****
Others: lots of ice cream!

Dept of Coffee, 14-16 Leather Lane, EC1N (nr Chancery Lane, Farringdon)

Yum. Massive crema in top, bitter and dark shot underneath. Excellent coffee.

The environment is nice and funky too. Bare walls and floors with minimalist tables and chairs, and a couple of spaces to sit down and hide, or watch Leather Lane market go by through the floor to ceiling windows. Copies of fashion & design magazines (Wallpaper*) are available.

For some reason, populated by Australian baristas. Seems to be a theme now in London. Perfectly pleasant. See their website for more details.

Downside: coffee and sandwiches are eye-wateringly expensive.

Coffee ****

£2 (Ouch!)

Environment ****

Service ***

Caffe Alba, Oxo Tower, South Thames Embankment

Good Italian cafe, run by real Italians.

Espresso is by Lavazza – which I normally find bland – but well made.

There are lots of nice seats and tables, with a few outside overlooking the Thames. If you’re walking between the London Eye and the Tate Modern, it’s one of the best places to stop for coffee.

Single espresso £1.54

Coffee ***

Environment ****