London’s best small chains

One of the things I look for when I walk into a coffee shop, is a place that has some character to it and that makes me feel welcomed, or in other words, the feeling that the place is special, combined with a feeling that I am special. Oddly enough, I found that some of the British (smaller scale) chains managed to do exactly that.


If you ever find yourself in need for a caffeine shot, and you happen to spot a Grind store, I would advise to get in. I first came across their coffee when I visited their Shoreditch location, which is their original coffee shop, and also the one with the most buzz around it. When I went there, I was looking for a place to work from, and this turned out to be quite a mistake, as the Shoreditch location happens to be super busy and plays pretty loud music all day long, (as you might get from their motto, which is “Sex, Coffee and Rock N roll”). I ended up grabbing a cup of coffee and a brownie and just kept walking. This visit made me quite ambivalent towards the place, as on the one hand it was disappointing, but on the other hand, they had great coffee and a yummy brownie, and all in all, I was satisfied. The result was that when I was walking in Soho and ran into another shop, I walked in and got myself coffee, and kept doing that every time I happened to walk by one of their locations. I found out I like their Clerckenwell location the best. This one is a “restaurant”, and not a coffee bar, like the Soho or Shoreditch locations, but you can still get their great coffee and delicious breakfast. At Clerckenwell the interiors are slightly more high end, with a turquoise decor (including walls and velvet sofas), but it is also somewhat more quite. One of Grind’s pluses is the fact that all locations are open till late at night (sometimes even past midnight). Another one is the fact that they offer more than just snacks and are actually known to serve the best brunches in London. With great coffee, great food, cool decor and a trendy vibe, I would definitely recommend you to look for Grind’s pink logo and go get some coffee.



Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

I first came across this trendy chain at their Piccadilly Circus location. Each of their locations has a unique design, this is a pretty big one with green coloration, and a cozy vibe to it. It was early morning and people were standing in line for their first coffee of the day. While I was “queuing”, the barista asked me gently had I placed my order on the screen, and when I failed to understand, she pointed to my right, where I could see a touch screen, and explained that I can place my order there in order to expedite the process. I went over to the screen, which also allowed me to get a look at their pastries (they looked great), and by the time I was back at the counter, my coffee was ready for me. The coffee was strong and good and I continued my day pleased and caffeinated. I later visited their Spitalfields Market, Carnaby and Tottenham Court Road locations. The Spitalpields Market is probably the least intimate one, while the Tottenham Court Road is the prettiest, both inside (with a bright decor and some greenery) and out (with a pair of bikes hanging above the entrance door). I would definitely recommend you give them a visit. Note that they are closed on Sundays, and also that they are opened daily till 5-6pm.

department of coffee

[Via @departmentofcoffee]

Gail’s Bakery

This is a slightly different recommendation, as Gail’s Bakery is definitely not a cool and trendy location, like most places I usually feature here, but it is a place that will make you feel right at home. With a selection of great baked good, both sweet and savory, snacks and some actual meal options, Gail’s is a carbs lover’s heaven. Gail’s is a very widespread chain in London, and you can find it pretty much everywhere. However, the quality of their coffee and products hasn’t been compromised by its popularity. They pretty much have everything one can desire. Try their bran muffins or chocolate vegan muffins, their tiny honey cakes or chewy and chunky cookies, their cinnamon rolls (and then some). They also serve great breakfast, as well as great fresh sandwiches, like their vegan cauliflower sandwich. My favorite Gail’s location was the Battersea Square one, which is quite spacious, though it has a very homey vibe, with outside seating options at the form of yellow tables and chairs, and some cool tiles indoors. The staff is friendly and helpful as well. If you happen to bump into one of their locations (which is bound to happen when in London), go in and get some sugar and coffee.


[Via @BertandMay]

Till next time,

~ Lir

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