Home > HUAWEI > From mini libraries to coffee kiosks: London’s best phone box businesses

From mini libraries to coffee kiosks: London’s best phone box businesses

From little libraries to one-stop coffee shops, London’s red phonebooths are being put to good use. Syraat Al Mustaqeem takes a look

VIEW COMMENTSBySyraat Al Mustaqeem@syraatAM18 February 2022O

ne red emblem of British history — aside from buses and Clifford — is the iconic phone box. With mobile phones rendering them all but unnecessary, many of are now being repurposed to house small businesses across London.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s K6 phone box design, which was voted best British design of all time in 2015, faced near-extinction after years of disuse, with many being replaced by the grey BT models.

The cultural touchstone was then revived when bought by the Red Kiosk Company (RKC) who hired or sold them to entrepreneurs with an idea. Of the 11,000 still scattered around the capital, you can visit many booths rekindled into the likes of locally loved coffee shacks, sandwich shops and even small book exchanges.


Dubbed the “world’s smallest sandwich shop”, this kiosk offers a variety of Italian spreads, including classic pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. Splashy pink clashes with historic red and animates the antiquated booth, setting the stage for kiosk owner and musician Gabriele Contenta, who gladly explains the meaning behind the pink. The Hackney resident sings the praises of “the protagonist of this shop: mortadella” — a pink Italian sausage meat he pairs with focaccia to make his paninis. With additional vegetarian and vegan options, order a quick espresso for lunch on the move.

From mini libraries to coffee kiosks: London’s best phone box businesses

40 Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, NW3 1NL,@pinkadella


If one shot isn’t enough, get a double dose of caffeine at this Tiramisu spot on the corner of Russell Square Gardens. Those who prefer a sweet dessert over the bitterness of coffee can chose from strawberry, lemon and pistachio takes on the classic, all alcohol free. There are savoury bites too, including lasagne and arancini balls. Open on weekends in the outdoor booth, on weekdays this store holds a space nearby at the CIEE Global Institute London, a two-minute walk down the street.

Russell Square Gardens, Bloomsbury, WC1B 4JP,@_walkmisu_

The Original Red Coffee Box

Another gem along Hampstead High Street, Danny’s “original” red coffee box inherits its name from his predecessors who set up the stand, previously known as Kape Barako. Standing as the first phonebooth coffee shop in London, he took over from the previous owners before the pandemic hit. Filmmaker Michael Slowe made a charming documentary on the story behind “Danny’s Red Box” detailing his days from start to finish. Also charming is Danny’s insistence on a luxury hot chocolate, a free snack and a quick chat to warm both hands and heart.

28 Hampstead High Street, Hampstead, NW3 1QA,@theoriginalredcoffeebox

Amar Cafe

Café owners and couple Loreinis Hernandez and Sean Rafferty founded Amar Café with locations in both Chiswick and Twickenham. Ethically sourced coffee from Colombia is the pride of their booth, which can also be bought online and in-store from their bricks-and-mortar Chelsea location. Although their booths began as a creative solution to the pandemic, all of their London spots have thrived since.

Turnham Green Park, Chiswick, W4 5TF, and Water Lane, Twickenham, TW1 3SD,amarcafe.co.uk

Phone Booth Book Exchange

The shelves are far from bare in this micro-library run by the Brockley Society in Lewisham. The small book exchange, with space for approximately one, is frequented by visitors who used this communal spot as a way to push through winters without much company. Lively and warm regardless of space, the kiosk offers an honest share of titles, from classic Austen novels to a heavily handled travel books — and even some children’s options.

Lewisham Way, London SE8 4DL

Prev: How Western sanctions will hurt Russian telecom and tech

Next: How to use Google’s Clock app to turn off always on display at night