Escaping the noise of the city and finding a cosy place to read with a cuppa and a slice of cake is a London treat. People might not gather in coffee houses to debate politics or share ideas anymore (thanks, internet!), but cafés and books still have a healthy relationship. Here are some of the best bookshop cafés in London for cosy reading sessions and caffeinated catch ups with fellow book lovers.
London Review Bookshop and Cake Shop, Bloomsbury
We have to kick things off in Bloomsbury. The area is full of literary history, former home of The Bloomsbury Group writers including Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster as well as Charles Dickens, and it’s still home to several great independent bookshops. But if you’re after cake and cuppas, then head to The London Review Bookshop and Cake Shop. The cake shop is snug and cosy, and has a small garden area too. Despite the name, The Cake Shop also offers a savoury menu too – so you can drop in for lunch of seasonal salads, soups, and quiches. It also sells Monmouth coffee and a decent range of teas.
The women-led team is is run by Terry Glover who trained Leiths School of Food and Wine, and there are cakes for all dietary needs including caramelised apple and camomile cream cake and some very good brownies. The team even makes bespoke cakes for weddings and birthdays, so you pop in for some refreshment research. The bookshop is big too, so it’s perfect for a leisurely afternoon’s browsing.
London Review Bookshop and Cake Shop
Stanfords Coffee House, Covent Garden
Established in 1853 (although it relocated in 2019) – Standfords is a specialist travel bookshop that sells globes, maps and survival kits as well as books. But it’s not just the name that harks back to a bygone era. Given its central London location, the prices are decent, serving up rich hot chocolate for £2.99 and sandwiches from £3.35 It also runs a loyalty card scheme, with a rather cute ‘passport’ rewarding regulars with discounted tea and coffee. It’s not the biggest cafe, but if you time it right, it’s a prime spot for people watching and adventure-planning.
Stanfords Coffee House
Foyles, Charing Cross Road
Chain bookshop cafés are usually pretty dull, soulless, places. But Foyles is definitely an expectation. It’s too big to be considered cosy, it’s more spacious and airy, closer to a gallery cafe than a typical book shop cafe. Regulars might miss the old building, which was also on Charing Cross Road, but it was smaller, and more ramshackle, where people would turn up to sketch and listen to live Jazz. These days, the fifth floor of the Soho store has a touch of Scandi minimalism, large communal tables and a big open counter serving hot drinks, tea, /. This one might be better suited to a writing group, you won’t get much quiet reading done, but there’s plenty of inspiration to be found and lively conversation to be overheard.
Tea & Tattle at Arthur Probsthain, Great Russell St
This excellently named café is an old-school tea room, tucked in the basement of a specialist second hand bookshop. Arthur Probsthain specialises in books from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. So when you’re done with your international browsing, you can head downstairs to Tea & Tattle for tea in china cups and scones, or a full-on afternoon tea if it takes your fancy.
Tea & Tattle
Phlox Books, Leyton
Even further east, Phlox Books is a neighbourhood bookshop café in Leyton. Originally based in Belfast, it sets its stall out as “proudly serving books, booze and coffee since 2017. As that statement suggests, it’s also a late-opening cafe, serving wine and craft beer as well as coffee, tea and cake until 6pm most days and open later into the evening on Thursdays and and Fridays. Socialising is also on the menu, as owner Aimee mentions on the website, they love to talk books and staff are on hand with book recommendations. Expect coffee from All Press, as well a great selection of old and new book titles and live events. If you’re hungry for some book talk, you can also join the monthly Book Group.
Book Bar, Highbury
Newcomer Book Bar is a literary addition to the busy restaurants and cafés of Blackstock Road in Highbury. Opened by former bookseller Chrissy Ryan in 2021 as a place to bring people together through books. As well as being a welcoming café and bookshop during the day, it’s open in the evening with regular book events, live music. And If you’re overwhelmed at picking your next read, check out the ‘Shelf Medicate’ service to get prescription for your bookish indecision.