11 Of The Most Charming Book Shop Cafes In London

Last Updated 29 February 2024

11 Of The Most Charming Book Shop Cafes In London
Two cups of coffee and an open book on top of a wooden table
Photo: Timothy Barlin via Unsplash

Books? Good. Coffee? Good. Cake? Gooood. So it's no wonder that there are more opportunities than ever to combine this holy trinity in London, at one of the capital's many coffee shops, tea rooms or cafes within a book store. Treat yourself to a new tome or two, and curl up in an armchair with a towering slice of cake and a huge mug of tea or coffee to while away an afternoon. Bliss.

1. London Review Bookshop and Cake Shop, Bloomsbury

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They take their cake seriously at The Cake Shop. So seriously, in fact, that you can order bespoke cakes for special occasions. For your more run-of-the-mill weekend though, head inside the excellent London Review Bookshop — around the corner from the British Museum — and make for The Cake Shop at the front of the store.

A resplendent selection of goodies welcomes you, perched both inside and atop the glass counter, with chalkboards overhead detailing soups, salads, quiches, drinks, etc. The menu changes seasonally — nay, daily — thanks to manager Terry Glover, who trained at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, and is always experimenting with new recipes.

As for those cakes? Walnut Blackberry Frangipani Tart, Rye Flour Chestnut Brownie, and Pumpkin, Coconut and Gingerbread syrup are among those we've drooled over before now, and there's always an impressive vegan selection. Seating can be found in the cafe, in the secluded back yard, and out the front of the shop too.

The Cake Shop at London Review Bookshop, 14 Bury Place, WC1A 2JL.

2. Stanfords Coffee House, Covent Garden

A Stanfords Coffee House mug on top of a bar table in the window of the store
Image: Stanfords

We've waxed lyrical several times before about the top-notch hot chocolate at Stanfords Coffee House (though other drinks are available), and when the whole store relocated in 2019, we breathed a sigh of relief when the coffee shop came with it. While the old location was perhaps cosier, this one is located in one corner of the ground floor, and offers people-watching opportunities both in the store, and in the pedestrianised shopping area outside. It only has a few tables and chairs, it's the luck of the draw — though on decent days, they put a few tables outside too.

As well as that hot chocolate, Stanfords Coffee House serves coffee, tea, smoothies, milkshakes, soft drinks, pastries, cakes and sandwiches. Enough to see you through a good few chapters.

Stanfords, 7 Mercer Walk, Covent Garden, WC2H 9FA.

3. Dillons Cafe at Waterstones Gower Street

Waterstones Gower Street is a fascinating place: a permanent sale table outside, a reading nook in a turret, and skeletons scattered liberally around the place (it stocks textbooks for medical students at nearby UCL...) are just some of the highlights.

And then there's Dillon's, the coffeeshop located on the ground floor, and named after the previous bookshop on this spot. Positioned to look out over the busy Gower Street/Torrington Place road junction, a window seat here is ideal for people watching. Due to its location in a studenty part of town, we've found laptop workers to be prevalent when we've visited, so it might be one to swerve if the click-clack of keyboard tapping will distract you from your novel. The tables and chairs too, are more wooden stools and upright chairs than sink-into-me armchairs. As for the menu? It features Union Coffee, freshly-made cakes, and light meals such as soups.

You wouldn't know it from the outside, but there's also a 'coffee shop yard' in the alley around the back of the building with more tables.

Dillons Cafe, Waterstones, 82 Gower Street, WC1E 6EQ.

4. The Cafe at Foyles, Charing Cross Road

While many eateries on this list can be described as 'cosy', The Cafe at Foyles falls more at the 'sleek' end of the spectrum. Head up to the fifth floor of the Charing Cross flagship — you'll know you're in the right place by the typewriter key-style sign welcoming you to The Cafe.

The large open-plan eatery has a mixture of table and bar-style seating, and is more suited to catching up with a friend over lunch than cosying up with a new book. The menu ranges from coffee and a snack to full meals, all served during store opening hours.

The Cafe at Foyles, 107 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0DT.

5. Lucky Jim's at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road

Heading down to the basement at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road always feels like stumbling upon a little secret — never mind that they hold regular events here, so half of London has traipsed through at some point. When there aren't any events on, Lucky Jim's bar is open.

It's a coffee-by-day, cocktails-by-night kind of place, serving up Union Coffee and fresh pastries, along with sandwiches. The vibe is industrial chic — think exposed concrete and metal lighting rigs — and phone signal is hit and miss (ideal if you want to shut the world out for a few hours). The Gower Street Waterstones with Dillons Cafe (above) is a 10-minute walk away, if you fancy some sort of book-centric coffee-shop crawl... wait, why have we never thought of that before?

Lucky Jim's, Waterstones, 19-20 Tottenham Court Road, W1T 1BJ.

6. Tea and Tattle at Arthur Probsthain

One of our favourite second hand bookshops in London, Arthur Probsthain and Tea & Tattle can be thought of as a tearoom in a bookshop, or a bookshop in a tearoom, depending on where your priorities lie — the swinging sign outside gives them equal weighting. Books are a mix of old and new, specialising in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Tea & Tattle is a traditional-style tea room down in the basement. Tea, coffee, sandwiches, cakes and scones are readily available, as is a full afternoon tea if you're particularly peckish.

Tea & Tattle at Arthur Probsthain, 41 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3PE.

7. Vanilla Black Coffee & Books, Kennington

An open-shop area, with wooden tables in rows in the centre, and bookshelves around the edge. Two men sit at the bar-style seating by the window
Image: Vanilla Black Coffee & Books

'Coffee & books' is the simple tagline at Vanilla Black, a modern shop among a rather colourful parade of buildings on the Kennington Road. Books, gifts and greeting cards line the floor-to-ceiling shelves around the perimeter of this light and airy shop, with a handful of tables in the central space. A coffee machine and glass cake cabinet take up the majority of space on the wooden countertop, though brunch is also served here (think porridge, banana bread, avo on toast). Books on sale tend towards the non-fiction, coffee table style — cookbooks mainly, with the occasional travel guide or lifestyle tome thrown in.

Vanilla Black Coffee & Books, 306-308 Kennington Road, SE11 4LD.

8. Swans Bar at Maison Assouline, Piccadilly

If you've walked along the south side of Piccadilly, you've almost definitely seen Maison Assouline — it's the redbrick building on the corner, slapbang between St James's Church and BAFTA. Truth be told, we'd never really worked out what it was, as it's not that clear from the outside — could be a gallery, could be a shop. Turns out it's a book shop, albeit a high-end one, and global flagship for the Assouline brand, created as "a refuge for those seeking style, culture, and art de vivre". Stock is predominantly coffee table style books — you're not likely to find the latest Dan Brown or Marian Keyes here.

But it's the food and drink we're here for, and that comes at the Swans Bar, which is equally as fancy — think double-height ceilings, mezzanine-level balconies, and a carpet printed with the letters of the alphabet. It's more cocktail or wine bar than coffee shop, though they do serve coffee too. Feels more like drinking in a hotel lobby than a bookshop. Cosy? Perhaps not. But for sipping coffee and feeling fancy, surrounded by books, it's bang on the money.

Swans Bar at Maison Assouline, 196A Piccadilly, W1J 9EY.

9. Phlox Books, Leyton

A counter with a coffee machine on top runs along the left side of the shop. A table with books piled on it sits in the centre, and a woman sits at a table near the window.
Image: Phlox Books

Books, booze and coffee is the mantra at Phlox Books, and it's certainly one we can get on board with. Picnic bench-style tables on the pavement outside let you know you're in the right place — step inside to browse fiction, non-fiction and children's books, or head to the cafe-bar to treat yourself to a coffee, craft beer or wine — best enjoyed in one of the bar-style window seats as the sun streams through the glass.

Phlox Books, 159 Francis Road, E10 6NT.

10. Glass House, Bethnal Green

Bookshelves laden with books at Glass House
Image: Glass House

Bookshop meets cafe meets events space meets bar at Glass House, an LGBTQIA+venue in Bethnal Green. The Common Press is the bookshop/cafe, championing books which represent queer and marginalised communities, and offering somewhere to socialise over hot and cold drinks and pastries. For something a little stronger, The Common Counter is the venue's bar, specialising in cocktails and mocktails, and open from lunchtime until long after the bookshop closes.

Glass House London, 118 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6DG.

11. Cafes at Waterstones Piccadilly

As you'd expect from Europe's largest bookshop, Waterstones Piccadilly has multiple cafes. Head down onto the lower ground floor to squirrel away at Embertons Cafe — named after Joseph Emberton, who designed the building. Here you'll find hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes and the like, and while the food's all well and good, we prefer the natural daylight on offer above ground.

Several storeys up, on the fifth and top floor, is 5th View. More of a restaurant/bar than a cafe, though get there early on a weekday morning and you're pretty much guaranteed a table for your morning coffee and croissant. It doesn't have those typical bookshop vibes, being on a separate floor from the books, but what it does have is views over St James's towards Westminster.

For us though, it's got to be the Jermyn Street Mezzanine Cafe, located on the Mezzanine level, and overlooking the quieter Jermyn Street entrance to the store, as well as looking down onto shoppers in the store's ground floor atrium. It's one of our favourite spots to spend a morning working, decent for people-watching, but not so much happening that you're permanently distracted. The menu is typical coffeeshop; hot and cold drinks, cakes, pastries and the like.

Waterstones, 203-206 Piccadilly, St James's, W1J 9HD.

Other dreamy book + drink/food combinations:

The left-hand wall of Phlox Books has book shelves, while a coffee counter runs along the right-hand side. A small table with more books sits in the centre of the room.
Image: Phlox Books
  • BookBar, Highbury: Literally, a bar with books. Does serve coffee, but is really more on an after-hours wine bar. Excellent events programme too.
  • Books for Cooks, Notting Hill: Bookshop with a culinary slant, and a cafe tucked away at the back where the recipes in the books are put to the test.
  • Paper & Cup, Spitalfields: Social enterprise coffee shop, which trains people in recovery from addiction to become baristas. Set in a small shop which sells a selection of second-hand and vintage items including clothes, homewares and... yes, books.