Our caffeine-fuelled quest to find the best coffee shops in London.
In a welcome reversal of the usual trend, a former Pret a Manger on the edge of Sicilian Avenue, Holborn recently re-opened as an independent coffee shop.
Tacking very close to the typical aesthetic of the booming cafe renaissance, the spacious interior of Free State Coffee is filled with furniture reclaimed from salvage yards, including some comfortable old flip-top cinema seats, and the exposed roof reveals ducts and piping. So far, so Shoreditch. But we're in Holborn, something of a desert for decent coffee spots, where getting a morning cup has often meant braving the queues at Fleet River Bakery or withstanding the faux-friendly welcome at the aforementioned Pret. Fortunately the staff at Free State are a genuinely amicable bunch, taking our rather inane attempt at early-morning chit chat with good humour.
More importantly, they also make a damn fine coffee. Made using free trade beans provided by Union Coffee, the piccolo (pictured), essentially a short latte, was smooth, while the espresso, from an ever-changing guest menu, had just enough bitterness to kick through the matutinal mental fog. We were also charmed by the pale blue crockery and the brew bar at the back. In short: there's little not to like, though our bank manager probably won't be happy if we grow fond of the pricey pastries.
Free State Coffee is at 23 Southampton Row. Follow them on Twitter @FreeStateCoffee