My Favourite Coffee Shops in London to Drink a Cortado


It seems that my coffee drink of choice – the cortado or piccolo – is becoming increasingly popular in UK as our coffee tastes are heading towards less milky, shorter coffees. Long gone are the days of Starbucks’ Venti Lattes?

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The trend was explained in an article that appeared on the London’s Evening Standard yesterday. “The best coffee is short, strong and easy on the milk”, says ES Comment Editor Andrew Neather. I certainly agree! Rather than shorter coffees becoming more popular, I would say that GOOD coffee is becoming more popular.

A cortado coffee at Orsonero café in Milan

When you are a customer who has chosen to drink at a specialty coffee shop (usually paying more for it) you obviously expect the beans to be of the highest quality. You want to be able to taste the coffee, not dilute it with a dozen ounces of milk. However, according to Edy Piro of Terrone Coffee Co., “the London coffee scene is, on average, still predominantly oriented towards a latte”.

In my opinion this “new” trend falls within a bigger movement towards specialty coffee: sourced from the best single estate farms, light-roasted in small batches, tasted during cupping sessions to control its quality and brewed by trained and skilled baristas.

What’s great for me is reading about cortado on a mainstream newspaper, as so many people in UK and Europe have no idea what it is.

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A cortado (or piccolo) is a double espresso with a small amount of steamed milk (the ratio of milk to coffee is between 1:1 and 1:2).

The cortado can be served in a small ceramic cup, but is more often presented in a glass filled with steamed milk, usually with latte art. It’s basically like a small flat white: at 4oz instead of 6oz, there’s the same amount of coffee but less milk.

It’s the perfect hot drink for me since I don’t like drinking too much milk. At the same time, I like to drink cow’s milk, not any of the alternative mylks. It’s dairy all the way for me, but in small doses. To be honest, I don’t understand why anyone would want to add 12 ounces (or more) of milk to their coffee! Perhaps, London coffee shops will be heading towards more simple menus like I’ve seen them in Australia: black (espresso) or white (espresso with milk)… we’ll wait and see!

At the moment I can only order a “piccolo” if I’m in a specialty coffee shop in London, because anywhere else (for example in a restaurant or in a coffee chain) the baristas wouldn’t have a clue of what I’m asking for. As I was reading this Instagrammers guide to the best coffee in London, it gave me the idea to compile my own guide of favourite specialty coffee shops to drink the cortado.

Cortado a Workshop Coffee, The Pilgrim Hotel, London

1. Workshop Coffee

If I’m in central London to meet clients or friends, I always suggest meeting up in Fitzrovia. This area is comprised between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road, away from the hustle of Oxford Street, and it’s quickly becoming my favourite destination to drink specialty coffee in London.

My favourite coffee shop in London to drink cortado (or any other coffee) is Workshop Coffee. I’ve been a regular customer ever since they opened their first (sadly, now closed) café in Clerkenwell around 2011.

About this shop I love the coffee, of course, but also the original Victorian façade and the eclectic interior design (granite coffee counter, golden table details, Azulejo-style hand-painted tiles and antique mirrors).


2. Timberyard (temporarily closed)

One of the cafés I visit regularly for my #dailycortado is Timberyard. Their shop in the West End (near Leicester Square station and Covent Garden) is ideal spot for working too! See my Top 12 Coffee Shops to Work in London.

The coffee house brand focuses primarily on offering a space for freelancers to work and meet. They have created the perfect environment for creative people who need to work on the go (free wifi, meeting space, iPads) but they also satisfy all your coffee and food needs. The staff is well trained and they will be able to make you a piccolo (even though it’s not listed on the menu)!


3. Juliets

I have been a fan of the Milk Coffee team for many years. Originally I used to go to Milk in Balham, then it was Fields in Clapham Common and now it’s Juliets in Tooting.

Located on Mitcham Road near Tooting Broadway station, Juliets Quality Foods is a fantastic addition to South London’s coffee scene!

The coffee menu is simple (Aussie-style): espresso with 2.5oz, or 6oz or 7.5oz of milk, long black coffee and iced filter. And cortado, of course (which they call “piccolo”)!


4. Birdhouse

If I have the time to venturing a bit further out from home and into Battersea, then I love to drink my cortado at Birdhouse on St John’s Hill. It’s been one of my favourite London coffee shops for years: I love the yellow and grey Scandi-style decor and their cakes (whoopie pies are the best). Their brunch is also one of the best I’ve had in London.

Birdhouse coffee shop Clapham Junction, Battersea

5. Terrone Coffee Co.

Terrone Coffee is the only Italian speciality coffee producer in the UK to roast his own beans in Italy. The coffee is batch-roasted near Bologna in a vintage 10kg Vittoria roaster from the 1950s, and shipped directly to London weekly to ensure maximum freshness. The Ciclista espresso blend is light to bring out subtle nuances in flavour (fruity and sweet). Find them at Sottoscala (the kiosk under the stairs) in Kingly Court, Carnaby Street as well as at Farewell in Newington Green.


6. Kaffeine

Kaffeine, an independently owned coffee bar that many credit for kick-starting the Third Wave coffee movement in UK, is a coffee institution in London. The original shop on Great Titchfield Street is great but tiny. If you are looking for more space, head over to the second Kaffeine site on Eastcastle Street.

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7. Grind

I wanted to end my list with a new entry to our coffee scene: Grind in London Bridge. Grind opened in 2015 in an iconic building at N. 2 London Bridge, just across the road from the railway and Underground stations.

I love the space: a raised room with high windows for the sunlight to shine through and a white marble counter that’s just perfect for Instagram! It’s a great spot for a weekday coffee break or for weekend brunch!

Cortado coffee at London Grind

There are so many coffee shops I love in London that I could keep writing this list for ever! More will continue to open up, as some will close, no doubt about it.

Trends come and go, but whether the latest coffee hit is a flat white, or a cold brew, or an Aeropress filter coffee, or a cortado, it doesn’t matter. Good quality coffee is what we must care about and look for.

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Bites Coffee House
Bites Coffee House
13/03/2015 19:29

It’s amazing how this Coffee Revolution London is living has put so many good coffee spots in the map. Now it’s very difficult to choose one!

Thank you for sharing!

12/03/2015 11:12

Great photos! I haven’t been exploring cafes as much these last few months so I’m surprised to find that I’ve managed 5/8 from your list and I have to agree they’re all great. Workshop is probably always going to be my favourite as I love their coffee. I’m intrigued by the latest opening from London Grind, and then I need to try the other two :)
I tend to like more milky coffees as I can’t take too much caffiene. Flat white is a strong as I can manage before I feel too wired! I do love the idea of a cortardo though!

Giulia Mulè
12/03/2015 11:34
Reply to  Laura

My Top 5 hasn’t changed much in the past few years. There are beautiful new shops opening every month, but the oldies are the best! (just realised I forgot to mention Ozone Coffee in my post!) :P

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