I spend a lot of time with a friend of mine looking for the perfect place to write. We have our own set of requirements (she needs wi-fi for her research and I need Diet Coke - both are deal-breakers) and, as we live on opposite ends of London, it needs to be a fairly central or East End location (with one Dulwich one thrown in for the days when I’m feeling lazy). It’s actually been surprisingly difficult to find somewhere that feels just right, though it could be that we’re just looking for excuses to visit new places. So, here, in no particular order, are our top ten places to write and their pros and cons:
1. The Connaught Hotel, Mayfair
Pros: Beautiful surroundings with lots of light, quiet and comfortable and you can’t help but feel like a serious writer. As it’s a hotel, they don’t mind people spending the whole day there working and not buying too much. Free wi-fi.
Cons: Food is (unsurprisingly) very expensive. A mozzarella and tomato salad cost £18! You can’t look too scruffy.
2. The Book Club, Hoxton EC2
Pros: Oh, it’s just so gorgeous - I want to live here! Incredibly hip and, well, it’s called The Book Club, which of course makes it the perfect place to write. Free wi-fi. Loads of events, workshops etc on in the evenings - worth keeping an eye on the schedule.
Cons: It gets very busy. Sometimes closes during the day for events - or at least it did on one particular day that I turned up raring to get writing. If you’re easily distracted (and not alone) then the ping-pong tables won’t help.
Pros: As their flagship store, this is the only Starbucks of its kind in London. A cool seating area, comfy sofas and brick walls - it really feels like you should be writing a book in there. Lots of other people who look like writers (we didn’t ask) which adds to the whole literary feel. They don’t mind you spending the day there with a single cup of coffee. Food is well-priced - important if you’re going to be eating there every day.
Cons: The seating area is downstairs in the basement, so not somewhere you’re going to want to work in if the sun happens to come out. It gets very full so you’ll probably end up sharing your sofa and table with the lunchtime crowd. Oh yeah, and it doesn’t serve Diet Coke - so that was that for me.
4. The Woolpack, Bermondsey Street, SE1
Pros: Proper pub, loads of original features and some particularly lovely green tiles. Free wi-fi. A few booths - my favourite. Lovely beer garden if you prefer to take your writing outside. When it’s not busy, it is the perfect place to work in.
Cons: Gets incredibly busy and noisy during lunch and after work hours - even headphones don’t help.
5. The British Library Cafe, Kings Cross NW1
Pros: Designed for working - there’s free wi-fi, loads of powerpoints and many, many tables. The wall of books is beautiful and reminds you that you are in a library (you could be forgiven for thinking you were sitting in a huge Apple store). If writer’s block strikes, there’s always an interesting literary exhibition or two to get you inspired. Good food, well-priced.
Cons: There really aren’t any cons. For me, it’s a bit inconvenient travel-wise, otherwise I’d probably be here every day.
The Crown & Greyhound Dulwich
Pros: A lovely, large pub and, unless it’s the weekend, there’s always somewhere cosy to sit. Free wi-fi (but not great). Huge beer garden for the rare sunny day.
Cons: It’s a bit of a trek for most people. Very popular, particularly with mothers and babies, so take headphones.
7. look mum no hands!, Old Street EC1
Pros: Free wi-fi. Great food and coffee at very reasonable prices. Loads of power points to charge up the laptop. Hip, warehouse style with a bicycle repair shop inside, which only adds to the cool vibe of the place.
Cons: Really noisy and full most of the time. The constant stream of people means the door is always opening and closing which, on cold days, means everybody at the front of the place is sitting with their jackets on (fix - sit at the back).
8. London Bridge Hotel, London Bridge
Pros: Right next to London Bridge station. We’ve been there quite a few times and it’s always empty or nearly empty which, whilst depressing for the owners I’m sure, is good in terms of getting on with work. The staff are friendly, the food and coffee are not overpriced.
Cons: There’s nothing we can really put our finger on but, for more reasons than just the lack of people, it’s slightly soulless. The wi-fi is free but you have to keep going to the bar to get a new printed password as your connection only last one hour.
9. The Booking Office Bar, Kings Cross.
Pros: Beautiful, imposing and awe-inspiring. It’s the perfect setting in which to write in and, if you’re into armchairs, you can’t find a finer collection. Despite its considerable cons, it really is worth visiting at least the once.
Cons: No free-wifi. The staff (and others who have been say the same), are rude and snooty. Very pricey. They turned us away at 9.30am, even though the place was empty, as they only allow hotel guests in before 10 for breakfast.
10. The Wellcome Collection, Euston Road NW1
Pros: It has a creative office feel about it, perfect for that moment when you get really serious about finishing your book, and the bookshop is there to remind you of the direction in which your hard work is heading. Cool lighting (you can’t tell from the photo, but take my word for it) and free wi-fi too.
Cons: Like all the best places, it gets really busy, particularly during lunch hours. There’s no music and a lot of talking so headphones are a must. If you’re a morning person (I’m not), then you might not like the fact that it doesn’t open until 10am.