SE London gets a bad rep sometimes; I've lived here since moving to London in 2011 and I have to say, it's definitely up and coming (well, parts of it anyway!) For many freelancers, a fixed office space doesn't really exist. Ok, so you might use a room or an area at home as a designated 'work space', or even head to your local coffee shop, but few writers or other freelancers have a fixed office space to work from.
Until recently, I rented a studio space in an artist's block in SE London, which I shared with a (very talented) textile designer. In theory, this was a great idea. Working and socialising with others, not too far from home and a productive space outside my own four walls to help me focus on work. I quickly realised that I was spending money I could be saving and getting less done due to the time spent commuting each day. So it was that I reluctantly handed in my keys and started discovering the delights of some of the best cafes in my area - any excuse for a cup of tea and a slice of cake!
There are some real hidden gems when it comes to cafes in SE London, so I thought I would share with you my top 5, in case you're ever in my neck of the woods.
Set on Lee High Road, closer to Lee Green than Lewisham, this cafe's cute, unassuming exterior hides a cavernous interior with comfy seating, free Wifi and an art gallery tucked away at the back! Weekday mornings are usually fairly quiet, and for inspiration, a window seat is a great choice to watch the world go by.
With a range of reasonably priced breakfast/lunch options I nearly always find myself choosing a toastie or beans on toast - although home baked goodies such as lemon and poppyseed loaf go down a treat! This cafe has quickly become a favourite haunt, although if you're using your laptop, be aware that power sockets are fairly limited and competition for seats may occur at lunchtimes!
Once a rather old-fashioned bakers, this modern deli/cafe is just a few steps from my house and I feel lucky to have it so close at hand! I almost always order one of their fruit smoothies (strawberry and banana - mmm!) and they serve an extensive selection of sandwiches, salads and cakes. Whilst there's no Wifi, the tables are roomy enough to spread out your work, and with my iPhone hotspot set up, this is a great lunch destination or place to spend a few hours.
Technically not a cafe, this cosy pub is one of my favourite locals and the perfect place to spend an evening. However, it's also great for working! I often pop in for a weekday lunch with friends and discovered that the quiet environment during the day (and free Wifi) makes this the perfect place to get some serious work done. The fish finger sandwich and chips (Lord Northbrook style) is divine and I think the chips here may just be the best I've ever eaten! The pub hosts regular live music nights as well as steak and burger nights, plus their Sunday Roasts are somewhat legendary. I'll be hanging out in the beer garden this summer on my days off, that's a certainty!
This tiny French bakery and cafe is my favourite place for hot chocolate. What it lacks in table size (and Wifi), it more than makes up for in ambience, with cosy, chic surroundings that wouldn't be out of place in Paris itself. An afternoon working here is the perfect excuse to indulge in Macarons or take home some fresh, crusty French bread for later!
Bromley is where I first lived upon moving to London, and I still head there on sunny weekends for shopping, and of course, lunch at Brodie's. It's also become of my favourite haunts for a weekday working session. Whilst it doesn't have Wifi, it does have outdoor seating and an upstairs with great views over the High Street. The couches in the window offer a particularly comfortable retreat from the bustling High Street, and despite its small size, the menu is extensive! With sandwiches, jackets, paninis and salads, there's plenty to tempt you, although I usually opt for my tried-and-tested parma ham and halloumi panini with a nice cup of tea. Coming up with ideas for my blog or researching articles online here is one of my favourite ways to spend a Monday afternoon!