(Note you may also be interested in my post with of a guided walk around secret streets of Kensington that these cafés are in)
I find that a morning coffee stop is one of my favourite times of the day and an opportunity to choose a venue that reinforces my mood. Kensington has a hidden café for every mood. They are all easily accessible but you’ll never get beyond Starbucks or Costa Coffee if you don’t know they are there as they are all on side streets you’ll have no reason to traverse. I am in two minds about whether to share these secrets haunts in case they become harder to get into, but with business rates rising worryingly fast, the more of you who come, the less likely we locals will be to lose these artisan gems. And besides I want visitors to London to see my city at its best and as the far cry it now from my younger adulthood when you couldn’t get a cappuccino if you tried.
Sometimes I want winter cosy – a big frothy hot cappuccino in a bustling coffee shop warm in rich red materials and wood and from the energy of the chatter around me.
Sometimes it is late morning and I’m ravenous and want a hearty breakfast rather than lunch.
Sometimes it is early and I want the peace and quiet of reading my newspaper over a perfectly blended coffee with the indulgence of a croissant or special Italian treat.
Sometimes I feel sociable and want to meet a friend.
Sometimes I want to settle in with my laptop and work with a cheerful buzz around me but neither chatter nor music so loud I can’t think.
Whatever your mood, there is something here for you.
1. Fait Maison Stratford Road
My first pick, closest to my home, is the original Fait Maison on Stratford Road. The treats inside are mouthwatering. You probably won’t get past the croissants but if you do try their parmesan biscuits and their little fruit tarts.
If you are there at lunch time, their salads bar (chilled cooked salmon, roast beef with beans and much more) is excellent if a little on the expensive side.
2. Fait Maison Gloucester Road
The newer and larger Fait Maison on Gloucester Road is very smart and they do great gelato.
It depends on my mood but in the mornings I prefer the intimacy of the original smaller hidden Fait Maison.
3. Fulham Tarts, Kynance Place
This is round the corner from the Fait Maison on Gloucester Road. I went there for the first time recently and the coffee was exceptionally good and the irish cream pastry treat delicious. It has a nice atmosphere but isn’t the sort of place you’d linger for an hour or two.
4. Cafe Ottoemezzo, Thackeray street, Kensington
Thackeray street has two of my other favourite coffee shops as well as my hairdresser
Opposite Valentino’s is Ottomezzo – the café attached to the lovely Italian restaurant next door of the same name. It is smart and cosy, the coffee cups are cheerful colours and the red interior of the walls always make me happy.
5. Cafe Montparnasse, Thackeray street, Kensington
This is next to an art gallery I’ve bought one or two lovely works of art from. Montparnasse is the oldest of the the Thackary street cafés and my number one choice in the area – it feels like escaping to a hidden part of Paris. In summer the outdoor tables are like gold dust to snag but in winter there is no cosier café in London and I adore their chocolate croissants if I’m feeling indulgent.
6. Pain Quotidien, Young Street, Kensington
This is just off Kensington High street on the way down to Kensington square garden. It is the most chain-like of the cafés I’ve mentioned but I have a soft spot for them. When I lived in New York the Belgian chain were there (long before they came to London) and there was one near my Upper East Side apartment. The Americans are so much more chatty than the Brits that I would meet all sorts of people if I sat at the communal table. And so I used to go in and regularly end up talking to a lovely airline pilot when he was en route from Denver to somewhere exotic and one or two local women who used to take a break from shopping. In the morning I quite often order their boiled eggs (cooked to perfection with a timer) and capuccino served French-style in a bowl along with rustic bread and delicious jams. In the afternoon they do the best cheese scones on the planet. Most of their food is good.
7. Nameless cafe (something square!) on corner of Phillimore walk and Argyll Road, Kensington
This is truly a mystery cafe close to Holland Park and just above Kensington High street! There is no branding on anything in the cafe and no business cards and it doesn’t show up at all on Google map. I asked once and it was something like square 24 but then when I couldn’t quite remember I was embarrassed to ask again. Anyway what they don’t spend on branding they do spend on making a nice environment. The coffee is good, there is usually a newspaper to read and the communal table is quite nice to camp out at with a book or a laptop if you want to spend a couple of hours somewhere.
8. Cafe Phillies on corner of Phillimore walk and Phillimore gardens, Kensington
One block away form the previous cafe is Cafe Phill with the most alluring floor to ceiling display of wines! I found it when a technology guru I know from San Francisco moved over to London and made this his local breakfast meeting venue. It is great for coffee and their tasty homemade little almond treats. The smoked salmon and avocado breakfast dish is worth having.
9. Nouvelle Delicatessen on Abingdon Road, Kensington
This is another cosy cafe. For a treat try their little Italian pastry cones filled with lemon or chocolate or vanilla cream.
These cafés need your support
The cafés and shops I have so much enjoyment from and have shared with you above are in real survival danger from the accelerating lease costs and business rate rises in the area. Please share this article on social media so more people find them and can bring business to them – so they remain here.
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