Four cosy cafés to visit in North London

Sunday, 20 October 2019 London, UK

There's something so special about finding a coffee shop that is so homely and welcoming that stepping inside feels like kicking off your shoes, slumping onto the sofa and saying "Honey I'm home!". It's like smugly sitting on a big secret, watching and chuckling as other people order giant lattes in Starbucks across the road.

I love nothing more than buying a weekend newspaper or bringing a book to a coffee shop, whether alone or with friends or Jack and whiling away time in my favourite coffee shops with a magazine or newspaper, people-watching and sipping a flat white.

Since moving to north London and trying my fair share of coffee shops in the area, I've stumbled upon (read: found on Instagram) a number of wonderful places that have either built a huge local customer base or managed to cultivate that neighbourly atmosphere, which Jack and I will return to over and over again. In a city like London, people tend to have perceptions about its lack of familiarity and sense of community (I even wrote about this lack of friendliness in the past) but once you leave Zone 1 you will find that smaller boroughs have more of a neighboroughly feel than you might think.

I would stress that not all places in this list are specialist coffee shops, nor are they pretentious about their products, but I would argue that the quality of their offer is markedly better than a standard chain. Though Jack has a lot of knowledge in terms of what makes a good coffee, I think it's more important that a coffee shop has a friendly, warm atmosphere! It's so nice when the people working there start to recognise you and that you can fully relax in that space.

So, here's a list of some of my favourite places to grab coffee and spend an afternoon in north London. Even better after a wander around Hampstead Heath or Regents Park!

Grain Sourdough, Belsize Park

I've talked at length about the little gem that is Englands Lane in Belsize Park, from which until a few months ago I lived a stone's throw away. There are lots of amazing coffee shops, some 5 or 6 in one street. However, I am most fond of Grain Sourdough, an incredible bakery and coffee shop serving a great range of brunch dishes, loaves and pastries made on-site and tasty coffee.

It was one of the first coffee shops I tried after moving nearby and it felt instantly welcoming, even despite turning up alone. Most times in fact I have turned up alone, but it has a wonderful homeliness to it. I can spend hours blogging, reading or catching up with friends here, you never feel rushed to leave. The cafe is owned by a very sweet lady that is often seen giggling with her team, playing with the many babies and chatting with the many locals that come in and visit.It's a lovely family-friendly place that has a small play area in one corner of the cafe too!

I was incredibly touched one rainy afternoon when popping in for a coffee after not visiting for a few months. She greeted with a "Where on earth have you been, it's been too long! How are you?". She also wouldn't let me leave without taking a bag of leftover pastries on my way which was incredibly sweet. As well as cute babies you'll also see plenty of cute dogs who have come in from a walk on Primrose Hill which is very much welcome from my perspective.

Café Macarong, Golders Green 

This is my most recent find after Jack and I recently moved further down the Northern line into our sweet little one-bed house. It was the first thing we looked for once we had the house sorted! We became incredibly regular customers during our first few weeks in the house as we didn't have any WiFi and we had lots of life admin to sort out. 

Initially I felt guilty as we would often sit there for a good few hours, but we always made sure we ordered lots of food and coffee to give back. Honestly though, it's one of those cafes where you can happily sit for a few hours with no pressure to leave swiftly.

Café Macarong is a french and asian-ispired cafe that sits in the middle of Golders Green high street, little more than a few minutes from the tube station. I don't believe it's been open very long but it's clearly been an instant hit with the locals - I often see the same people in the cafe whenever I'm there, whether tapping away on their laptops or reading.

It has a great range of food on the menu such as brunch and sandwiches as well as so many delicious baked goods including delicate macarons! They recently changed their coffee bean supplier and it's now a lot tastier than it was, so even more reason to visit. Also, you simply cannot leave without trying their baked cheesecake - it's utterly indulgent but so light and beautiful to eat.

Monocle Café, Marylebone

If you're a regular scroller on Instagram you will have already come across this name before, thanks to its striking black and white canopy on Chiltern Street. While this is not a independent café, this being an expensive area of north London, it has still cultivated a warm, homely feel inside. Do not be put off by the near-constant queue outside the café - we quickly discovered that if you move quickly, there is normally a table/nook round the corner or downstairs as most people just buy takeaway coffees.

Monocle is a Japanese lifestyle brand that has cafés in London and Zurich, has its own magazine and even sells its own branded products. It is certainly the most expensive cafe in this list by a mile - although the coffees aren't much more expensive than the standard in London, most lunch dishes start at about £8.50. However, the pastries are also delicious so if you can't stomach the lunch prices they have delicious cinnamon buns and cakes too!

The interior of the cafe is beautiful, with a fascinating layout. On the top floor there are a number of counter tops and a little snug room which looks like a living room from the 1970s, filled with comfy sofas and a bookshelf filled with interesting books and of course, copies of the Monocle magazine. If you head downstairs, the 70s theme continues into a stylish yet cosy area with more tables. It can get a bit toasty down there as it's next to the kitchen, but all the more perfect for hiding from the cold in winter after a walk round Regents Park nearby.

Hart and Lova Bakery, Kilburn

From the moment we wandered in and saw all the beautiful pastries in Hart and Lova, it was love at first sight. Sat just round the corner from the chaos of the bustling high street in Kilburn is a pretty and peaceful cafe that feels homely the second you step inside. Jack and I have spent numerous Sundays reading (me) and completing sudoko (Jack) here.
Just a small caveat for any remote workers, as they don't allow customers to use the WiFi or laptops for longer than an hour (they state it clearly on a board that they are keen to ensure customers are aware of the overheads entailed with running a cafe and would prefer that they at least buy a coffee and a pastry if they want to support the business, which is a fair point.). 

The pastry is the star of the show here, whether you prefer a classic croissant or pain au chocolat. My personal favourite is a croissant, with beautiful flaky pastry filled with silky-smooth custard. The coffee isn't as good as others above, but as I said, the atmosphere and incredible pastries make this place more than worth a visit for that alone.

Thanks for reading my recommendations for cosy cafés in north London! Where are your favourite places to grab a coffee?

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