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)

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Syal, 85 Charterhouse St, EC1M 6HJ (nr Farringdon)

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Decent Turkish cafe-restaurant. Good value food & drink, and surprisingly nice espresso too. (I didn’t try the Turkish coffee.)

Coffee ****
£2.20
Environment ***
Others – good Turkish food (think kebabs), alcoholic drinks.

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 ****

Nin com soup, Old Street Station

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Espresso ***
Cost: £1.25 single
Environs ***
Others: good soups, snacks and lunch items

Decent coffee, good price, nice enough surrounds. Paper cups let it down.

If you’re passing through Old Street Station, this is easy to find (unlike the correct exit) as it takes up on side of the main underpass.
A takeaway soup-focused establishment, you can forgive them for only offering paper cups – coffee isn’t core. It’s a decent cup; nothing to get excited about, but priced well and not un-appealing. Some crema to savour.
Seats and tables are surprisingly plentiful and you could have an impromptu meeting – though not with clients, as it’s not classy. I like the industrial chic look. It’s also a nice place to perch at the window and watch the world go by.