★★★★★ / ★★★★☆ / ★★★☆☆ / ★★☆☆☆ / ★☆☆☆☆ / Coffee

The best and worst flat white coffees in London

50 different flat whites tasted; only nine worth drinking

Way back in September 2011 I set out to find the best flat white coffee in London, trying out 21 different versions. Since then I’ve received numerous requests for a follow-up and after some delay, here it is. If you’ve read my first flat white round up then feel free to skip forward to the reviews themselves. If you have no idea what a flat white is, then you may wish to read this introduction first.

What is a flat white?

There’s much debate over what exactly a flat white is, but for me it’s an Australian/New Zealander version of the latte. The difference is subtle but important – a flat white should be made from two ‘short’ double shots of espresso (also known as a ristretto, the definition of which is another source of debate among coffee lovers) giving it a strong, bold flavour with little to no bitterness or acidity. The other essential component is hot steamed milk which is prepared and poured in a specific way to add a thin but velvety, silky smooth ‘microfoam’ to the top of the brew. Various other blogs and illustrated webpages show the preparation of a flat white in some detail.

Why are you writing about coffee? I thought this was a blog about restaurants?!

This blog isn’t deviating from my stated purpose of stuffing my face in London’s restaurants for your reading pleasure to cover coffee too. However, I’m making an exception for the flat white given how truly mediocre or just plain awful some commercially made flat whites are.

How did you conduct this caffeinated jaunt of idiocy?

I’ve judged each flat white on texture, taste and their ‘kick in the pants’ factor – how alert I feel after drinking the coffee and for how long. This is obviously very subjective, but I’ve attempted to add some pseudo-scientific method to it. I sampled each flat white on a weekday morning before I head into the office for a hard day’s work without any additional caffeine, either before the flat white or after it, until I start feeling sleepy/fatigued.

I drank flat whites from 50 different establishments, both chains and independents, across London over the past three months. I only revisited a couple of the winners from my last flat white round up. The quality of the final coffee is obviously very much dependent on the skill of the specific barista behind the bar, so there will doubtless some natural variation between the way they’re described here and how you might experience them yourself.

The Lensman has a pet theory that the longer the preparation time, the better the flat white. I’ve therefore timed how long it took for each flat white to be prepared, but this is only approximate since my view of the barista at work is sometimes blocked or I may have been distracted by my fellow customers.

Without further ado…

Tablet of Contents (click to jump directly to a review)
Allpress
Bean and Gone
Beas of Bloomsbury
Bermondsey Street Coffee
Bird and Ballard
Brick Lane Coffee
Caffe Paradiso
Caffe Ritazza
Camden Coffee House
Camden Food Co
Caravan
Chez Le Boulanger
Coffee East
Coffee Works Project
Cotton Cafe
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
The Diner
Dose
Euphorium
Federation
Finns of Chelsea Green
Flat White
Fleet River Bakery
Foxcroft and Ginger
Full Stop
Gail’s
Ginger and White
Hays
Kaffeine
Kahalia
Leyas
Liberty of Norton Folgate
LJ Cafe
Madame Chi
MADD
Maison d’être
Monmouth Coffee
M&S
Mozzino
Notes
Ozone
Pod
Prufrock
Salt
Soho Joe
Store Street Espresso
Taylor Street Baristas
Tinderbox
Vagabond
Weanie Beans
Workshop

Allpress (Shoreditch)

allpress flat white

Allpress isn’t just a cafe, but also a supplier of beans both to the public and to trade customers. One can only hope its commercial clients can cook up a better tasting flat white than Allpress itself though. The coffee tasted tart bordering on sour, making it mildly unpleasant to drink. There wasn’t much in the way of a head and what little head there was lacked both smoothness and silkiness. It was potent enough to keep me going until the end of the working day though, so it’s not completely without merit.

Time taken: 1m30s approx.
Taste★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants★★★★★

Allpress Espresso on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Bean and Gone

bean and gone flat white

This mobile coffee stall sometimes occupies the same space near King’s Cross as Weanie Beans. Like Weanie Beans’ flat white, Bean and Gone’s brew kept me going well into the afternoon. It tasted a little different though – initially tart, the brew was quite bright overall with a moderate silkiness to it.

Time taken: 1m15s approx.
Taste★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants★★★★☆

Beas of Bloomsbury

beas of bloomsbury flat white

The original branch of Beas is naturally located in Bloomsbury, but there are a handful of other branches throughout London. The New Change location, housed in the same shopping centre as Barbecoa and within spitting distance of St. Paul’s, could only manage a rather bland, tame flat white that, at best, had a very mild hint of tartness and maltiness to it. At least the brew kept me from crashing well into the day though.

Time taken: 1m approx.
Taste★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants★★★★☆

Bea's of Bloomsbury on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Bermondsey Street Coffee

bermondsey street coffee flat white

This friendly little joint is located just opposite the White Cube gallery. Their flat white was too foamy though and the bland milkiness diluted the slight tartness present in this coffee. It was strong enough to keep me going until just after lunch, but that was it.

Time taken: 1m45s
Taste★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants★★★☆☆

Bird and Ballard

bird and ballard flat white

Bird and Ballard has a hideous exterior dominated by a massive billboard but its quirkily decorated interior is pure-Shoreditch. If only this cafe had put as much effort into its flat white. This rather bitter coffee was lacking in smoothness and wasn’t very pleasant to drink. Plus I needed another jolt by lunchtime.

Time taken: 4m approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Brick Lane Coffee

brick lane flat white

This coffee shop has a rather odd decor with posters of Steve Jobs and Kim Jong-Il lining the walls (perhaps the owners are Android users trying to make a point). The joint is actually owned by the same company that’s also behind Bermondsey Street Coffee, so it’s no surprise that the flat whites turned out quite similar. Although thin and creamy, the head was still just a little too foamy for my liking. It was also a rather bland coffee with only a slight tartness to tickle the taste buds. At least it kept me going until after Countdown.

Time taken: 4m30s approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Caffe Paradiso

caffe paradiso flat white

This Italian cafe and wannabe-deli is located only a few doors down from Store Street Espresso. Its flat white is available in regular and large sizes. The large serving is monstrously big and the sheer amount of coffee probably accounted for the fireworks going off in my head. It’s a smooth, silky coffee, but it’s also very milky and thus quite bland. This flat white is bordering on latte territory, but at least it’s not as desperately bad as some of the other coffees here.

Time taken: 1m45s approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★★

Caffe Ritazza (Euston)

caffe ritazza flat white

This international chain only seems to have branches inside train stations and the Euston branch serves up a deplorable flat white. The sour, watery puddle not only tasted awful, it wasn’t even that strong with my mouth gasping for another caffeine shot within a couple of hours.

Time taken: 2m approx
Taste★☆☆☆☆
Kick in the pants★★☆☆☆

Camden Coffee House

camden coffee house flat white

This small two-floor cafe is a friendly, welcoming joint so it’s a shame its flat white is so bad. The coffee was very bland with a non-existent head and I desperately needed another caffeine fix within two hours of downing it.

Time taken: 1m30s approx.
Taste★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants★☆☆☆☆

Camden Food Co (Victoria)

camden food co euston flat white

This chain of sandwich shops seems to be located almost exclusively within train stations and has no relation that I know of to the Camden Coffee House above. Their flat white isn’t worth bothering with though – the brew is excessively foamy and is both very weak and very bitter. Bleurgh.

Time taken: 1m approx.
Taste★☆☆☆☆
Kick in the pants★★☆☆☆

Caravan

caravan kings cross flat white

Located a short walk from King’s Cross station, Caravan serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in its informal dining room alongside its takeaway coffee bar. Although the erratic service needs a slap, it’s hard to find fault with the flat white here. The thin head was smooth and silky while the coffee itself was chocolatey with a light smokiness to it. The coffee was also powerful enough to keep me going well into the afternoon.

Time taken: 2m39s approx.
Taste★★★★☆
Kick in the pants★★★★☆

Caravan Kings Cross on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Chez Le Boulanger

chez le boulanger flat white

I had my doubts that Chez Le Boulanger would be able to cook up a respectable flat white since this Islington cafe serves up a dizzying array of sandwiches, cakes, quiches and pastas as well as coffees. Plus the poor overworked soul behind the counter was initially didn’t know what a flat white was.

My suspicions were confirmed by the watery, bitter cup of bile that I was presented with. The bubbly foam belonged in a bottle of washing up liquid. I managed to keep it all down, but the initial caffeine hit wore off within a couple of hours. Rubbish.

Time taken: 2m45s approx.
Taste: ★☆☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★☆☆☆

Coffee East

This mobile stall can usually be found outside Shoreditch High Street station, but it also pops up at other random locations. Its flat white tastes quite sharp and bright, verging on sourness. Although the head looked very foamy, it settled down quickly but isn’t silky in the slightest and its kick in the pants factor only lasted until about noon-ish. Underwhelming.

(Sorry folks, no photo of this one. I must’ve been distracted by my own fatigue.)

Time taken: 1m approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Coffee Works Project

coffee works project flat white

This Islington coffee house uses iPads to process orders, but it should’ve perhaps invested the money elsewhere. The flat white wasn’t smooth or silky at all. The drink had a mild bitterness to it and the occasional smoky hint, but this was an otherwise inoffensive tasting brew. It was strong enough to fuel me for most of the day though.

Time taken: 2m approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Coffee Works Project on Urbanspoon

Cotton Cafe

cotton cafe flat white

Flat whites have clearly hit the London mainstream whey they’re available in Marks and Spencer stores and in greasy caffs like the Cotton Cafe on Berwick Street in Soho. Although the brew here did have some maltiness to it, the head wasn’t smooth or silky at all and it tasted quite bitter and watery too. At least it was strong, but then I’d expect nothing less than jet fuel from a caff coffee.

Time taken: 1m approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

department of coffee and social affairs flat white

If this coffee shop was a real government department, I’d be writing to my MP to complain. The milky, sour excuse for a flat white wasn’t smooth or especially strong either. Gah.

Time taken: 1m34s approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Department of Coffee and Social Affairs on Urbanspoon

The Diner (Soho)

the diner flat white

I was unimpressed with the burger at the Islington branch of The Diner, so I approached the Soho branch to try out its flat white with some degree of trepidation. The oddly wispy head gave way to a watery, acidic and bitter brew that I had trouble keeping down. At least it kept me awake, but still. Ugh.

Time taken: 3m approx.
Taste: ★☆☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Diner on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Dose

dose flat white

The flat whites at this cafe are available in regular and large sizes, one of the few places I encountered that still offers this choice. The coffee was moderately smooth and silky with a slight smoky chocolately flavour to it. Despite its size however the large serving wasn’t as strong as I expected – I started to crash just after lunchtime.

Time taken: 2m30s approx.
Taste: ★★★★☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Dose Espresso on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Euphorium (Covent Garden)

euphorium flat white

This mini-chain has a couple of branches in Islington and elsewhere, but I tried out the flat white from its Covent Garden outlet which is located in a small shopping centre’s basement. Although the head was very fullsome and foamy, it quickly settled down. It wasn’t very silky, but this mellow coffee was very drinkable although I started feeling sleepy again within a couple of hours.

Time taken: 2m approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★☆☆☆

Federation

federation coffee flat white

Federation is located in the eastern end of Brixton Market and this attractive Antipodean cafe has a tasty range of pastries, including a cracking Anzac biscuit. Its flat white kicked off with a strong smoky hit that was unusual but delicious. It was quickly replaced by a tart, rounded bitterness and ended on a sweet note. The overall effect was somewhat chocolatey. Although relatively smooth, the extremely thin, almost non-existent head wasn’t very silky.

Sadly, despite its complex taste, the kick in the pants factor started to fade by around lunchtime. Federation’s flat white is more like a latte, but at least it’s a good latte.

Time taken: 1m50s approx.
Taste: ★★★★☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Federation Coffee on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Finns of Chelsea Green

finns of chelsea green flat white

This small deli/cafe in Chelsea may serve a well-heeled clientele, but its flat white tastes like ditch water. The brew was far too bitter with an excessively foamy head lacking in silkiness, but it did at least have enough punch to keep me going until just after lunchtime.

Time taken: 1m16s approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Flat White

flat white soho coffee

This Soho cafe was one of the winners from my last flat white round up and it’s still as good as ever. The smooth, silky head gives way to a malty, fruity brew with a mild, rounded bitterness that isn’t overpowering. Best of all, I was bouncing off the walls for the rest of the day. Bliss.

Time taken: 3 minutes approx.
Taste: ★★★★★
Kick in the pants: ★★★★★

Flat White on Urbanspoon

Fleet River Bakery

fleet river bakery flat white

This small coffee shop is located on a side street off High Holborn and probably sees more than its fair share of lawyers and wannabe lawyers from the nearby courts and university. The head of the flat white here was a little too foamy and not silky or smooth enough for my liking. I was also unimpressed by the slightly sour, bitter taste. It gave me just enough of a boost to last until just after lunchtime.

Time taken: 1m32s approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Fleet River Bakery on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Foxcroft and Ginger

foxcroft and ginger flat white

Foxcroft and Ginger may sound like a 1950s matinee idol duo, but it’s actually a mini chain of coffee shops. I passed over the Boxpark branch in favour of the Soho outlet. The flat white was silky and mellow with a slight tartness. It’s not the most distinctive tasting brew, but it was strong enough to keep me from flagging until late in the afternoon.

Time taken: 1m30s approx.
Taste: ★★★★☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Foxcroft and Ginger on Urbanspoon

Full Stop

full stop flat white

Brick Lane’s Full Stop feels more like a bar than a cafe, but it can rustle up a decent flat white. The coffee was malty and subtly tart with a slightly smoky aftertaste, while the very thin head was quite smooth. I needed another fix by lunchtime though.

Time taken: Unknown
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Full Stop on Urbanspoon

Gail’s (Soho)

gail's soho flat white

I’m not sure who this Gail is, but her flat whites are whoppers. The sheer size probably accounts for the off-the-scales buzziness that this coffee induced. Sadly, it was a rather bland, milky drink with a minimal amount of silkiness to it.

Time taken: 2m approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★★

Square Meal

Ginger and White

ginger and white flat white coffee

Ginger and White advertises itself as a British coffee shop, but that doesn’t stop it from serving a flat white. Although smooth and silky, the coffee was otherwise quite bland with perhaps a hint of acidity every now and again. It was at least potent enough to keep me humming along for most of the day though.

Time taken: 1m approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Ginger & White Soho on Urbanspoon

Hays

hays galleria flat white

This yuppie minimart near London Bridge station serves up an underwhelming flat white. The head is a little too foamy and the mildly acidic, bitter taste was unpleasant. It kept me going until around around noon at which point I need to rinse out my mouth and bang my head against a wall.

Time taken: 1m45s approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Kaffeine

kaffeine flat white

Kaffeine was one of the winners from my first round-up of flat white coffees. The flat white this time around was a bit more bitter and not quite as silky as last time, but it’s still a very quaffable coffee with a naturally sweet maltiness to it. Plus, it’s still strong enough to keep me peppy enough for most of the day so I can annoy The Prancing Hippy and The Flame Haired Squelchie.

Time taken: 1m35s approx.
Taste: ★★★★☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Kaffeine on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Kahalia

kahalia flat white

I wasn’t expecting much from this Brick Lane cafe, so I was very pleasantly surprised by its exceptionally smooth and mellow flat white. Initially tart, it finishes on a subtly dark chocolate-like bitterness that’s delightfully complex. Plus it had more than enough kick to have me bouncing off the walls. Bonanza!

Time taken: 2m approx.
Taste: ★★★★★
Kick in the pants: ★★★★★

Leyas

leyas flat white

I stumbled across this split-level coffee shop midway between Camden Town and Mornington Crescent Tube stations purely by accident. I usually prefer my flat whites to have a mellow taste with very little acidity, but the tart, rounded acidity of Leyas’ flat white was surprisingly pleasing. The exceedingly smooth, thin head was just right too. Sadly though, I was feeling sleepy within a couple hours of sipping this brew. Sometimes you really can’t have it all.

Time taken: 3m21s approx.
Taste: ★★★★☆
Kick in the pants: ★★☆☆☆

Liberty of Norton Folgate

liberty of norton folgate flat white

The oddly-named Liberty of Norton Folgate may be located in the City, but it feels like a Shoreditch intruder with its stark decor and odd system of dual entrance ways. Although the flat white here was only moderately silky, its naturally sweet maltiness was almost fruit-like. Not only did it taste good, but I was buzzing along well into the afternoon.

Time taken: 2m30s approx.
Taste: ★★★★☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

LJ Cafe

lj cafe flat white

The Lensman is quite fond of the flat whites at this plain jane Soho cafe, but they were clearly having an off-day when I dropped by. The head is a bit too foamy for its own good. The rest of the drink is naturally sweet with a slight smokiness, but it’s all very subtle as is its silkiness. The kick in the pants factor is more like a slight pat on the bum – I was flagging within two hours of downing the brew.

Time taken: just over 1m
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★☆☆☆

LJ Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Madame Chi

madame chi flat white

I wasn’t expecting much from this ridiculously-named Upper Street cafe, so I was very pleasantly surprised by its potent strength and its exceptionally rich silkiness. Sadly, once I got past the thin head it tasted rather bland and forgettable.

Time taken: 2m approx.
Taste: ★★★★☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★★

MADD

madd flat white

I’m not sure why an eatery that specialises in mango-based desserts also serves up a flat white. It’s more of a latte though – it’s not very silky and it’s quite creamy and mildly tart too. It is at least strong enough to keep me going well into the afternoon.

Time taken: 2m30s
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Madd on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Maison d’être

maison d'être flat white

This charming little cafe near Highbury and Islingon station can produce a flat white with a very thin head that’s reasonably silky. Sadly it didn’t taste of much besides a very mild tartness, but it did have enough pep to keep me buzzing along well into the afternoon.

Time taken: 3m approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Maison D'Etre on Urbanspoon

Monmouth Coffee (Covent Garden)

monmouth coffee flat white

Monmouth Coffee is revered by some caffeine addicts and the company also supplies beans to a good chunk of the cafes in this round up. I wasn’t impressed by the flat white from the Covent Garden branch of Monmouth though. Although tart and naturally sweet, the flat white wasn’t silky in the slightest and its strength started petering out before the morning was out.

Time taken: 3m approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★☆☆☆

Monmouth Coffee Company on Urbanspoon

M&S (Edgware Road)

m&s flat white

I assume all Marks and Spencers with cafes now serve flat whites, but I really hope there aren’t all as bad as the one at the Edgware Road branch. The bitter, sour, headless brew was almost undrinkable. It did at least have a reasonable amount of pep to it, keeping me going until around lunchtime.

Time taken: 1m42s approx.
Taste: ★☆☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Mozzino

mozzino flat white

This vaguely Italian cafe near Carnaby Street serves up a potent flat white that kept me going until the end of the day. This only made its poor taste all the more disappointing – slightly bitter, acidic and with a head that was not silky at all.

Time taken: 1m approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★★

Notes (Covent Garden)

notes covent garden flat white

I was expecting the worst from this mini-chain of cafes-cum-bars, but the flat white from the branch near Joe Allen was actually passable. Although not especially strong or silky, it did have a mildly chocolatey, malty taste.

Time taken: 1m30s approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Notes Covent Garden on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Ozone

ozone flat white

Ozone got quite a lot of buzz when it first opened, but I’m in two minds over its flat white. The naturally sweet brew was fruity and bright, but it wasn’t very silky and I needed another kick start just after lunch. Not bad, but could be better.

Time taken: 3m45s approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Ozone Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Pod (Goodge Street)

pod flat white

I’ve never had any of the sandwiches and soups from this chain of lunchtime eateries, but I really hope they’re not bad as the flat white from the Goodge Street branch. The watery brew was tart to the point of sourness and had next to no effect on my alertness.

Time taken: 1m approx.
Taste: ★☆☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★☆☆☆☆

Prufrock

prufrock flat white

Located a few doors down from the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Prufrock produced a far superior flat white. The thin, smooth and silky head gave way to a mildly bitter yet naturally sweet and subtly smoky drink. The overall effect was chocolatey and the buzzing in my head didn’t stop well into the day. Excellent.

Time taken: 1m34s
Taste: ★★★★★
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Prufrock Coffee on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Salt

salt flat white coffee

Located just a few doors down from Great Queen Street, the simply named Salt serves up a flat white that thankfully isn’t salty. This coffee was reasonably smooth with a slightly tart, mildly chocolatey taste. The initial buzz died down after only a couple of hours though.

Time taken: 1m26s
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Salt Espresso and Tea on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Soho Joe

soho joe flat white

Soho Joe only just does an adequate job at serving pizzas, it’s main staple, so I didn’t have high hopes for its flat white. Although mildly malty with a very slight tartness, it’s not smooth and silky at all and it’s about as strong as a silk blouse used as a lamp post. Do yourself a favour and skip this place entirely.

Time taken: 1m30s approx.
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★☆☆☆

Store Street Espresso

store street flat white

Despite its name Store Street Espresso sells other coffees besides espressos including flat whites. The version here seemed bland at first, but further sips revealed a malty, sweet flavour with a slightly tart aftertaste but it’s not an especially silky brew. The coffee seemed to set my spine tingling at first, but the effect quickly wore off after a couple of hours.

Time taken: 1m45s approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★☆☆

Store Street Espresso on Urbanspoon

Taylor Street Baristas

taylor street baristas flat white

This mini-chain was recommended by a reader of my first flat white roundup. While I was pleased by the mild fruity brightness, the initial silkiness wore off very quickly. It was also quite weak – I was gasping within a couple of hours.

Time taken: 3m approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★☆☆☆

Taylor Street Baristas on Urbanspoon

Tinderbox

tinderbox flat white

This Islington cafe, situated inside the N1 shopping centre, can rustle up a passable masala chai, but its flat white needs work. Although reasonably smooth and silky, the sour, slightly acidic taste of its flat white was far from great. It did at least keep me buzzing along until well into the afternoon.

Time taken: 1m25s
Taste: ★★☆☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Vagabond

vagabond flat white

This small cafe near Stroud Green Road can be very chilly in winter. Although its flat white wasn’t silky or smooth, it was at least drinkably mellow and malty. It kept me going until the dubious pleasures of Countdown knocked me out for the count.

Time taken: 2m30s approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Vagabond Cafe on Urbanspoon

Weanie Beans

weanie beans flat white

Weanie Beans has a permanent presence in north London, but it also operates stalls at King’s Cross, Barnes and Chiswick markets. I tried the flat white at its King’s Cross stall and found it only mildly silky with a slight tart maltiness to it. It did have quite a kick though and I was able to last until the middle of the afternoon before feeling sleepy.

Time taken: 1m35s approx.
Taste: ★★★☆☆
Kick in the pants: ★★★★☆

Workshop

workshop flat white

Workshop has two branches, one in Clerkenwell and another in Marylebone just a stone’s throw away from Selfridge. I was impressed by the exceedingly smooth, creamy tartness of Workshop’s flat white, but the head was a touch too foamy. Even worse, I started feeling drowsy only a couple of hours later. If you’re still tempted, the flat white here is off the menu so you have to ask for it specifically.

Time taken: 1m30s approx.
Taste: ★★★★☆
Kick in the pants: ★★☆☆☆

The Winners

While the Lensman’s rule of thumb, the longer it takes to prepare a flat white then the better it will be, turned out to be eerily accurate last time, it wasn’t quite as prescient in this round up. Although almost no quickly-prepared flat white passed muster, it was also the case that some flat whites which took forever to prepare weren’t very good anyway.

This is probably the last time I’ll be able to do a round up of flat white coffees in London. Once uncommon, it’s now so widespread it can be found in caffs, train stations and branches of M&S. Plus, this much caffeine over a two and a half month period can’t be good for me – at one point, I swear I could see individual air molecules making faces at me.

Picking the winners was easy. In no particular order, Flat White, Kahalia and Prufrock are capable of knocking up exceptional flat whites that not only taste great but pack quite a wallop too. Although not quite as outstanding, Kaffeine, The Liberty of Norton Folgate, Caravan, Federation, Foxcroft and Ginger and Madame Chi deserve honourable mentions. Good quality flat whites in Soho, Brick Lane, Holborn, Fitzrovia, Brixton, Kings Cross, the City and Islington – now there’s no excuse for having a crap coffee in London.

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8 thoughts on “The best and worst flat white coffees in London

  1. Pingback: The best burritos and tacos in London – 55 burritos, 83 tacos, 59 eateries, one verdict | The Picky Glutton

  2. wow this is comprehensive :) I love flat whites too, and dare I say it have found that Starbucks in the UK do a good version of it (the only coffee at Starbucks which actually tastes strong yet creamy).
    Also, I have made reference to a flat white being stronger than a cappuccino as technically the coffee/milk ratio is higher
    It still urks me when places claim they make Flat Whites only to be given a white coffee that’s flat and too milky…

  3. Pingback: Caravan | Murray Blake

  4. The little coffee stall in the schoolyard by broadway market is hands down the best I’ve had in london. Truly exceptional. Long white cloud on hackney rd is also terrific.

  5. I’m assuming nobody is taking the ‘kick in the pants’ grading seriously. This could depend on what the reviewer had eaten the night before and how much sleep they had, not to mention other variables that could change caffeine tolerance.

    • ‘I’ve judged each flat white on texture, taste and their ‘kick in the pants’ factor – how alert I feel after drinking the coffee and for how long. This is obviously very subjective, but I’ve attempted to add some pseudo-scientific method to it. I sampled each flat white on a weekday morning before I head into the office for a hard day’s work without any additional caffeine, either before the flat white or after it, until I start feeling sleepy/fatigued.’

  6. Pingback: The Providores and Tapa Room review – fusion Marylebone masterpiece | The Picky Glutton

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