Ever get that thing where you just don’t fancy the pub?
It’s probably an “I’m 32 now” thing, but occasionally, you just want to meet a mate in the evening and sit and have a catch up without getting smashed and waking up on Tuesday morning feeling like the world has thrown its heaviest, sharpest buildings on your head. You want a cup of tea. You don’t want to be out too late. And instead of spending £30 on a nice, nutritious dinner, you want a huge slab of cake.
Either that or you’re gasping but your mate’s pregnant, or running a marathon, or doesn’t drink, or you both just want to see if the rumours are true and if it is indeed possible to socialise in London without going to the pub.
Look, it happens. And when it does, here’s where I usually end up.
Yum Chaa – Berwick Street, Soho
This tea shop has a few cafes around London, but the Soho branch is open til 9:30pm. They do good loose leaf blends that actually taste how they smell, which is a minor miracle, and they also do very good cake. And if you can’t see any spaces from the window, there’ll probably be seats downstairs.
Wellcome Collection cafe – Euston Road
Hands down one of my favourite museums in London. The Wellcome’s exhibitions are always good, and free, and then there’s the added bonus of a nice cafe that does big pots of loose leaf tea. So go see the Modern Nature exhibit that’s on at the moment, then abandon everything for the cake. On Thursdays, it’s open until 10pm.
Barbican Centre – Barbican
Another fairly overlooked public space which is also on my London Good Bits list. The Barbican has a big public area and the whole place is open until 11pm. There’s tables, lots of places to sit, and cafes scattered around if you fancy a cuppa. And if you get bored of talking to your mate, there’s free wifi so you can look at your phone instead, a cinema, exhibitions and galleries ‘n’ stuff.
City Road Basin – Regent’s Canal (Summer)
There’s this really nice spot between Angel and DeBeauvoir on the Regent’s Canal which a bangin’ spot for meeting a mate if it’s sunny. You’ll know when you get there because you’ll see half naked people sprawled across the lock in the late evening. A bit further along the towpath there’s benches to sit and chill on, and if it rains, walk up to Proud East in Haggerston or the Towpath cafe.
Tate Modern – Southbank
The ideal situation here is to take your mate who’s also a member and can get you both into the member’s rooms upstairs for mega views of St Paul’s. Failing that, the Turbine Hall is free and the other galleries are open til 10pm on Friday and Saturday. Fill ya boots.
Euphorium Bakery – 202 Upper Street, Islington
This is my go-to cafe when I need to get some writing done after work. There are two branches on Upper Street, and the one nearest Highbury and Islington is open til 9pm for all your quiche, Tea Pigs, big tables and free wifi needs. Pro tip: the big sofa’s at the back.
Curzon – Soho / Bloomsbury
I’ve already banged on about how excellent Bloomsbury is generally. But the good thing about this and the other Curzon cinemas is there’s a bar / cafe area in each one, which are quite nice places to sit and / or listen to people bitch about the films they just watched. I don’t know how late they’re open, but I’m guessing it’s until the last film. And members get 15% off food and drink.
Royal Festival Hall – Southbank Centre
This place is a bit like the Barbican: you’ll know it for events and music and probably the rooftop bar in summer, but inside the different levels have cafes and foyers and public spaces where you can sit without having to buy anything. Also good for work meetings ‘n’ stuff. Open til 10:30pm.
Granary Square – Kings Cross (Summer)
Weather dependent – although to be fair there’s loads of cafes around here now you can duck into when it inevitably starts pissing it down. Granary Square usually has chairs dotted about, also fountains to run through like the child you actually are, big screens when Wimbledon’s on, and in summer they put AstroTurf down on the steps by the canal so you can sit there too.
Know of any other places where you can just sit and chill without getting completely smashed? Share the wealth. My liver thanks you.