Pam Neville goes on the hunt for decent flat whites in the British capital.
Not long ago, neither love nor money would get you a decent cup of coffee in London. But now the place is awash with seriously good flat whites at a raft of Kiwi-owned cafes.
A fabulous New Zealand invention (although Australians also lay claim to it - along with Phar Lap and the pavlova) the flat white has become so popular that Starbucks has introduced it to their coffee shops in central London.
I can't claim to have tried them all, but here are some New Zealander-run coffee shops and eateries I've tested and heartily recommend.
The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell
Fabulous fusion food in the upstairs restaurant, coffee and brunch menu in the cafe downstairs, and a take-out delicatessen at the back of this three-storey Georgian building fronting an historic square. Owner and head chef Anna Hansen (formerly of Auckland and Nelson) was named New Zealander of the Year 2010 by the NZ Society in London. She's a colleague and former business partner of Peter Gordon and highly regarded by other chefs. A must for breakfast or lunch: the sugar-cured prawn omelet. The coffee is supplied by Caravan (see next entry).
Caravan, Exmouth Market
Be prepared to queue for this small but ever-so-popular place. A group of young Wellingtonians, led by Miles Kirby and Chris Ammerman, set up this New Zealand-style cafe at the trendy Exmouth Market, much to the delight of London food critics. It serves an all-day menu ranging from snacks to mains, and also roasts coffee.
Flat White, Soho
The first Antipodean-style cafe to open in London, back in 2005, it takes the credit for introducing the eponymous beverage to Britain. Run by a mix of New Zealanders and Australians, it's small and noisy, and such a popular haven for coffee-lovers that it has spawned a little sister cafe in the same area.
Milk Bar, Soho
From the same people who brought Flat White to Soho, Milk Bar is also tiny and favours loud music. Less than a year old, it is probably by now just as crowded and popular as its big sister. The home-made baked beans are not to be missed.
The Providores, Marylebone
Set up by New Zealand's famous chef, Peter Gordon, in partnership with Anna Hansen of The Modern Pantry (above), The Providores is now an institution highly-favoured by London foodies. The downstairs Tapa Room was named for the giant tapa cloth on the wall, as well as for a word-play on the food. It was one of the first places in London to serve Spanish style tapas or small bites. Good coffee too, of course. Peter Gordon has also opened a new restaurant, Kopapa, in Covent Garden, in partnership with the owners of Gourmet Burger Kitchen - another New Zealand-London success story.
Sacred, Carnaby St precinct
Former Wellingtonians Matthew Clark and Tubbs Wanigasekera wanted to replicate a New Zealand cafe when they set up the first Sacred here four years ago. Think scrambled eggs with feta and spring onions, and Anatoth jam on wholegrain toast. Now they have not so much expanded but exploded, with six Sacred cafes dotted around London.
Bullet, Covent Garden
Set up by Phil and Vicky Ross, from Wellington, Bullet serves its own Bullet brand of Fair Trade, organic coffee. It's upstairs above a sports shop, but worth the climb for the Anzac biscuits. The beans are roasted at The Roastery (see below).
The Roastery, Clapham
The local cafe for the hundreds of New Zealanders who live in the area, as well as London locals. Tasty breakfasts and counter food, friendly staff, and you will never find a better Afghan biscuit.
Monmouth, Covent Garden
Perhaps the best coffee wholesalers in London, according to fans, although the competition is heating up. English-owned but with mostly New Zealand coffee roasters on the staff, it's been in business since 1978 and supplies many of the best flat white makers in London. The coffee shop remains in Monmouth Street, Covent Gardens, but the roastery has moved to bigger premises. There is also a Monmouth outlet in the Borough Market.
The king of Auckland coffee has just landed in London, opening an Allpress roastery and cafe in Shoreditch. The plan is to wholesale coffee, but also to maintain the small cafe as an advertising shop-front. One distinguishing feature is a shower for caffeine-hungry cyclists. Early reviews are glowing. "Monmouth, your crown is about to be stolen," says one.
And if there is not a fine New Zealand cafe in the part of London you find yourself in, try these Australian-owned purveyors of the flat white: Lantana and Kaffeine, both in Fitzrovia; Taylor St Baristas, four locations around the city; Espresso Room, Holburn; and Nude Espresso, Spitalfields.
To find your Kiwi coffee fix in London, see the map below:
View Good coffee and Kiwi kai in London in a larger map