It’s your chance to vote for Croydon’s Best Independent Café 2015

By - Wednesday 11th November, 2015

What’s the best indie coffee shop in Croydon? Your vote counts, says Bernadette Fallon

It’s a place to drink, eat, hang out, look beautiful, hobnob with staff, write your novel, socialise, debate the issues of the day, meet friends, flick your hair at passing interested parties or just sit and stare.

It’s a… coffee shop – and Croydon’s never had them so good or so plentiful. From north to south of the borough – yes,yes, east and west too – our independent café scene is thriving. And don’t even get us started on the cakes…

So, to celebrate this emerging coffee (and cake) culture – drum roll – all hail Croydon’s Best Independent Café Awards. Born out of a desire to acknowledge the efforts of independent businesses (i.e. no chains), to create a thriving café culture in the borough (i.e. great coffee, homemade cake, good atmosphere), a group of us formed on Twitter, called ourselves CoffeeNCake and visited every independent coffee shop we could find within the borough boundaries.

In the interests of fairness and transparency, a marking system was devised to grade all establishments in several different categories, and now we want to throw the voting open to the people of Croydon. To vote for your favourite café, click here. NB: not all venues assessed by the judges made the shortlist.

Voting is open until mid December. Results will be announced online and in the print edition of the Croydon Citizen in January.

The Judges’ Selection and the People’s Choice

Two awards will be made, the Judges’ Selection and the People’s Choice. So make November and December the months you devote some serious coffee (and cake) time in Croydon’s independent cafés – try them all and vote for your favourite. And tell us about any new ones you find, so we can add them to the list for next year.

Croydon’s Best Independent Café Awards will no doubt in time become as famous, as coveted and as prestigious as the Nobel prizes. And we’ll do it one shot of caffeine (or decaf, or even a cup of tea) at a time.

Contenders, take your places

From my home village of Addiscombe with two great cafés just doors apart: the Tram Stop has a great atmosphere and is popular with the locals, filling up quickly, particularly on weekends It does a great cake selection and is especially noteworthy for its little library of books to flick through, including some interesting local history books.

Café Adagio is a more recent addition to the café scene, has a lovely vibe and is pushing to become a hub for musicians and artists, with artworks frequently filling the walls and music nights happening once a month.

Up the road in South Norwood, you’ll find the wonderfully atmospheric Yeha Noha Café , with its pretty rabbit warren of inter-connected rooms (some available for private hire), eclectic furnishings and a unique vibe.

The new kid on the Norwood Junction block is Coffee Craft in the wonderfully renovated and preserved (thanks to the work of the local community) Stanley Halls, with a couple of tables in the side passage a suntrap on the right day; inside the little café is as homely and welcoming as your granny’s front room, kept ‘for best’.

Heading on to Thornton Heath and, from outside, YBR Cake, cuts a striking figure with its tall tiered wedding cake on the roof – truly beacon of cake-ness to the surrounding area. Inside the décor is pretty basic, the only decoration the elaborate wedding concoctions gracing the glass cases, but the cakes. Oh my… the cakes.

Meanwhile, up the road in Norbury, the Cappuccino Café has the sort of no-nonsense, shiny, uncomplicated interior you find in European cafés and the coffee matches up to its European counterparts. A few doors down, we didn’t try any of the cakes at the Affogato but the ice-cream – which was actually Italian gelato we were told – was tasty stuff.

Wind your way back into Croydon central and you’re spoilt for choice. So many coffee bars have opened here recently that we had to keep extending our review deadline to visit them all. West Croydon deserves particular mention as it’s really great to see new life coming into this area – new business, new enterprise, new energy.

Finjan’s lovely staff offer a really warm welcome and they’re keen to look after as many of the local population as they can tempt through their doors. Not only tasty cake, but great ice cream too, this is a real hidden gem on Croydon’s west side.

Nearby, Gelattiamo is fast becoming another much-loved hangout for local coffee-drinkers who also appreciate a fine cake experience.

Also new on the south side of town is Crushed Bean with a warm and friendly welcome from the guys who have just opened this clever two-floor café, with lovely light-filled basement, in the last few months.

Across the road and under the flyover is Caffé del Ponte – a European-style café similar to Norbury’s Cappuccino layout, with long counters, uncluttered interiors, great coffee and excellent custard tarts.

Keep heading south and you’ll hit La Spezia, one of the most eclectic cafés you’ll find in the borough – part Italian deli with a few café tables added for cake and coffee. The building’s former life as a Victorian pharmacy has been lovingly preserved with all fixtures and fittings still intact. Local colour: this is the pharmacy that sold the poison used in the notorious Birdhurst Murders in the 1920s, when three members of the same South Croydon family all died within a year of each other from arsenic poisoning. Google it.

Still further south, to Purley and Café Blue, a gorgeous light-filled space cunningly tucked away behind what appears to be only a tiny coffee shop in front.

Coulsdon has Art Rebellion with its uber cool mix of artworks, quirky treasures and funky furniture (sit in a sawn-off Mini to drink your cuppa).

Close by, check out Urban Fuse with its attractive vintage-style interior of cosy furniture and china, pretty fabrics, accessories and books. The cake is good and baked every day, the owners are charming; it’s a great little find, just off Coulsdon High Street.

When we’re talking ‘quirky’, a few places in particular stand out; eBear’s Attic Tea Room in Hamsey Green, part vintage charity shop, part café, completely staffed and run by volunteers and ranking among its treasures, with cupcakes served in retro china cups. All proceeds go to the AADC Research Trust, dedicated to helping children suffering from the rare brain disease Aromatic Amino Acid Decarboxylase Deficiency.

Also up there in the quirky stakes is Priscilla’s Tea Room in a former public toilet, now rocking a very atmospheric vibe and a tasty selection of foods, including duck eggs!

E-bear’s and Priscilla’s are close to the edge of the borough, while over on the ‘other side’, Crystal Palace criss-crosses into many boroughs, as Croydon, Lambeth, Bromley and Southwark all lay claim to different parts of it. No shortage of café life here, but two that stand out are the newly opened sister of established Streatham hang-out Boyce Da Roca on busy Church Road – a masterclass in how to be a coffee shop, and tucked down Haynes Lane, behind the quirky weekend art market and into Bowyers Yard, is Café Antenna, part of the uber cool Antenna Studios, and the sort of place to ‘be seen’ in.

For cafés in parks, there’s the beautiful and bountiful (in terms of the plants that surround it) Coach House Café in Coombe Wood, Selsdon, surrounded by stunning parkland, landscaped rock gardens and big fish-packed ponds. And Water Tower Teas in Park Hill Park is a seasonal spot with tables and chairs bang in the middle of nature – coffee and some of the most fabulous cake I’ve ever tasted in the great outdoors, with trees. Croydon’s park cafés are the perfect places for weekend strolls, combined with coffee and cake.

Speaking of weekends, there are a few you won’t be able to visit then. Both Smoothbean! near East Croydon station and Coffee Village in Saffron Square are only open Monday to Friday (though Café Village does have plans for weekend opening). But both are well worth a weekday visit for their large and welcoming layouts, fine beverages, tasty cakes and super-friendly staff.

Elsewhere in the town centre there’s Matthews Yard – of course no newcomer to the Croydon scene, one of the original hipster hangouts with its cool vibe, lively buzz and community focus. Its new café/restaurant, Hoodoo’s, in the space formerly run by Bobski’s, offers good coffee and wide variety of cakes.

Also rocking that community hub vibe is the Clocktower Café, sandwiched (ha!) in between the Clocktower building and the Spreadeagle pub, and home to not only coffee and cake, but an ever-changing series of art exhibitions by established and emerging artists.

If music be the food of love, coffee is the lubricant of the soul

We hope that lots of people will have their say, and that our competition will spur people to explore the many roasted and cake-y delights our borough has to offer. For if music be the food of love, coffee is the lubricant of the soul and Croydon’s caffeine-fuelled soul is buzzing right now.

List of all cafés reviewed

Antenna Studios, Bowyers Yard, Haynes Lane, Crystal Palace, SE19 3AN

Art Rebellion, 171 Brighton Rd, Coulsdon CR5 2NH

Boyce Da Roca 28-30 Church Road, Crystal Palace, SE19 2ET

Café Blue, 945 Brighton Rd, Purley CR8 2BP

Crushed Bean, 81, High St, Croydon, CR0 1QE

Coach House Café, Coombe Wood, Conduit Lane, Croydon CR0 5RQ

Coffee Craft, Stanley Halls, 12A South Norwood Hill, SE25 6AB

Cappuccino, 1447A London Rd, Norbury, SW16 4AQ

Café Adagio, 227 Lower Addiscombe Road, Croydon, CR0 6RB

Coffee Village, 9 Saffron Central Square, Croydon, CR0 2FT

eBear’s Attic Tea Room, 320 Limpsfield Road, Warlingham, CR2 9BX (The AADC Research Trust)

Finjan, 74A London Rd, Croydon CR0 2TB

Gelattiamo, 187 London Rd, Croydon, CRO 2RJ

Caffe del Ponte, 88 High St, Croydon CR0 1NA

La Spezia, 12 Ye Market, Selsdon Rd, South Croydon CR2 6PW

Priscilla’s Tea Room, Sanderstead Recreation Ground, Limpsfield Rd, CR2

The Tram Stop, 231 Lower Addiscombe Rd, Croydon, CR0 6RD

Smoothbean!, 2-3 Dingwall Rd, Croydon, CR0 2NA

Urban Fuse Café, 147B Brighton Rd, Coulsdon CR5 2NJCoulsdon

Water Tower Teas, Park Hill Park, Croydon, CR0

YBR Cake, 48 Brigstock Rd, Thornton Heath, CR7 8RX

Yeha Noha Café, 19-21 Station Rd, South Norwood, SE25 5AG

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at

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  • Anne Giles

    My husband was not impressed with The Tram Stop, as the service was incredibly slow. He went in his lunch break and had to leave without his lunch. I have no interest in having cake with coffee, but it is obviously an English thing. In Buenos Aires we drink espressos, in a small cup filled to the brim. With that comes a glass of water or orange juice and some peanuts or little biscuits. English cafes are often quite mean with their espressos and one is generally served a tiny cup with a teaspoonful of luke warm (or cool) coffee. Priscilla’s Tea Room is fairly expensive, I find. The Clock Tower are fairly mean. Yeha Noha is fabulous and are generous with their espressos. Not mentioned in your article is the Jubilee Cafe in Selsdon, who are also generous with their espressos and I do occasionally have a gluten free chocolate muffin with mine. Thanks for this list though. I will have to try some of the ones you mention.

  • Hayley

    Matthews Yard isn’t on the vote option list…?

    • Jonny Rose

      Hey Hayley,

      I initially wondered about that, too!

      However, I asked the judges and they’ve curated that shortlist based on their own experiences/criteria and are asking for public to vote on the shortlist. You’ll see now that it says in the article: “NB: not all venues assessed by the judges made the shortlist.”

      Matthews Yard is AMAZE, but please do chip in and vote anyway based on the shortlisted selection: :)

  • Matthew Charles Davis

    We need a map with all these on it. Some designer must be able to knock one up, surely. And then stick it into a mobile optimised website so that people can go to these places?