This little book, the perfect size for slipping into your bag as you spend a busy day in the capital, is packed with inviting places that are refreshingly not part of a multinational chain, for you to rest your feet and grab some respite from the noise and bustle. And enjoy some quality food and drink too.
Divided into: Brunch, Lunch, Coffee, Cakes & Bakes, Afternoon Tea, Culture, Shop, Tea Break and Unusual & Alfresco, there are 100 handpicked choices for whatever takes your fancy. Each chapter has a selection of eateries each described in depth accompanied by appealing photography, with that lovely, rustic-look matte finish to the pages. There are also seven more ‘extra special’ places mentioned at the end of each chapter that ‘had to be squeezed in’, so there’s lots of choice.
The concise and informative reviews are written by various people but all manage to include details about the location, the establishment and the food and drink on offer, with a dash of humour too. So, say you find yourself in Soho and you’d like a cup of coffee that honours the area’s Italian heritage, you might try Bar Termini on Old Compton Street which ‘would feel like a theme cafe if it wasn’t so classy’. Or if you want to join the throng of East London freelancers and tap away on your laptop in Shoreditch, you could try Cream, which has an enticing brunch menu and teatime treats.
Famous names are included too, such as Claridge’s and Fortnum & Mason in the Afternoon Tea chapter, the latter ‘knows how to lay on a decent spread’ and in the Culture, Shop, Tea Break, the V&A and Somerset House feature along with independents such as the Proud Archivist, which offers tempting food and drink alongside live music and film screenings.
My favourite chapter has to be the Unusual – the sheer size of London never ceases to surprise me and it’s so appealing to discover a hidden gem in an area of the capital you wouldn’t usually visit. The review of Drink, Shop, Do in King’s Cross, housed in an original Victorian bathhouse, makes me want to go there immediately, while the description about east London’s Cereal Killer Cafe acknowledges how easy it is to knock it as East London hipster nonsense, but also admits that the place is simply ‘a lot of fun’.
And that’s the feeling you’re left with when flicking through Cafe London – that it’s a guide to help you find a positive food and drink experience, with something to suit everyone, whatever your needs for a couple of hours break from the daily routine, to experience something different and worthwhile, that adds character and culture to the city, and brings a bit of happiness to your day.
(Frances Lincoln, £9.99)