Praise Islington’s finest independent coffee shops. Rosie Millard has been drinking coffee – lots of it – in the name of research…Here she lists the best of the caffeine machines in Angel Islington
You are at a dinner party in Notting Hill. Someone asks you where you live. ‘Islington’ you say. There is, you must admit, a smidgen of pride in your reply. Because (in your mind) Islington is not only far nicer than Notting Hill, but it is still a place to reckon with, the jaunty younger sibling to dull old Hampstead, self-regarding Highgate, or matronly Wimbledon. It is left of centre, wildly independent, out there. ‘Oh,’ says the person you are trying to impress. ‘Islington. All full of coffee chains these days. Same old same old.’ You bite your lip. Really? Has your favourite London village become like everywhere else? Surely it is chocca with independent, delicious and original cafes? Only you can’t remember any of them.
You close your eyes and all you can see is the Starbucks emblem rising out of Upper Street, like an unwelcome guest at a previously bohemian feast. Here, dear reader, is where this column will help you. For I have done the legwork. How come? Well, it’s because I is a freelance hack, innit. I have all the time in the world to wander around coffee shops, trying them out just for you. This is the official list, in no particular order, of the best independent coffee shops in N1. Read, learn and inwardly digest. Next time you are at a dinner party in West London, you will be able to stand your ground.
1 Kipferl, Camden Passage
The name is Austrian for croissant, apparently, and the café could have been airlifted out of Vienna. Coffee strength is selected by a colour chart and is all heavenly. Sachertorte, Apfel strudel and delicious sausage studded with cheese are always on the menu as optional, calorie loaded extras. Free copies of Die Welt hang nonchalantly from the walls, which are potentially great showing-off accoutrements – if you can read German that is.
2 CoffeeWorks, Camden Passage
Utterly delicious coffee thanks to an amazing coffee machine unknown outside Seattle, which looks as complicated as the Hadron Particle Collider, but which nevertheless, churns them out every morning. Unremarkable pastries, but very nice staff. The shop is built on about five different levels, most of which come at you with no warning and no handrails. Hopefully you won’t break an ankle when going to the ladies.
3 Angel Delicatessen
Piero Maurizio runs this little delicatessen on Cross Street with classic Italian panache and style. A macchiato with a little custard tart is a wondrous thing on a Saturday morning in Islington, and here is where you will find it. There’s everything else too – wonderful Parma ham, olives, oil, Italian fizzy drinks, a zillion types of pasta and lovely takeaway treats. Best coffee in Islington.
4 Sunday, Hemingford Road
I’ve gone on about this place before, but it still is up there with its array of delicious coffee, mint-infused water, banana bread – you name it, breakfast is just a pleasure there. Lunch and dinner aren’t bad either, but I think as a breakfast/brunch place, Sunday is not to be beaten. Gets crowded so get there early and pretend you are in the East Village. It has that sort of style.
5 Sunflower Bakery, Caledonian Road
Again another favourite of mine. Delicious bread (obviously), world famous sour dough and a good selection of patisserie. Here is where you can get an extraordinarily cheap, lovely lunch. It doesn’t disappoint in the coffee stakes either, which is not always the case with bakeries. Here, you will have a fresh, rounded coffee which is not bitter or hopelessly diluted.
The other exciting thing about the above list is that you can take your dog into all of them. Which makes walking the mutt a bit less tiresome, particularly in March. Happy coffee drinking!