Freelance travel writer and Policy Adviser for the UK government living in Brixton. View my blog www.my-big-fat-carbon-footprint.blogspot.com for ethical and budget travel inspiration
Published February 27th 2013
Fret no more about finding excellent coffee and good wifi
If, like me, you're constantly engaged in the search for a café with squishy sofas, accessible tables and an atmosphere geared towards increasing productivity, then no doubt you will also have been on the hunt for the most comfortable, Wi-Fi hotspots in London. Despite the slightly discriminatory stance towards those who work from home by Yahoo's new CEO Marissa Mayer, many of us writers and techy-start up workers value the opportunity to choose our working location. I prefer the bustle of white noise and coffee smells to the sterile coldness of working from my broken boiler-plagued flat.
Although Starbucks and Café Nero are my fail-safe go-to choices when I really need a coffee and Wi-fi working spot, the main problems are that I like nice coffee, I like to support local businesses and living in central London means that my local coffee chains are always full of tourists startled by how cold London is, huddled around mugs of steaming hot-chocolate.
Although white noise and coffee shop working is almost always preferable to my flat, top advice for any wannabee café based workers is to always take headphones. Living in Pimlico, the cafes around me are jam packed with small children and gilet wearing parents for most of the day. Other child and parent hotspots include anywhere on Kings Road, Sloane Square and Dulwich.
I have based the following selections on how squishy their seats are, the tastiness of the coffee, and how productive I was when I was working there.
The Mecca of all places to work in London, the British Library Café (run by Peyton and Byrne) is peaceful and completely geared towards productivity. How can you not be inspired by the works of art in this building. The architectural beauty of the environment helps productivity too: there are numerous desks and plug-sockets. It is a gorgeous, airy space and the cake and coffee selection aren't bad either. The Wi-Fi is reliable and hasn't yet let me down.
Just to avoid repetition, Peyton and Byrne also have a lovely café at the Wellcome Collection, just up the road opposite Euston Station. It's often a bit more likely to attract mothers and small-fry, but otherwise the Wi-Fi and coffee are pretty good there too.
This is a strange one. If you like velour and darkness, and are in the middle of writing a vampy book or constructing an interior design website celebrating oddly placed tables, poor lighting and erratic table service, then the café on the 5th floor of Waterstones is ideal for you. I quite like it here. The first time I went there it was beautifully sunny outside, and I felt a little squirreled away in this dark cavernous interior. The views from the restaurant are incredible: the vista covers the whole of St James' right the way to Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. It's unlikely you'll get a look in here unless you buy an overpriced sandwich. I'm recommending it here (despite the overpriced beverages and the darkness) because the second time I came here it was raining outside and it felt wonderfully cosy: the staff, although a little hesitant when it comes to carrying out their job are incredibly friendly and happy to let you sit there for hours if its relatively quiet.
What can I say other than if I could live here, I would. It is by far and anywhere the most comfortable place to work in London with excellent coffee to excite the mind and dull the exhaustion. Best of all it's open late, which means if you get a rush of end-of-the-day inspiration there's no problem staying a little longer. Lots of power sockets, lots of tables and coolness in abundance. My only criticism is that it's so perfectly situated in the heart of arty, start up Shoreditch that it's no secret: Look Mum No Hands is often packed to the rafters with fellow laptop users and cycling enthusiasts (it doubles up as a bike workshop). Luckily, this being east London, there are plenty of other great locations for some online working. This one is just rather good.
Off of Holborn, in Lawyer central, this is a great, Scandinavian-clean lines and architecture designed coffee shop. Thick wooden worktop benches synonymous with excellent productivity abound, and the fairy cakes are to die for. In fact, all the cakes here are a big hit and the beautifully made lattes and cappuccinos are easy to sip whilst enjoying the central surroundings. I've been pretty productive here: its relatively child free during the day and in the evenings it serves beer on tap, so it's a great place to meet others after a long day designing websites or whatever it is you need Wi-Fi and coffee for all day. Best of all, it is almost possible to stay here all night too as they offer Cheese and Wine nights, which means the Bakery is open until 9pm on Thursday and Friday nights. Lots of power sockets and lots of lovely atmosphere.
Meetings here are great fun to attend. For one, the coffee quality is g.r.e.a.t. They use beans from Has Been and Caravan, which almost guarantees a good brew. Another, is that the location is central, which means that if the meetings overrun, it's pretty easy to meet friends in nearby Soho bars. There is strong Wi-Fi connectivity here: tourists and laptop wielding Soho-ites plague Foxcroft and Ginger, but there isn't an oppressive number of either and the staff are lovely and cheery. If you're based in Soho, you're more likely to be able to afford office premises, so the gangs of laptop workers aren't as prominent as at Look Mum No Hands. Upstairs is a kooky comfy area for coffees with friends, whilst downstairs there's a pommel horse/cum table and some beat up sofas. It's a great place to hang out-my productivity levels here are not as high as the other places because it's just such a lovely place to sit.