There are now so many books purporting to reveal the ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’ side of London that they probably outnumber the mainstream guides. Books offering a cliché-free guide to the city are therefore becoming something of a cliché themselves. How many more volumes do we need that breathlessly implore us to visit the Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park, or the Old Operating Theatre, which are universally described as ‘hidden gems’ that ‘most tourists are completely oblivious to’?
Secret London – An Unusual Guide is different. And gloriously so. Yes, you’ll find the two well-known ‘gems’ mentioned above, but at least 50% of this book covers weird and wonderful London locations that even this seasoned Londonista has never visited – and in many cases never heard of. The murals of Jean Cocteau, the Browning Room, the bread basket boy of Panyer Alley and the Moravian burial ground of World’s End are just a smattering.
The writing is snappy and insightful, and each entry is illustrated with a full-page photo. The guide concludes with a brilliant selection of unusual bars, cafés and restaurants.
Londonist’s personal library contains at least a dozen books in this genre (including one we wrote ourselves). Secret London: An Unusual Guide is easily the best ‘alternative’ guidebook on our shelf. An essential purchase.
Secret London – An Unusual Guide by Rachel Howard and Bill Nash is published by Jonglez and is available in UK book stores from early May.