Travellers are curious by nature. We like to explore menus and markets as much as we do the woods or highways that disappear off to the horizon. We like to descend nondescript stairways to see what lay below. We want to know and see and touch and taste and feel we are making some traction on this huge world we know we’ll never fully discover, but goddammit we want to give it our best crack. I’m sure I’m not alone in this: If I go to a destination, I want to know I’ve seen all the cool bits. I want to later be able to have a conversation with a local and find common ground. I want to know neighbourhoods. And next time I go I want to know more neighbourhoods.
I think author Saska Graville is one of these curious souls too. Or at least she’ll certainly assist a few. Her London Style Guide (Murdoch Books) is a delightfully curated mix of sleek bars, eccentric vintage boutiques, independent bookstores, florists and cupcakeries (is that a word?). Through her wonderful taste we are able to explore the gems within neighbourhoods like Shoreditch, Chelsea and South Kensington, Primrose Hill, Islington, Kings Cross and Marylebone to name a few. Some of my favourites like Ottolenghi or Daunt Books are featured, but so are ones I have never heard of (but am now so glad I have) like the Fox & Anchor Hotel in Clerkenwell or the hidden bar Purl in the basement of a Georgian house in Marylebone.
Saska Graville has been a writer and editor for 20 years in both London and Sydney. She was editor of New Woman magazine, features editor for the Sun Herald (for which she is still a travel correspondent), and is now at Red Magazine in her native London. Her Sydney experience also means that she knows where to get decent coffee and understands that Bill Granger makes a mean breakfast (Granger & Co). She also enlists the advice of a number of creative and stylish Londoners scattered through the guide, who each share their tips on where to go to be inspired, to shop, to eat or to relax.
In addition to the style within the book, the style of the book needs mention here. The small hardback format is perfect to put in your handbag, the matte design under Hugh Ford is crisp and easy to navigate, and I can’t imagine the photography (by husband-and-wide team Jess Reftel Evans and Martin Reftel) being any better. I don’t think it would be possible.
My only problem with this book is that I am not in London using it right now.