cafes are a key part of the literary diet, but you don’t have to be a writer to enjoy a romantic cafe. The vibe of a cozy room full of books is by far the best motivator for starting a reading list.
Whether you’re looking for a place to rest up with your year’s must-reads or just want a nice room to relax in, here’s a selection of hybrid book cafes dotted around London.
London Review Bookstore
If you’ve seen all the British Museum has to offer, dive deeper into history at the London Review Bookshop, less than two minutes away. With a huge selection of genres, read about history, politics, poetry, science and more. After perusing the approximately 20,000 shelves, head to the adjoining café or terrace. This tranquil setting gives you the chance to immerse yourself in your new reads from London’s best independent bookstore.
Holborn 14-16 Bury Pl, WC1, londonreviewbookshop.co.uk
This non-profit charity cafe offers both hot cups and the knowledge that every penny spent helps a worthy cause. Run by Restless Beings, a global human rights organization, the lush space furnished with oak trees and greenery offers its “Friday lates” events, hosting a lively crowd until 10 p.m. for an enjoyable evening in the east of London. The sprawling project offers an understated alternative to other late-night scenes, with vegan and halal menu options and an internal faith space for prayer and meditation. Needless to say, books are available for purchase.
116B Bow Road, E3, @root25ldn
Social spaces like these should be cherished. Located on High Street Islington, it’s a space where you can feel the owner’s love for literature – heightened by her career in the book industry. Live music, readings, and read-dating should be enough to tempt new and old readers alike. If that’s not enough, the prescriptions in the book “Shelf Medicate” are a stroke of genius to get you out of a reading rut. Note the “literary fiber prescription,” which includes books we all say we’ve read — and really should have by now.
166 Blackstock Road, N5, bookbaruk.com
Arthur Probsthain & Tea and Tattle
After a century of family bookstore, this store is complemented by the Tea and Tattle tea room, launched in 2010 to help sustain the business. Located close to the British Museum and the SOAS University, the collection of Oriental and African books accompanies a wide choice of beers: Lapsang, Assam, Ceylon, Sencha, Oolong and Kenyan. Picturesque with a historic air. Spend your afternoon here browsing or reminiscing – and don’t forget to see the fascinating handwritten Quran upstairs.
41 Great Russell Street, WC1, teaandtattle.com
Levant Book Cafe
A paradise for desserts. Visiting this cafe feels like a discovery that one wants to keep hidden. During the visit, the owners will be more than happy to share the story behind the Syrian dessert parlour, with handmade ice cream accompanied by translated Arabic texts donated from around the world. Less a bookstore than a library, this gem, tucked away among Park Royal’s shopping parks, offers books on loan at no extra charge.
26-28 Standard Road, NW10, levantlondon.com
The common press
An extension of Glass House London, this non-alcoholic spot broadens the sober spirit with its varied literature selection and great coffee. Stock ranges from black and queer fiction to translated literature – anything you can imagine from a Shoreditch book sanctuary. Cabins for rent aft also provide intimate space for creative projects, bringing this spot to a three-to-one score for hybrid art spaces.
118 Bethnal Green Road, E2, glasshouse.london
Books aside, Café Z Bar’s Turkish menu holds its own. The wholesome Menemen – a delicious Central Asian egg breakfast – is a must-try, especially considering the price (the city, it’s not). On the edge of the main street, this book-strewn, funky-paced cafe does brunch at its finest. Just follow the spiral staircase downstairs to enjoy a wider array of tempting novels along the walls after your Turkish tea.
58 Stoke Newington High Street, N16, @cafezbarstokey
Resurrected from the original 1980s Phlox in Belfast, the owner brought Phlox Books to London in 2017. With a personal passion for prose, the staff always seem ready to share their recommendations or simply chat about books, which gives a feeling familiar with a relatively new book. establishment. Personalized book subscriptions and a wonderful glass of anything you want go together perfectly in this community shop.
159 Francis Road, E10, phloxbooks.com
Named one of Gucci’s “must see” destinations of 2018, Maison Assouline is a luxury boutique where books take center stage in the heart of Piccadilly. Dressed books are housed in this cultural epicenter of style and sophistication in Sir Edwin Lutyens’ Grade II listed 1922 red brick vision. Your chic factor will increase simply by browsing through the many coffee table books. Don’t leave until you’ve had a coffee or an elegant afternoon tea in Swan’s Bar and, of course, a visit to the ‘cabinet of curiosities’.
196A Piccadilly, W1, maisonassouline.com
The Kioskafe cafe specializes in literature of a different genre — printed newspapers and magazines. Reminiscent of European newsstands and kiosks, the eponymous store proves that print is still alive. You can order the specific copy you’re looking for or choose from the 2,500 print-on-demand newspapers and 150 magazines that adorn this colorful space. An eye-catching stop – see the must-see zebra-striped canopy – en route to Paddington Station for a morning coffee and Swedish pastry.
31 Norfolk Square, W2, kioskafe.com
Books for cooks
For all calibers of cooks, this bookshop and test kitchen is a paradise for amateur chefs. With a menu of the day announced by the owner on Twitter every morning and fresh ingredients bought from Portobello Market, the food on the shelves comes to life. Literature extends beyond cookbooks and includes genres like food fiction, biographies, art, history, and chemistry. You probably won’t catch Julia Roberts casually waltzing around, but you could imagine Hugh Grant tempting you to stay, with a sweet request, “Would you like a cup of tea before you go?”
4 Blenheim Crescent, W11, cookbooks.com
Paper and Cup
Another health and wellness establishment for latte lovers, with benefits supporting those recovering from addiction and homelessness. The Spitalfields Crypt Trust curates a collection of used books and vintage items at incredible prices – leaving enough in your pocket for an extra donation. Huge cups of coffee and fabulous cakes make this a great place to read, write, browse or all of the above.
18 Calvert Avenue, E2, sct.org.uk