By Kathryn Ikeda
As a former barista and a person who regularly spends £30 a week on coffees, I’m pretty familiar with the options around LSE to get your caffeine fix. While just a small sample of what Holborn has to offer, these cafés are (only some of) our closest options. Most have discounts for LSE students, so keep an eye out at the till to save a few pence. Whether you’re meeting up with friends, procrastinating work, or having a cheeky coffee date, here are your go-to cups around campus. Click on the map at the bottom to see the full interactive locations!
For finally doing readings
The Bean Counter (basement, 32L)
The Bean Counter single-handedly got me through first year exams. If you can nab a spot next to a socket, it is unparalleled in its comfortable seating and good-value lunch options. It is just out of the way enough that you’re not likely to be interrupted for a chat. Staff are lovely, and if you don’t mind them blasting some Nicki Minaj occasionally, you can tune out the loud music if you’re sitting upstairs.
The Denning Learning Café (1st floor SU)
Outside of the lunch hour, Denning’s is pretty deserted for your revision needs. With a fair amount of sockets, not only can you get a fair cup of coffee, but you’re well equipped to sit down for the long-haul. The only hazard is that as folks stop for lunch you’re likely to see a few friends and get distracted, but hey–you probably need that break anyway.
Caffè Nero, 7b Kingsway
Unmatched in chain café cosiness, Caffè Nero is a great mainstream option to get some work done. It is not as popular as nearby Pret, and less convenient than Starbucks, so you’re not likely to run into friends. Strengths: a good loyalty programme and fantastic hot chocolate.
Weston Vegan Café (6th floor SU)
If–and only if–you can grab one of the coveted tables, this is a great option to hide away for an afternoon. It is quiet, there’s a nice view of the terrace, and if it’s not booked, the Bao Yang Meeting Room is a good impromptu group study spot.
On the way to the library after an all-nighter
Starbucks, 10 Kingsway
We already know that it’s overpriced and you’re definitely going to have to wait in a long queue, but you can’t beat that triple venti half-sweet, non-fat caramel macchiato after a night out. Take that first sip and savour it. You deserve it (and you really can’t order anything that shameful anywhere else).
Costa Coffee, 9-11 Kingsway
This is the winner for offering the largest sizes at the best prices, plus they’ve got a nice little discount if you show your LSE ID. They’ve got cheap filter coffee when you’ve really got to get some caffeine in, but Costa’s Costa wherever you go. I like to take it and head to the library, but if you want to sit in, they’ve also got lots of good seating options. Always be aware of pickpockets and bag thieves in London, but especially here or at any spot off Kingsway!
For meeting friends
Pret a Manger, 190 Strand
Shiny and new, this Pret is the best location near LSE for sitting down with friends. They’ve got loads of good, comfortable seating options, and it isn’t yet overrun with local businesspeople. And now that they’re offering a new £20 subscription service, this really is the perfect place to get one of your five-a-day (coffees, not servings of fruit and veg).
The Shaw Café
Much better than the next-door Café 54, Shaw’s a great spot even if you’re not vegan/vegetarian. They get bonus points for lunchtime options, but the convenient NAB location means that it’s an easy choice if you’re pressed for time and don’t want to leave campus.
Soho Coffee Co.. 65 Kingsway
Take note: the Kingsway location is highly superior to the Soho Coffee Co. off Strand. Not only does this spot have a student discount and larger seating selection, but the booths upstairs are perfect for sitting down with a latté and interrogating friends over last night’s behaviour. There are options for small and large groups alike, and sockets too if you want to pretend to work while having a chat. With its golden lighting and warm wooden interior, it can’t be beaten on a rainy day. 10/10 for cosiness, 10/10 for comfort, 10/10 all-around.
LSE Garrick, Houghton St
Anybody who says Garrick is their favourite is lying, but I can’t deny that of all the LSE cafés, it’s got the most seating options for larger groups. I would never go for coffee or a snack (overpriced for the quality and there’s always a queue) but they’ve got loads of tables and it is conveniently located on Houghton Street. If you’re meeting more than five people, Garrick is a good shout. It’s not the comfiest seating, but it exists in large quantities: a hard find for central London cafés.
Before your 9am
The Plaza Café (opposite the library)
Nicely located outside of the library, this is an easy stop on your way in/out/on a quick break. Be warned: the small inside seating means curious ears can easily overhear conversations, so I wouldn’t recommend it to sit down. The quality is fine but nothing special, so I’d normally recommend other options slightly further away. If you don’t have time to walk two extra minutes, you probably shouldn’t be taking a break anyway. Also, apparently, people sometimes use the wall outside as a toilet. Just something to think about.
Beveridge Café, Fawcett Café, any option inside an LSE building
Any LSE catering option is normally 7/10 for quality but 10/10 convenience, which means that even if you’re late to that class in CBG, it is probably still worth it to stop at Beveridge. I wouldn’t recommend these to sit, as they only have a few tables and tend to be right in major walkways. But staff are friendly, there are rarely long queues, and they’re pretty cheap all things considered. Bonus points if you buy (and remember to use) an LSE Keep Cup.
Best date spots
Fields Bar and Kitchen, Lincoln’s Inn Fields
I’ve never been here but I have it on good word that Fields, located in the picturesque Lincoln’s Inn Fields, is good quality. The cute location means you can easily buy your date a latté and sit outside, or get it for takeaway and have a cute stroll around the park. Supposedly they’ve got good cakes, too, which you can’t really beat.
The Espresso Room, 71 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
There’s a location further down Kingsway too, but this one, tucked behind Holborn Station, is probably the closest good date option close to LSE. It is good quality and has a comfy environment, and it’s usually not too overrun with students. There’s lots of seating, with both a backroom and a downstairs area. Like Fields, it’s easy to get takeaway and sit in Lincoln’s Inn Fields if you’d like.
Fleet Street Press, 3 Fleet Street
Just upscale enough to prove you put some thought into it, Fleet Street Press offers a good cup of coffee. It is kind of cramped but cosy, and if the tables upstairs are taken, there are more options downstairs. They’ve also got a location off Chancery Lane, which I haven’t been to but I’m sure is just as good.
Roasting Plant Coffee, 190 Strand
Quite frankly the only reason to go here is if you want to flex on your date by casually dropping £6 on a cappuccino. Their whole thing is that they’ve got a selection of beans from around the world, so I suppose you could also pretend to taste the difference between the Sumatran and the Brazilian single origins. Beyond that, the options above offer more in atmosphere at half the price. The furniture here feels very industrial, which doesn’t make for a great date. But if you want to prove your net worth, by all means, go ahead.
Honourable Mention: the Kingsway Soho Coffee Co as mentioned above. The warm lighting makes for a great date atmosphere, but being a chain, leaves some status to be desired.