There was a time, if you were an Australian desperate for coffee in London, when your chances of getting a decent one were slim. A bitter coffee in a Styrofoam cup or a lacklustre latte swamped in frothy foam were sadly all you could hope for, which is surprising given the city's proximity to some of the great European coffee cultures.
But in recent years, London's independent coffee scene has changed everything. Now it's not only possible to get a good coffee, but more than likely it'll be made just like your favourite java fix in Australia - thanks to a new breed of antipodean-owned and run cafes turning Brits onto good latte, one well-extracted cup at a time.
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
This funky cafe is part of the Coffeesmiths Collective run by New Zealanders Tim Ridley and Chris McKie, who, with London banker and investor Stefan Allesch-Taylor, are about to open their fifth specialist cafe in central London. One of Ridley's first impressions of London was that, unlike in Australia and New Zealand, locals didn't socialise in cafes. Ridley and his team hope to change that. Based in a renovated ironmonger's building, the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs aims to be a coffee-focused social hub for local residents and office workers. The food menu is limited but good and the coffee satisfying.
Leather Lane, Chancery Lane. departmentofcoffee.co.uk.
Speakeasy Espresso & Brew Bar
Another member of the Coffeesmiths Collective and in Soho near the hip Carnaby Street. Speakeasy is split over two levels, with an espresso bar upstairs and a funky brew bar downstairs. As well as serving quality java, it offers lessons on how to make good coffee at home. There's a surprising familiarity about Speakeasy because Ridley's cafes are built on an understanding of Australasian coffee culture. You should ty the moist lemon drizzle loaf or plum cake with your piccolo.
Speakeasy can be found at 3 Lowndes Court. speakeasycoffee.co.uk. The Coffeesmiths' Liberty of Norton Folgate, which is near Spitalfields Markets in Brushfield Street, also delivers good coffee. libertyofnortonfolgate.co.uk.
Although not as popular these days, this was the original antipodean cafe in London when there was not much more on offer than the Costa coffee chain or, if you were really desperate, the American-owned Starbucks. Positioned between the old and the new Soho worlds of media and fashion, well-crafted flat whites, complete with fern art, are the order of the day. The uncomplicated food menu features toasties (try the bacon and haloumi bagel), salads and an all-day breakfast menu.
17 Berwick Street in Soho. flatwhitecafe.com. Also try sister cafe Milkbar, at 3 Bateman Street, Soho.
Caravan is closer to the cafe style Australians are familiar with at home, given it has a full kitchen and sits well with the area's trendy vibe. Set up by three Aussies, the kitchen offers a brilliant menu (the poached rhubarb with coconut bread was voted one of London's top dishes by TimeOut). The waiters are almost hipper than the clientele, and the coffee, roasted in the basement, is consistently good.
11-13 Exmouth Market in Islington. caravanonexmouth.co.uk.
Allpress Espresso Cafe
This NZ-based wholesale coffee roaster, started by Kiwi Michael Allpress, expanded to Sydney in 1999 with the help of Sydneysider Tony Papas before exporting the concept to Britain three years ago. Its roastery with an adjoining cafe sells its coffee to other independent cafes. You can watch and smell the beans being roasted here most days. While most roasters buy their beans through a merchant, Allpress Espresso deals directly with coffee growers, selecting the best-quality beans from sustainable farms. New Zealander Agnes Potter, who set up Allpress in London, says the East End is the epicentre of London's independent cafe scene, with its evolution from low socio-economic area to arty, trendy hub of all things creative. The coffee is good, the vibe is fun and the menu inviting.
58 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch. uk.allpressespresso.com.
London's original specialist coffee shop and roasters opened their second outlet here in 2001. The coffee is delivered fresh daily from Monmouth's roasting site in Bermondsey and is made using organic Jersey-cow milk from Somerset. The owners of Melbourne's Market Lane worked here for inspiration for their cafe. There's a pour-through cone-filter bar, communal tables and a queue of Londoners waiting for a takeaway before hitting the nearby Borough Market.
2 Park Street, The Borough. monmouthcoffee.co.uk.
This Australian- and New Zealand-owned cafe is where anyone who knows anything about coffee will direct you to in London. Dimly lit, with exposed floorboards and red-brick interior, this independent cafe sells an extensive selection of house-made cakes, delicious banana bread and excellent Square Mile coffee, which explains the long queues.
66 Great Titchfield Street, in Fitzrovia, near Oxford Circus. kaffeine.co.uk.
Originally connected with Melbourne's famed St Ali, Workshop has since parted ways but the ethos remains. In a large airy space with exposed brick, industrial lighting, a foliage wall and a large roasting area, Workshop remains under the leadership of Australian "coffee director" Tim Williams. It serves an excellent brunch menu and fine coffee, even if it means you have to wait.
Workshop, which also runs a coffee bar in Marylebone, is at 27 Clerkenwell Road, Clerkenwell. workshopcoffee.com.
... and if you must make tea
London has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dainty and delicious venues to have a cuppa and cake. But few can be prettier than the tearoom at Mayfair's Chesterfield hotel, a conservatory-style ensemble of green linen, fine china and elegance.
This summer, sandwiches and scones have made room for an oompa loompa-size river of sweeter treats in homage to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical playing at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane.
Morsels inspired by Roald Dahl's story have been recreated for this very child-friendly afternoon tea - a three-tiered stand bulging with Wonka Bars, Oompa Loompa cupcakes, fizzy lifting drinks and gobstoppers of all kinds.
Traditional tea at the boutique Chesterfield is on the London radar, with the hotel receiving an excellence award from the Tea Guild for the third year running, a testament to the dozens of loose leaf varieties on offer.
The chocolate twist will run until September 1, with the acclaimed musical itself set to continue indefinitely.
For afternoon tea, email email@example.com; for the show, see charlieandthechocolatefactory.com.
For more information see chesterfieldmayfair.com.
The writers were guests of Visit Britain. visitbritain.com.
Virgin Atlantic flies daily to London via Hong Kong. 1300 727 340, virgin-atlantic.com.
Accor's first upscale Pullman hotel in Britain, three minutes' walk from the Eurostar terminal and St Pancras Station (a quick Tube ride to Shoreditch and the antipodean cafe explosion), has had a major renovation. The contemporary 312-room hotel pays homage to Pullman's rich history in luxury train travel and quirky features include a fun bowler hat art installation and a glass lift. pullmanhotels.com.