Churches and cafe’s two of my favourite things. A cafe in a church even better. Popping into a church is for me a time for quiet reflection, a time to glory at the history all around me and in an ideal world sip a coffee and nibble a cake. Here is a guide to the quirky cafés that I have stumbled across whilst church crawling in London.
Table of Contents
Central London Church Cafés
Grabbing a cup of coffee or a quick lunch in central London can be a rushed and pricey affair. In general these cafés offer well priced coffee and always in a calm and beautiful space.
St Martin in the Field, Trafalgar Square
Café in the Crypt was my first London church café. When I first came to London this was a regular rendezvous point and remains a favourite. Right on the edge of Trafalgar Square this is place to come for respite from sightseeing. As its name implies the café at St Martin in the Fields is in the crypt, you get into the cafe via the round building to the left of the church as you stand with your back to the National Gallery.
- Café in the Crypt, Trafalgar Square WC2N 4JJ
- Open: Monday – Wednesday 11am – 5pm, Thursday 10am – 7pm, Friday & Saturday 10am – 7.30pm and Sunday 10am – 5pm
- Serves hot drinks, cakes and freshly prepared hot main meals
Westminster Abbey has not one but two places of repast. Down in the crypt for a snack experience and upstairs in the for amazing views and more of a restaurant experience. I have had just a coffee upstairs but not a busy time. The Cellarium Café and Terrace (fabulous name it conjures up a busy monastic kitchen in my mind) is at the end of the West Cloister. You don’t need an entry ticket to the Abbey to eat at the Cellurium, just head through the arch to the right of the Abbey front and keep to the left when you get to the Green beyond.
- Cellurium Café and Terrace, Deans Yard, The Sanctuary, SW1P 3PA
- Open: 8am – 4pm when the Abbey is open for visitors, best to check on the website before you visit.
- To be sure of a table for lunch or afternoon tea it is best to book
- Serves hot drinks, cakes, excellent hot food and a rather fine afternoon tea.
Westminster Central Hall
Right next door to Westminster Abbey is the Westminster Central Hall (the biggest Methodist Church I have ever seen). There are two watering holes at Westminster Central Hall. The Street Café is in the basement on the corner nearest the Abbey. Wesley’s Café is also in the basement but accessed via the main entrance. Both are light and airy serving drinks and snacks. Sometimes when I have visited Wesley’s Cafe has been in use for an event and not open to the public.
- Wesley’s Café, Storey’s Gate, SW1H 9NH
- Open: Tuesday – Thursday 9am – 4pm
- The Street Café, entrance corner of Storey’s Gate, Tothill Street and Victoria Street
- Open: Weekdays 8am – 4pm, weekends 9am – 4pm
- Serves hot drinks, cakes and sandwiches
Head down Victoria Street from Westminster Abbey and you come to the Catholic Westminster Cathedral. Tucked at bottom of a spiral staircase to the right of the main entrance is a tiny café. It wins no points for design but serves a well priced cup of tea.
- Westminster Cathedral Cafe
- Open: Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 4pm
- Serves tea, coffee and biscuits
St John’s Smith Square
Not strictly a church but a concert venue, but St John’s Smith Square started life as a consecrated church and so it counts. The Footstool Cafe (so called because the church looks like an upturned footstool) is located in the crypt of the church. Mr CW used to work opposite St John’s and we often used to eat lunch here. They serve freshly prepared main meals with really good salads alongside the usual tea, coffee and and cake. If you are going to a concert upstairs, you can access the auditorium via internal stairs, no need to head out into the weather.
- Footstool Cafe, St John’s Smith Square, SW1P 3HA
- Open: Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm and one hour before concert times
- Serves hot drinks, cake and hot main meals
Tucked away in the street that run between Buckingham Palace and St James’ Park you will find the New Acre Cafe at the Westminster Chapel. The cafe is separated from the main body of the church by a vast glass wall, giving a feeling of space. There are desks and plug sockets if you fancy tapping away at some work whilst you up your coffee.
- New Acre Cafe, Buckingham Gate, SW1E 6BS
- Open: Monday – Thursday 9am – 4.30pm
- Serves hot drinks and sandwiches.
Cafés in City Churches
The City of London has the greatest density of churches in the country. Many of them are glorious Wren churches built after the Great Fire of London. Three of them have cafés, the perfect punctuation to a Wren Church Crawl.
St Nicholas Cole Abbey
St Nicholas Cole Abbey is one of the many Wren churches in the City of London. It was badly damaged during the Second World War but is once again whole. The Wren Coffee serves excellent tea, coffee, cakes and sandwiches. If you are walking across the Millennium bridge between St Paul’s and Tate Modern this is an excellent place to pause just a few steps away from the route on the north of the river.
- The Wren Coffee, 114 Queen Victoria Street EC4V 4BJ
- Open: Monday – Wednesday 7am – 4.30pm, Thursday 7am – 12.45 pm & 2pm – 4.30pm, Friday 7am – 3.30pm
- Serves hot drinks, cake and sandwiches
St Mary Aldermary
If there was an award for most beautiful café ceiling The Host at St Mary Aldermary would win hands down. St Mary Aldermary is a Wren church and has a ceiling that looks like an exceptionally fancy wedding cake. If you can take your eyes off the ceiling for long enough the cafe serves excellent hot drinks, cake and sandwiches. There are also Street Food stalls in the church yard and you are welcome to bring their wares inside the church to eat. When not contemplating the ceiling let your mind wander on the fact that St Mary Aldermary sits on Watling Street an ancient path that stretches all the way from Dover to Anglesey.
- The Host Cafe, Watling Street, EC4M 9BW
- Open: Monday – Friday 7.30am – 4pm
- Serves hot drinks, cake, soup and sandwiches
St Mary le Bow
Cafe Below at St Mary le Bow, as its name implies is in the crypt beneath the tower that is home to the famous Bow Bells. The menu changes all the time but you are always bound to find tasty home cooked hot dishes and inventive salads. Cafe Below is our lunch spot of choice when visiting either the Roman Mithreum or Amphitheatre both just a short walk away. Lunch is available every week day but coffee and cakes midweek only. If you want to be sure of a table bookings are available.
- Cafe Below, Cheapside EC2V 6AU
- Open: Monday & Friday 11.30 – 3.30pm Tuesday – Thursday 7.30am – 3.30pm
- Serves hot drinks, cake and hot food
West London Church Cafés
The Kings Road is awash with chic coffee shops, nestling just behind the Kings Road by Chelsea Town Hall you will find café with a difference. I’m never sure whether Kingston counts as West London … well it does here!
St Luke’s Chelsea
Charles Dickens got married in St Luke’s Chelsea. If you are making a literary pilgrimage be sure to pause at the portico. Café Portico is nestled under the portico and serves hot drinks and snacks.
- Café Portico, Sydney Street, SW3 6NH
- Open: Weekdays 9am – 6pm, Saturday 9am – 4pm, Sunday Noon – 4pm
- Serves hot drinks and snacks
All Saints, Kingston upon Thames
The Café Where England Began is one for history buffs. 1,000 years ago the site of All Saints was where Saxon Kings were crowned. Among them King Athelstan in 925AD generally reckoned to be the first King of all England. The cafe is at the back of the church, giving a great view of the church whilst you sip your coffee. I’ve only ever had coffee and cake here but they also offer simple lunches.
- Café Where England Began, 14 – 14 Market Place, Kingston upon Thames KT1 1JP
- Open: Daily 10am – 4pm
- Serves hot drinks, cake and light lunch
East London for a Royal Church Café
Tucked away between the DLR tracks, the entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel and the Thames is a patch of complete calm and Yurt.
Royal Foundation of St Katherine
The Royal Foundation of St Katherine is a Royal Peculiar, it started life where St Katherine’s Dock is now back in 1147 founded by Queen Matilda to look after the poor of London. Then it moved to Regent Park and finally to its current site back in the East London docklands. You can even stay at the Royal Foundation of St Katherine. The cafe is housed in a Yurt. It is the only Yurt Café in London. Teen Two and I ate a delicious lunch there on a really hot day sat in the garden but I long to return on a slightly damp day as the interior looked so cosy. Rumour has it that weekend brunch is excellent.
- Yurt Café, 2 Butcher Row, E14 8DS
- Open: Daily 9am – 5pm
- Serves hot drinks, cake hot lunches, excellent salads and cocktails
These are the church cafés that I have found in my travels, do you know of any others?
Museum cafés are also one of my specialist topics, why not check out my post about London Musuem Cafés