When it comes to café culture, London’s opening hours can seem a little restrictive. Many cafés shut around 6 pm. But not all of them! There are plenty of cafes open late in London if you know where to look. Luckily for you, we do. So if you’re looking for a post-work cuppa, somewhere to meet a deadline, or a cosy corner to read a book, read on.
North – Camden / Hackney / Islington
Look Mum, No Hands!: For cycling pit stops in Old St
The name is a rather cute nod to something kids say when learning to ride a bike – Look Mum, No Hands! was opened as one of the UK’s first cycle cafés. It’s also a bicycle workshop, bar and exhibition space, where you can pop in for an espresso and puncture repair. Non-cyclists are welcome too, although as you might expect, most of the events are cycling themed from drop-in bike repair sessions to photography and art exhibitions.
The café serves dinner on Wednesdays to Fridays as well as breakfast and lunch, with dinner being served until 8pm. Prices are pretty reasonable too, with plenty of veggie and vegan options such as chickpea dahl and flatbread for £7.50, as well as wraps, salads, soups and burgers. Opening hours vary, but it’s open until 10pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
(On the subject of cycles, see our article on buying a bike in london).
Look Mum No Hands
Kipferl: for a slice of Vienna in Islington
Kipferl brings Viennese coffehouse culture to Islington, encouraging visitors to come in for a solo slice of cake with a newspaper or dinner with friends. It actually began as small Austrian deli in Smithfield in 2003, but has been a welcome addition to Islington’s café scene since 2011. The food is hearty, and it’s a perfect winter spot, where you can warm yourself up with soups, stews, dumplings and schnitzel, and a few veggie and vegan options too.
It’s also got a very fine selection of cakes including Topfentorte, an Austrian version of cheesecake and Guglhupf, a marble Bundt cake. Although it’s a fairly large space, the atmosphere is usually cosy and convivial.
Greenberry Café: charm on a plate
Escape the chaos of Camden and head down Primrose Hill High Street to one of the most charming cafes open late in London. Go after 5 pm if you want to avoid tripping over buggies. Although it’s worth trying to grab an afternoon table for their carrot cake alone.
But Greenberry doesn’t just serve up coffee, tea, and cake. It’s a bistro-style café, specialising in simple meals and Mediterranean flavours. It’s as stylish as all the ultra-bougie eateries in the area, but it’s not too pricey. Mains cost between £12.00–£18.00, which is more-or-less gastropub prices.
The airy interior, warm lighting, and gentle buzz make it an inviting spot to bring a mate or date for dinner too. There are plenty of small bites and snacks too. And a drinks menu
that ranges from Clipson & Son’s coffee and soft drinks, to beer, wine and even a decent selection of single malts. Greenberry shuts at 3 pm on Sundays and Mondays but is open until 10 pm during the rest of the week.
Canvas Cafe: Vegan eats & community spirit
Over in east London, just off Brick Lane Canvas is all about plant-based refreshments and community. The menu is 100 percent vegan, and it’s also a social enterprise that puts on events. Canvas is open until 6pm on Sunday-Tues with the kitchen closing at 5:30, and open until 10pm the rest of the week, when the kitchen shuts at 4:30p. But, although the regular kitchen shuts early, Canvas hosts a pop up kitchen residencies from 6pm, including the Caribbean-inspired Lady Lane Kitchen.
Looking for more community cafes in London? Look no further. The community spirit extends outside of the Canvas walls too. It operates as a Food Bank each friday (no referrals required), sends out weekly hot meals as part of it’s Double Helpings project with artists Gilbert and George, and the venue also runs free training courses to help young people aged 19-24 find employment opportunities. Pop in for dinner or an evening cuppa, stay for the regular free and cheap events including improv sessions, stand up comedy and workshops.
Bridge Café: Sensory overload
The very literal name is the least interesting thing about the Bridge Café. Yes, it’s under a bridge. But it’s no ordinary café. This Hoxton hangout is a delightfully chaotic mish-mash of kitschy curiosity shop, Victorian parlour, and speakeasy joint. It’s like being plonked into the middle of a Jim Jarmusch movie. Subtlety is not on the menu here.
You might need a pair of shades to adjust to the neon levels on the ground floor. But it’s all good. Just take the edge off with a reviving cup of Turkish coffee and some sugary Baklava. There’s also a bar if you fancy a boozy beverage. It’s cash only though, which is a bit of a pain. Bar prices aren’t exactly cheap either, but it’s worth visiting just to explore the place in the evening. Check our our other cosy hangouts and hideaways while you’re in the area.
Hackney Coffee Company
And last but not least, a Bethnal Green / Hackney cafe, with high ceilings, stylish interiors and outdoor patio. The Hackney Coffee Company opens till 11pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The Hackney (previously Hackney Coffee Company)
Soho / Central London
Balans, Soho: late-night legends
Never mind finding somewhere for a post 6pm cappuccino, Balan’s serves up caffeine along with alcohol until 5am. It has a few venues across London, the largest (latest-opening) of which is No.60 (aka the big one) on Old Compton St and a little sibling at No.34 Old Compton Street, although that shuts at 12:20 am. It’s been serving Londoners after hours since the late-80s, but this is more of a place to hang out with friends after the pubs have shut, rather than a quiet corner with a book kind of late-night café.
To give you an idea of the atmosphere – Soho No.60 boldly claims to serve up more Porn Star Martinis than anywhere else in London, and for being famous for an ‘outrageous atmosphere, artistic spirit and creative food and drinks’. You’ll have to judge for yourself, but given it’s been open for over 30 years, it certainly knows how to please a late-night crowd.
Bar Italia: late nights in Soho
For a slice and a sip of old Soho, head to Bar Italia. It’s London’s longest-running coffee shop, which has been a local favourite since 1949. Serving night owls and early birds alike, it’s open from 7 am until 5 am every day except Sunday.
This is not exactly somewhere to go for a relaxed evening though, it’s all about people watching and bustle. The atmosphere at Bar Italia was made more famous by Pulp in the 90s, with Jarvis Cocker singing “Two sugars would be great, cause I’m fading fast and it’s nearly dawn”.
That song sums the place up pretty well. Things can get pretty rowdy, particularly if there’s Italian football on. You can get coffee and snacks at pretty much any hour of the day or night. Alternatively, as it’s open later than most bars as well as cafés. Pop in for something stronger if Negonis or Aperol Spritzes are your thing.
Notes: for sipping drinks and sharing snacks
Notes is a small, but growing chain of coffee shops and bars that roasts its own coffee. The original Notes is a cosy spot on St Martin’s Lane by Trafalgar Square. It’s a decent sized, airy spot that’s perfect for a pre-Theatre cuppa or glass of wine. Food is mainly small plates, sharing boards (including veggie or vegan) and charcuterie. The Trafalgar Square branch is open until until 9 pm Tuesdays to Saturdays and closes at 6pm Sundays and Mondays.
Since opening in 2011, Notes has expanded across London, including King’s Cross, which has two levels (but expect to queue or pre-book after 5 pm even on weekdays if you want a seat). These late night cafes in London have also popped up in St John’s Wood, Victoria, Canary Wharf, Bond Street and Bank.
South Of The River
Scooter Caffè: a cosy hangout in Waterloo
Scooter Caffè is a much-loved independent café-bar at the far end of Lower Marsh, just behind Waterloo station. Upstairs is small, with just a few small tables. But downstairs is a dimly lit, bohemian basement, which is better if you’re there with a group. Just watch your step on the old, metal spiral stairs. Especially if you’re carrying a piping hot coffee.
The menu is more about drinks than food. You can get coffee and tea but also beer, wine, and cocktails. Food-wise, it’s mostly snacks like small cakes. But there are plenty of decent cheap places to eat along Lower Marsh if you’re in need of something more substantial. Pop in for a cuppa or a nightcap..
Chapter 72: Espresso martini o’clock
This Bermondsey cafe specialises in the iconic cocktail (of “wake me up and f**k me up” fame). Chapter 72 have a whole menu of espresso martini variations at around £9 each. Salted caramel, popcorn, cardamom and gingerbread are all favourites. Open till 10pm Wednesday to Saturday.
Want to see how they do things in over in Tokyo? Our friends at Tokyo wrote this guide to Japan’s “Kissaten“—Showa era coffee shops that have remained much the same since the 60s and 70s.