London Blend: Free State Coffee, Holborn

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

More of the capital’s finest coffee shops on our London Blend Map

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  • Amar

    Oh an independent brilliant I shall have to try this place out:-)

  • LondonVisitor

    Is this really Piccolo? The Monmouth version is different with less milk.

    • http://londonist.com/ Dean Nicholas

      Yeah, it’s a piccolo (or at least it’s the same as others I’ve tried elsewhere — never had the one at Monmouth, though).

  • http://twitter.com/ewebber Emily Webber

    I like freestate a lot, particularly as it’s on my walk from the bus stop to work, but I’d add that Holborn is awash with good coffee, Salt being a favourtie. I have this (Holborn-ish) list of foursquare https://foursquare.com/user/56626/list/holborn-coffee/

  • shimmmergirl

    I was fortunate to stay just near Free State for a week and it really is wonderful. The coffee is beautiful and the pastries are fantastic. In fact, I went to Paris the next week and found it hard to find a croissant as good as the ones in Free State. I certainly couldn’t find a coffee as good. The staff are lovely too.

  • Luke

    Knockbox Coffee – corner Dombey St and Lamb’s Conduit St is also pretty good in Holborn!

  • Marie Antoinette

    Shame there are not toilettes for customers. Also the green china is so tacky !