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London is arguably the financial capital of the world.

Though recent banking and market scandals have rocked the city's standing atop the Global Financial Centres Index, its small business scene has exploded in recent years — giving a good name to the capital city of the U.K.

Europe's rival to Silicon Valley has sprouted a digital wardrobe concierge service, a cat cafe, a monster supply store, and a grungy bar with a nationally trending hashtag. Even Business Insider is opening an office in London later this spring!

The 22 coolest small businesses in London are model examples of how to carve out a niche market, get people talking, and create an unforgettable experience for your customers.

Alice Through The Looking Glass

14 Cecil Court

What it is: An "Alice in Wonderland"-themed shop.

Why it's cool: At Alice Through The Looking Glass you'll find all sorts of Wonderland-inspired knick-knacks and curios, from framed illustrations to Victorian top hats to chess pieces. The store is also home to the resident white rabbit, Harley, who lives in a little burrow in the shop's front window.


53 Cleveland Street

What it is: An exotic meats restaurant.

Why it's cool: Archipelago invites you on a sensory culinary journey amid the glow of golden Buddhas, dwarf palm trees, and giant peacock feathers. This dimly lit, exotic dining destination serves crocodile, wildebeest, kangaroo, zebra jerky, alpaca, and other fare you might recognize from a Disney animated film.

Channel your inner "Survivor" contestant and top off the evening with a memorable dessert: Chocolate Covered Locusts.

The Bowler

Follow them on Twitter for locations

What it is: A meatball-peddling food truck.

Why it's cool: Greasy hamburgers and limp hot dogs, be gone. This restaurant on wheels, nicknamed the "Lawn Ranger," specializes in meatballs made with love — containing free range meats and fresh, seasonal veggies. 

And when in London, do as owner Felwick says customers do: stroke the van's "grass-fed," astroturf exterior while you wait for your food to be prepared.

Bunga Bunga

37 Battersea Bridge Road

What it is: An Italian-themed bar and restaurant.

Why it's cool: From the moment visitors enter through the unassuming phone box out front, they'll feel as though they've been whisked away on a Roman holiday. This Italian lover's paradise features a gondola-shaped bar, live opera music, and a painstaking reproduction of the Sistine Chapel over the stairway. 

The name "Bunga Bunga" is a tip of the hat to Silvio Berlusconi, an Italian politician and frequent criminal defendant, who used the term to refer to a certain type of adult party he would host in his home.


Unit B, Mint Business Park, 41 Butchers Road 

What it is: A trance-music-and-cyber-themed clothing shop.

Why it's cool: Camden Town is a north London neighborhood that still lives largely in the British punk days of the '80s, and Cyberdog seeks to supply both residents and tourists alike with clothing and accessories fit for the scene. Bright fluorescents and robot-chic pieces reign in the shop, but it's also known for its cool gift items like astronaut ice cream, 8-bit wall clocks, and crazy-shaped cookie cutters and ice cube trays.

Drink, Shop & Do

9 Caledonian Road

What it is: A combination bar, cafe, and design store.

Why it's cool: Drink, Shop & Do is a place where you can check off all the boxes on your to-do list at once. DSD sells wares fashioned by local designers, has a decadent afternoon tea option and, on Friday and Saturday nights, transforms into a bar and dance club. DSD also offers craft classes, coffee tastings, and other specialty events across the board.

Duke of Uke

88 Cheshire Street 

What it is: A music store dedicated to the ukulele.

Why it's cool: The Duke of Uke proclaims its love for the humble ukulele, selling instruments and albums, but it's also quite fond of the banjo, and carries an assortment of string instruments. Head to the basement where you'll find a community hub for ukulele lessons, a venue for musicians to play, and a recording studio for those trying to drop their albums.


20 Dalston Lane 

What it is: An urban farm in a shop that sells what it raises.

Why it's cool: Housed in a once-decrepit storefront, FARM:shop began as a social initiative, FARM, which aims to encourage urban farming and taking the origins of other necessities — including fabric, food, and even medicine — into your own hands. FARM:shop raises its own produce, fish, and chickens, and sells both the raw products and cooked products in its cafe.

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

159 Hoxton Street

What it is: A monster supply store.

Why it's cool: Hoxton Street Monster Suppliers has been peddling everything from jars of impacted earwax to tins of mortal terror since 1818. The nearly 200-year-old shop got a much-needed refurbishment in 2010, and now  sends its proceeds to a non-profit center for creative writing tutoring, The Ministry of Stories.


134-136 Wardour Street

What it is: A high-tech Asian fusion restaurant.

Why it's cool: Your salmon sashimi plate is just a click away. The world's first interactive ordering system, E-Table, premiered at Inamo. It uses an overhead projector to display a touchscreen-compatible menu onto tables. In addition to ordering food, guests can interact with their table to change the virtual tablecloth, watch the chefs prepare their food in real-time using the "Chef Cam," and order a taxi home if they've had one too many Sake Mojitos.

The menu, while tech-savvy, also looks delicious. Inamo St. James' shared plates combine culinary influences from Japan, China, Thailand, and Korea for a tasty, Pan-Asian experience.

La Bodega Negra

9 Old Compton Street

What it is: A classy, secret Mexican restaurant.

Why it's cool: Tell the clerk at the sex shop upstairs that you have a "reservation," and she'll escort you downstairs to the upscale, hidden Mexican restaurant below, La Bodega Negra. It'll feel like you're entering an old vault, or a redecorated wine cellar, which is not a bad assumption to make once you see their wine list. Opt for the eight-course tasting menu, or order dish by dish. Those who've dined at La Bodega rave about the three kinds of ceviche, and don't forget the 30+ kinds of tequila and mezcal.

The owners of La Bodega Negra also have a cafe in the ritzy Covent Garden neighborhood, and in February opened another La Bodega Negra restaurant in New York City.

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

152-154 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch 

What it is: London's first-ever cat cafe.

Why it's cool: After a long and intense IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, Lady Dinah's opened in Shoreditch in March. Almost a dozen rescued cats now call Lady Dinah's home. Visitors can stop by for high tea and cuddle with any of the cats, so long as they're willing. Note that this is not a cafe for cats — it's a cafe for humans, who are cat lovers. 

The cafe is booked solid through early June, but cat lovers are encouraged to check the website for cancelations and last-minute reservation openings. 


88 Chatsworth Road

What it is: An alcoholic and non-alcoholic juice and cocktail bar.

Why it's cool: Illuminated by underfloor lighting, flickering chandeliers, and a disco ball, Lumiere certainly lives up to its electric name. This little-known, glittery emporium names its drinks after local streets, such as the Berry Blurton, Clifden Cherry, and Clapton Carrot. 

As one patron described, "you'll lose hours of time and emerge bleary eyed wondering what the heck happened." Might we suggest the banana, strawberry, orange, milk, and granola-infused Homerton Hangover?


72 Welbeck Street

What it is: A meat and liquor joint with its own hashtag.

Why it's cool: Prior to 2011, the city's young and restless all praised the gospel of The Meatwagon, chef Tiannis Papoutsis' food truck serving sloppy burgers, cheesesteaks, and fried pickles. Then the van was stolen, prompting London's burger king to open a more permanent establishment.

This noisy, graffiti-adorned dive is famous for its "dead hippie" burger, a double-patty topped with the usual fixings and Papoutsis's special sauce. For more recommendations and ample food porn, check out the hashtag #meateasy on Twitter.



What it is: A vetted and curated Airbnb service.

Why it's cool: Onefinestay gives London visitors and vacationers the ability to stay in some of London's coolest homes and flats while their usual residents are away. It's like Airbnb, only not everyone can offer their place up as a crash pad. The folks at onefinestay sift through and hand pick the most elegant, poshest, and quirkiest homes and flats to provide onefinestay members with a curated collection of wonderful places to stay, and a generous compensation to the homes' owners. 

And unlike Airbnb, onefinestay makes sure every home is cleaned before and after a visitor stays there, that the beds are made, and the bathrooms are outfitted with luxury toiletries. There’s even an optional maid service, and other hotel-style amenities. Onefinestay started in London in 2010, and is now available in New York, Los Angeles, and Paris.


28-30 Peckham High Street 

What it is: A Persian deli and specialty shop.

Why it's cool: To find Persepolis, look for the unmistakeable little yellow storefront on the corner of Peckham High Street and Basing Court. This Persian specialty shop and cafe sells food, cookware, home decor, and books, including their own two: "Veggiestan" and "Snackistan." Persepolis is a shop with a great sense of humor and terrific, traditional foods. And they're not secretive about how they cook, either; head over to their website to find the recipes online.


15 Blenheim Crescent

What it is: A boutique popcorn shop.

Why it's cool: Made with natural, seasonal flavors and hand-popped in sunflower or olive oil, POP's namesake product revolutionizes the popular movie theater snack. The menu changes month to month, and includes radical varieties such as Bloody Mary, Thai Sweet Chili, Toasted Coconut, and Berry Chocolate. The best-selling English Toffee & Sea Salt is utterly addicting.

Sorbitium Ice

Follow on Twitter for locations

What it is: A funkier ice cream truck.

Why it's cool: Sorbitium Ice came to be when a boy from Brazil and a girl from Richmond met in a walk-in fridge while both working at a greenhouse-restaurant. Disappointed by the overly sweet, artificial whipped stuff in the market, they decided it was time to make a better ice cream.

Sorbitium makes creative, natural ice creams, sorbets, sherbets, and granitas in flavors like roast banana and caramelized cashew, tamarind and tequila, and ricotta and fig leaf.



What it is: A fashion concierge service.

Why it's cool: Threads brings personal stylists into the online shopping game. Established in 2009 by ex-fashion buyer Sophie Hill, Threads combines human stylists and the kinds of algorithms that power sites like Netflix to curate fashion choices for clients. It fits personal parameters like taste, style, size, brand preferences, and price — acting as a global wardrobe concierge.


iPad app

What it is: A shoppable iPad travel magazine.

Why it's cool: The brains at Triptease believe travel reviews are a decade out of date. The site is like a social network for amateur travel writers, where big, beautiful photos take precedence over text. Users can explore vacation destinations by perusing their friends' and other users' pages.

The hospitality industry can cash in, too. User-generated recommendations drive direct bookings at hotels around the world.

The Vintage Emporium and Tea Rooms

14 Bacon Street, Brick Lane

What it is: A Victorian cafe and antique boutique.

Why it's cool: If there's a hipster heaven in the afterlife, it's The Vintage Emporium. Coffee, a selection of teas, and quaint pastries are available on the ground level. Downstairs is a store that sells everything vintage, from the Victorian era through the 1950s. Each piece is unique, which means that it's also pricey.


iPhone and Android app

What it is: A last-minute event finder app. 

Why it's cool: YPlan is a must-have app for Londoners who are looking for the best happenings every day. The app, available for both iPhone and Android, curates a shortlist of the best events in music, sports, and pop-ups happening in the near future. Customers can browse and pay for events in just two taps.

Backed by $13 million in seed funding last fall, YPlan recently expanded to New York and San Francisco.

Now let's see what's hip in another country's capital.

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