Soho has always had an active cafe society, it is here on a summers day that it is best to sit at an outside table and watch the world go by, and here you really can see the world go by. The variety of people here is quite remarkable, there is everyone from tourists to homeless, gay to straight, stag parties to hen nights, celebs to politicians and pop stars to porn kings.
The coffee here is great as a result of this, and of course the long standing Italian population in Soho, but it is not all about the Italians.
The Algerian Coffee House (Old Compton Street)
This place is not really a cafe, it is however a coffee shop, this is where you go if you want to choose from an absolutely massive choice of coffe beans which can be bought as they are, or ground for you on the spot and vacuum packed, you can even mix as many types of bean as you like, essentially creating your own blend of coffee. If you are short of any of the hardware needed to store make or drink coffe they have the largest selection of coffee paraphernalia I certainly have ever seen. Not content with this, if they are not too busy they even sell cups of coffee to take away, the espresso is very good and just about the cheapest you will get on Old Compton Street.
Bar Italia (Frith Street)
This place is of course Italian, and has been around for ever, it has been around since 1949 when it was opened by Lou and Caterina Palledri, it has been passed down through three generations and is now run along with Little Italy next door and Nolita in Hertfordshire. This is a totally Italian experience, I was here during an Italian game in the world cup a number of years ago, I might as well have been in Rome. The espresso here is very good indeed and alongside a Grappa it is the way to start the day while in the area. 64 years and counting.
Joe and the Juice (Old Compton Street)
This is just one and a half years old and is the new breed of coffee shop.The staff are very friendly, the place incredibly laid back with chilled music and a, this is your home do as you will attitude, and the coffee and juices are outstanding. They also have long benches outside perfect for watching Soho happen around you. This place will last.
There are too many other coffee houses to name here but it must be remembered that Frith street in Soho was the birthplace of Patisserie Valerie in 1926 and Cafe Nero in 1997, both now now massive chains, I can still remember when Valerie in Soho was the one and only, people raved more about the cakes but the coffee was good too, it is now of course a brand but still worth a visit as the original that Madame Valerie opened nearly a hundred years ago. The Frith street branch of Nero is also a prime place for people watching used very extensively by the gay community, as of course is everywhere in Soho. Another cafe which is worth a mention is sadly no longer there, that would be The Old Compton Street Cafe, now replaced by a Balanz cafe.
Slur loves coffee.