London's various dining options are being hungrily carved up by publishers in an attempt to cash in on the capital's mushrooming passion for eating out. Recently, Black Dog Publishing uncovered London's best purveyors of meat, as well as tea & cake shops, while The Armchair Traveller explored the finest coffee shops. A new pocket book by Simon Majumdar now selects the best traditional caffs and fish & chip joints around town.
There's no questioning the choices here. All the canonical classics — E. Pellicci, the Shepherdess, Bar Italia, etc. — are present and largely correct. The author has also selected a number of lesser-known treasures, such as Fortune Green's wonderful Nautilus — about as local as you can get in London, given that it's the best part of a mile from any Tube or train station.
Each of the 64 cafes includes a short description and at least one full-page photograph (well shot, and often mouth-watering). The format is perhaps a bit limited. Some of the vendors have multi-generational tales to tell, but the small amount of space given to each cafe only scratches the formica-topped surface. The book, then, serves more as a checklist or ideas bank than as a comprehensive survey. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and the short descriptions will only whet your appetite to pay a visit and get to know the owners. A final glossary explaining everyday terms, such as black pudding, greasy spoon and mushy peas, ensures the book is comprehendible to overseas visitors.
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