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Indie Bookshops: Exploring London’s Bookish Cafes

By Holly Presswell, Nazifa Khan and Megan Burroughs

For this issue, we have assembled the very best independent bookshop cafes for you to visit. Waterstones and other chains are bookshop staples, but why not try a visit to an independent shop for a change and give back to the community while enjoying a slice of cake and a good book?

The London Review Bookshop and Cake Shop – 14 Bury Place, WC1A 2JL

Not far from the British Museum lies the London Review Bookshop, which opened in 2003. Attached to the bookshop is the London Review Cake Shop. They have become a key part of the local community, a place where people come together to talk, eat, drink and read.

The bookshop has a wide range of titles for customers to browse (around 20,000 to be exact), across every genre, from classics to politics, romance to science.

The cake shop is run by an impressive and hardworking group of women with the aim “to bring the spirit of backyard veggie gardens to inner-city plates.” Terry and her team are known for their bold and beautiful cakes, which are available to pre-order and perfect for occasions, or you could enjoy a slice with your favourite book.

The aim of the bookshop “has always been to represent on our shelves the distinctive character of the Review – intelligent without being pompous; engaged without being partisan; fun without being frivolous.” They truly are a must-visit stop on your next trip to London, being a book lover’s heaven.

Tea and Tattle at Arthur Probsthain – 41 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3PE

Depending on your priorities, Arthur Probsthain and Tea and Tattle can be considered either a tearoom in a bookshop or a bookseller in a tearoom. This is a lovely family-run business established in 1903 with over one hundred years of history. The bookshop specialises in works of art and literature from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Showcasing the rich literary traditions and cultures of these regions, it’s a fantastic place to discover literature from different parts of the world. Once you’re done browsing, you can head down to Tea and Tattle for a cosy cup of tea with china cups, delicious scones and even a full afternoon tea if you’re feeling indulgent. It’s a delightful and perfect way to unwind after exploring books.

Phlox Books – 159 Francis Road, E10 6NT

Books? Booze? Coffee? Why not have all three in one family-owned shop in East London. Phlox Books was originally located in Belfast and run by current owner Aimée’s parents in the eighties before she decided that the “independent spirit” must live on, reopening the shop which quickly became a favourite with the Leyton locals.

From fiction to non-fiction, they can recommend the perfect book for anybody. Phlox is the ideal bookshop for anybody wanting to sit with a coffee (or something stronger) and discuss their passion for literature with those like-minded. Their excitement is bound to rub off on you.

Alongside their stocked shelves, Phlox is host to a number of events and their very own book group, as well as offering a subscription service to have their books posted to your door.

If you fancy some locally roasted coffee or a local craft beer to sip alongside a new book, Phlox Books is the “relaxed, fun space” for you!

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

Serving delicious brunch, cakes and coffee alongside a selection of books for sale – what more could you want? Vanilla Black Coffee & Books is a unique and charming cafe with a boutique selection of cookbooks and coffee-table style books, stationery and other gifts to choose from on a wall in the back. It’s the perfect spot for a nice weekend brunch, where you can also relax and read a book. The staff are friendly and attentive, and you can choose to sit either inside or outside the cafe. There are also lots of veggie and non-dairy options. They welcome walk-ins all day from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the weekends. To find out more, check out their website here.

The Common Press Bookshop – 118 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6DG

The Common Press Bookshop is more than just a bookshop, offering an amazing selection of LGBTQIA+ materials and championing titles written by authors from a range of marginalised backgrounds. It is also a safe, inclusive space and coffee shop where anyone can come in, grab a seat and chat with a friend, or member of staff, or just relax by yourself and read a book while drinking a nice hot cup of coffee. Or you can attend one of their many events, which range from book launches and panel discussions to poetry nights. As written on their website, it is London’s first consciously intersectional bookshop and they have cultivated a space where all feel welcome – so please visit!


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