A Local’s Guide to the Cafés of East London

by Brenna Holeman


Along Regent’s Canal

London is a city that is forever changing and evolving, and one person’s perfect guide may be completely different to another’s. Since moving to London eight months ago, I have received a lot of emails asking for advice on where to go around the city.

Let me make one thing clear: I am not an expert on LondonIn fact, I am probably the worst person to give advice on the city. There are entire areas of London I rarely visit, and if you plopped me in the middle of town I wouldn’t know which way was up. In the past eight months, however, I’ve found a few cool spots that I would recommend and they almost all fall in East London.

There’s a very simple reason for this: I live in East London. When people started complaining about the recent tube strikes I realised it barely affected me, because I walk everywhere. East London is known for being the trendy, hipster area, filled to the brim with skinny 20-somethings dressed all in black who live in overpriced studios, smoke roll-up cigarettes, spend £4 on a coffee, and ride a fixie bike. I would like to point out that I do indeed collect vinyl and enjoy the odd bit of kale but, on most days, I wear colour. I’m also 30 now, so I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to buy a fig tree from Columbia Road’s flower market and start wearing gauchos.

I digress. To summarise East London as trendy and simply leave it at that would be undermining the area. There are so many cool things to do and so many great places to hang out; I started to list all my favourite places (markets, restaurants, galleries) and I realised that the list of cafés was astoundingly long. Simply put, East London has a lot of really good places to go for coffee and/or breakfast. If you live in London, you might know a few of these; either way, if you live here or you’re just visiting, I recommend all of the following cafés. In my eyes, they’re the best cafés in East London. You may or may not find me writing in one of them on any given afternoon.


Café Route: My friend Ali introduced me to Route, which is found just around the corner from Dalston Junction. Their breakfasts are amazing, and, having lunch there yesterday, I can attest that they do excellent frittatas and salads, too. The space itself is incredibly welcoming, with shared wood tables, beautiful high windows, and shelves full of tasty things for sale.

Cafe Route

Lunch at Café Route

Nude Espresso: I first went to Nude last year and go back a few times a month. They’re known for serving great coffee but their food is just as delectable, too. It’s a great place to stop in after browsing on Brick Lane, but it doesn’t have wifi, so don’t plan on doing much blogging here.

Nude Espresso

Coffee at Nude Espresso

Hackney Bureau: My friend Michael Turtle first took me to this café a few months ago, and now I’m hooked. My current flat is about a ten minute walk from here, so I go there all the time. They do an amazing vegetarian breakfast and even better eggs royale; it’s wonderful to stop here during a walk along Regent’s Canal. I am so happy that my new flat is even closer. Be warned that they don’t have wifi, so bring a book or a friend. 

Hackney Bureau

Vegetarian breakfast at Hackney Bureau

Ozone Coffee RoastersI just tried this place on Sunday with Annora and Beverley, and it was wonderful. The eggs benedict are served on patties of bubble and squeak, for God’s sake! I’m a sucker for gorgeous interior design, and this place definitely has it. The staff are also incredibly friendly. Found one block from the Old Street roundabout, this is a good place to go if you’re in Shoreditch/Old Street.

Ozone Coffee Roasters

Brunch at Ozone Coffee Roasters

The Breakfast Club: Found near Hoxton Square, I went here a lot with my mum when she was visiting. The service was great and the food even better. It’s always busy, but if you’re walking around Shoreditch I recommend stopping to try one of their fantastic meals. Don’t worry, they don’t just serve breakfast.

Breakfast Club

Amazing brunch at The Breakfast Club

The Old Shoreditch StationI used to go here all the time, but after a rude encounter with a staff member who forgot my coffee, I don’t go as often. I would still recommend it, however, simply for the people watching. Located on the corner of Old Street and Kingsland Road (which, at that corner, becomes Shoreditch High Street), try to get a seat near the window and watch all of the fashionable people walk by.

Old Shoreditch Station

A snack at Old Shoreditch Station

Market CaféThis one is also very near me, found on Broadway Market. As I go to Broadway Market every Saturday, I usually get my coffee and breakfast from the market itself; on other days, however, I go to the Market Café. They also do really delicious meals, and they stay open quite late, serving up cocktails and the occasional live jazz performance. It just feels like home when I walk in there.

The Book ClubI believe this place may have just changed names, but most people still know it as The Book Club. Found in Shoreditch, it’s always packed at night, as it’s a café/restaurant/bar. I love going for their cool atmosphere, delicious brunches, and really friendly staff. It’s also across the street from one of my favourite comic book stores in the city, so you can’t go wrong.

TowpathThis is one of my favourite spots in the entire city. As I live right on Regent’s Canal, I often walk along it, especially to get to school and work. On a sunny afternoon there is nowhere nicer to sit and have a coffee. Only open in warmer months, definitely check it out this summer.


Reading in the sunshine at Towpath

There are lots of other cafés and places I’d love to try in East London; this is but a small overview of just my favourites. Have you ever been to any of these? How often do you go to cafés in your hometown, or when you travel?


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Turtle May 8, 2014 - 3:51 pm

Awesome suggestions – and so glad that Hackney Bureau made the list. I think Towpath is one of my favourites too. I haven’t heard of some of the others so will have to check them out (with you, perhaps…) next time I’m around 🙂

Brenna Holeman May 8, 2014 - 4:25 pm

Thanks, Michael! I absolutely love Hackney Bureau, so thank you so much for introducing me to it.

Let me know as soon as you’re back and we’ll choose the best one to go to together! 🙂

Ali May 8, 2014 - 6:21 pm

I’m happy Cafe Route made it in your list (they do serve my favorite eggs florentine, after all!).
I can’t believe there are still one or two on the list I’ve yet to visit. Our next few dates should be there!
Looking forward to your next East London installment darling xx

Brenna Holeman May 8, 2014 - 6:53 pm

Thank you for introducing me to it! I love our café dates. We should definitely go to as many as we can. xx

Hayley May 8, 2014 - 7:28 pm

I think if I lived in London I would be a regular at Towpath – what a beautiful location! x

Brenna Holeman May 9, 2014 - 1:19 pm

It really is lovely! I can’t wait for the weather to be a bit nicer so that I can spend lots of afternoons there.

rebecca May 8, 2014 - 7:49 pm

I lived in East London for about a year and loved every bit of it! My favourite cafe was cafe 1001. the food there is great – the cinnamon danish were a saturday must and the pretzels would take me back to bavaria in days i wished i was there. However the coffee being good too helped but more so i loved the atmosphere of the place. It was my usual hang out and work cafe.

Brenna Holeman May 9, 2014 - 1:47 pm

I still haven’t been to 1001 – I definitely need to try it out! I love finding a good café to work in.

Sue May 9, 2014 - 2:50 am

This makes me miss living in London quite a bit. Another favourite of mine that we use to head to for an after dinner coffee or tea was The Bridge in Shoreditch. I’m not sure what their food is like and I don’t think it’s very breakfasty but it was always fun. There are such over the top furnishings, especially upstairs, to enjoy whilst chatting late.

Brenna Holeman May 9, 2014 - 1:48 pm

Yes, I love the Bridge, too! I didn’t include it on this list as I still associate it with going out/bars. I’m sure it will make another list. They do have amazing coffee!

Beverley - Pack Your Passport May 9, 2014 - 11:54 am

I’m so glad you liked Ozone, the food *was* amazing there wasn’t it? 🙂 I’m so excited to move to East London (8 days!) and maybe you can revisit some of your faves and take me along with you – all of these Cafes look amazing Brenna!

Brenna Holeman May 9, 2014 - 1:46 pm

Yes, that was a great pick, well done! We can definitely go to as many cafés as you’d like. You’ll love living in East London!

Victoria May 9, 2014 - 1:35 pm

you’ve convinced me! i’ve been thinking about moving to london for a while, and these cafe’s have done it for me! (i’m afraid i’m only half kidding) food pictures are always lovely as well 🙂

Brenna Holeman May 9, 2014 - 1:49 pm

Yes! Living in London is so fantastic, I love it here. Having all these great cafés around certainly helps…

Tom @ Waegook Tom May 12, 2014 - 3:32 am

Ah, I’m a total sucker for cafes, and on my days off work, can usually be found lurking in one. Luckily Taipei (which you should totally visit, by the way) has a ridiculous amount of super cute cafes, so I’m all set here. Of the cafes you’ve listed here, Ozone looks like my kind of place – those eggs! Gotta say though, in this day and age, there’s no excuse for no WiFi in cafes – it’s a big turn-off for me, as I like to get a lot of writing done while sipping down my caramelly, sugary, milky non-coffee.

Brenna Holeman May 12, 2014 - 11:02 am

I would love to visit Taipei! Maybe next year. Ozone’s eggs were indeed really great, and I agree that not having wifi is often a turn-off for me. When I do go there on my own I always make sure to have a good book, or to have writing to do that doesn’t require being online.

Madeleine May 12, 2014 - 6:08 pm

Thes places look so good! Especially Towpath! I may have to trek over from earls court one day to have a proper nosy around. I’ve been in London for 3 years now and I feel I’ve neglected East london for a bit too long now. Thanks for the recommendations!

Brenna Holeman May 12, 2014 - 10:29 pm

Great… see you in East London, Madeleine!

Zalie May 12, 2014 - 6:09 pm

Sounds like some yummy advice! I need to come to London more 🙂 xo

Brenna Holeman May 12, 2014 - 10:29 pm

Yes, you definitely do!

Best of London: A West End Musical - This Battered Suitcase July 8, 2014 - 12:13 am

[…] this city so great. If you’ve followed along, you may have noticed a trend. I wrote about my favourite cafés in the East End, and about one of my favourite ideas for a café (in East London’s Shoreditch) and about […]

Maria August 22, 2014 - 4:22 pm

Do not forget the Cafe from Hackney Farm!!!
Great brunch/lunch plus the visit to the farm.

Brenna Holeman August 22, 2014 - 5:06 pm

Ohhh good suggestion, Maria! I love that farm.


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