Saska Graville, born and bred Londoner and now guidebook author, picks a selection of her favourite spots to eat and shop, in time for the Olympics.
My aim with London Style Guide is for visitors to live like a local in London. It's not a guide to the usual suspects - I assume most of us already know about the city's major sites and attractions. What I wanted to create is a guide to the places that Londoners themselves love, the great local pubs and cafes and cool independent shops, across the villages of London. If you were staying with a Londoner, this is the London you'd see.
I love every single one of the places included in the book, but I've picked out a selection that cover the city from north to south, east to west. What's true about London is that there will always be somewhere new to discover - one visit is never going to be enough.
Victoria and Albert Museum Cafe
It may be one of the world's great museums, but the V&A also has a hidden secret - one of London's most ornate cafes. Not just that, it was the first museum restaurant in the world, built in the 1850s to show off British design and craftsmanship. As entry to the museum is free, you can come for coffee at the V&A without feeling you ought to check out the art, although the glorious Victorian decor in the cafe is an experience in itself. There are three rooms to choose from: Morris, Gamble and Poynter. In the Morris room, created by designer William Morris's decorating company, you'll find theatrical stained glass and wonderfully tiled sweeping arches. In Gamble, the walls are covered in ceramic tiles and the ceiling in enamelled iron, all richly patterned and ornate. The Poynter room's colour scheme of blue and white is inspired by Dutch artists. London's most OTT coffee stop.
Address Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL. +44 020 7942 2000, www.vam.ac.uk.
What's true about London is that there will always be somewhere new to discover - one visit is never going to be enough.
Bull & Last
No wonder one of Britain's most influential food critics, Giles Coren, loves this pub so much, raving about the "best pub food" he's ever eaten. Technically in Highgate, but right on the edge of Hampstead Heath, it has everything a neighbourhood local should: outstanding food, a great room to hang out in and some of the friendliest staff in London. Nothing to find fault with. There's even a canine menu for your four-legged friend, featuring pig's ears and roast marrow bones. Pop in for Sunday lunch and you'll find the likes of crisp pig's cheek, basil, watermelon, mint and sesame on the menu - a cut above the usual pub grub. And don't leave without trying the Scotch eggs sold at the bar - worth a visit for one of those alone. If the weather's nice, order a picnic hamper and head over the road to Hampstead Heath; how many pubs offer a service like that?
Address 168 Highgate Road, NW5 1QS. 020 7267 3641, thebullandlast.co.uk.
If you think you're not a fan of vintage clothing, this place will change your mind. On the scale of a department store, the vast space is an old furniture factory that has been transformed into a destination in its own right. There are clothes, of course - rails and rails of hand-picked, beautifully presented styles, most of which barely look worn - but there's also antique furniture, records and books, and squashy leather sofas to read them in. Oh, and a coffee bar. With its exposed brick walls, old wood floors and chandeliers hanging from the cavernous ceilings, this is vintage with polish.
Address 55-59 Hanbury Street, E1 5JP. 020 7377 0730, www.blitzlondon.co.uk.
St John Bar and Restaurant
One of the first businesses to move in and turn Clerkenwell into the don't-miss destination it is today, St John is also one of London's most cutting-edge restaurants. It frequently tops the lists of chefs' own favourite places to eat. Nose-to-tail dining is the philosophy in this former ham and bacon smokehouse. Go for the whole roast suckling pig to get the full experience. Decor is white, stripped back and industrial-looking. Even if you just pop in for a drink at the bar, don't miss it.
Address 26 St John Street, EC1M 4AY. 020 3301 8069, stjohnrestaurant.com.
Artist Rob Ryan sells his exquisite hand-cut paper prints around the world, but this is his only dedicated shop. His studio is just around the corner, and much of the work sold here is exclusive. If you don't know his style, prepare to be enchanted. Whimsical, romantic and a little bit kooky, his pictures feature sayings ("Let your heart have a say", "I miss being a small girl") that will have you smiling. The shop itself is utterly charming. With lovely worn floorboards, hand-stencilled tiles and tea towels imploring you to "Believe in People", it's a world of traditional manners and romantic daydreams.
Address 126 Columbia Road, E2 7RG. misterrob.co.uk.
On Saturdays, Broadway Market comes alive with stalls selling everything from organic meat and cheese to kids' clothing and bric-a-brac. There's even a hog spit roast. Here are a few favourites for which you should look out: Drake & Naylor Fun, affordable and useful vintage design from the 1950s to the 1980s. If your home needs an anglepoise lamp, a piece of taxidermy or set of 1970s brass swallows, you'll find it here. drakeandnaylor.co.uk. Sue Goodman Remember the Ladybird and I-Spy books of your childhood? Sue has stockpiled them. It will all come flooding back as you look through the titles. Alice Gabb There's something quintessentially British about turning a vintage royal commemorative mug into a candle. And that's what Alice does. A 1902 King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra Coronation mug is filled with eco soy wax. Ditto a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee mug. There's even Charles and Diana wedding china ready to burn. Lovely souvenirs for anyone after an unusual bit of Britishness.
Impeccable food in a laid-back and east-London-groovy setting make Brawn a must-stop eating spot. Sit at one of the old school tables and chairs and order from a menu packed with meaty treats - as the name suggests, this isn't a particularly vegetarian-friendly place. With cool art on the walls, a rough concrete floor and staff who seem more like helpful friends than paid professionals, it's the perfect place for a very long lunch.
Address 49 Columbia Road, E2 7RG. 020 7729 5692, www.brawn.co.
As its name suggests, this canal-side cafe sits right on the water's edge. With trendy apartment redevelopments in one direction and inner-city housing estates in the other, this funky coffee spot is tucked into the ground floor of a warehouse block, overlooking the Regent's Canal. More a hole in the wall than a cafe, it boasts one tiny inside seating area and several colourful metal tables and chairs on the canal path. The open kitchen and coffee bar are set behind panels of reclaimed wood, adding to the cafe's laid-back, casual vibe - a mood reinforced by the no-phone, no-bookings nature of the place. Just turn up, hope for a table in the sun, and enjoy the first-class coffee.
Address Canal Towpath, between Whitmore Bridge and Kingsland Road Bridge, N1 5SB.
Labour and Wait
Who'd have thought a shop that describes its stock as "traditional products for the home" could be so stylish? Forget the dingy corner hardware store. This is an institution, famous for its meticulously presented and cleverly merchandised range of basic household wares. Classic, utilitarian and functional objects are celebrated as things of style. There's no plastic tat, just beautifully made wood and metal goods, but when even a container of rubber hot-water bottles looks elegant, it's testament to how brilliantly put-together the whole place is. You will leave with a giant ball of string you never knew you wanted - but that you will cherish.
Address 85 Redchurch Street, E2 7DJ. 020 7729 6253, labourandwait.co.uk.
London's hippest pizzeria, this feels more like a club than a restaurant - loud music, stripped-back industrial chic decor and lots of beautiful people. The food is, quite simply, delicious. Start with the likes of fig, burrata and honeycomb bruschetta, and then try to decide on just one choice from the pizza menu. One visit is not enough.
Address 56Shoreditch High Street, E16JJ. 02077291888, pizzaeast.com.
For a sense of what turn-of-the-century Bethnal Green was like, stop off at this tiny, crowded cafe. Opened in 1900, the squeezy, wood-panelled, low-ceiling space has remained pretty much unchanged, a gem of art deco style that has been run by the same family from the start. Marquetry panelling on the inside and Victorian Vitrolite glass frontage on the outside, it's a little piece of history in among the internet cafes and kebab shops on this strip of road. And the Italian food's not bad, either.
Address 332 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AG. 020 7739 4873.
Paradise by Way of Kensal Green
Far more than just a humble local pub, this ornately decorated Victorian drinking establishment has hosted local supermodel Sophie Dahl's birthday celebrations and seen Jade Jagger take to the decks as DJ. With two bars and a restaurant downstairs, and three more bars and private dining spaces upstairs, it acts as a bar, restaurant, comedy venue and nightclub all in one. The decor is ornately shabby chic, with chandeliers, candelabras, squashy sofas and decorative wallpaper. Book in advance for the main restaurant - the menu's impressive - or just spend a night in the bar sipping espresso martinis.
Address 19 Kilburn Lane, W10 4AE. 020 8969 0098, theparadise.co.uk.
Kokon to Zai
This beautiful old butcher's shop is a Victorian treasure. With its tiled frontage and mosaic entrance, it's a unique shopping experience from the second you cross the threshold. Inside, the eclectic mood continues. Thistle-design tiles, a solid marble counter-top and a delicately mosaic-tiled floor all make it worth a visit for the interior alone. The merchandise will intrigue you. A mix of fashion and lifestyle, the overall mood is Alice in Wonderland meets Pirates of the Caribbean, with skull motifs, stag beetles, feathers, candles and butterflies.
Address 86 Golborne Road, W10 5PS. 020 8960 3736.
What began as a small cheese shop is now a food empire. Cheese is still at the heart of the business, with an on-site maturing cellar and walk-in cheese room, but there is so much more. A slice of artisan fromage is the minimum you'll be leaving with. There are beautifully presented seasonal fruit and vegetables, charcuterie, temptations such as house-cured gravad lax, freshly baked breads and cakes, handmade ice-cream ... mouth-watering doesn't do it justice. And if you can't wait until you get home to sample the wares, the cafe offers tasting plates of everything. Even better, it's licensed, so you can have a cheese-and-wine lunch to try out a few lesser-known farmhouse cheeses before you buy. And how many food shops come with two disco balls hanging from the ceiling?
Address 2-6 Moxton Street, W1U 4EW. 020 7935 0341, lafromagerie.co.uk.
The School of Life
This unique business could, potentially, change your life. Labelling itself "an apothecary of ideas and mental wellness" and a "chemist for the mind", it's both a shop and school in one. Where else can you buy books such as The Mindful Manifesto or How to be an Agnostic and sign up for classes on "how to have better conversations", "how to spend time alone" and "how to balance work with life"? The shop itself is a chic space of dark grey walls painted with the school's manifesto in bold lettering, wooden floors and unexpected touches such as a leopard-print couch and silver birch tree-trunks like sculptures growing up from the floor. Even if you leave with just a greeting card, you will feel better for having visited.
Address 70 Marchmont Street, WC1N 1AB. 020 7833 1010, theschooloflife.com.
Drink, Shop & Do
This Victorian bathhouse has been transformed into a vintage craft shop, with cafe, and is so unlike anything else in the area that it has to be visited to be believed. The whole place has a jaunty, sunny feel, from the orange-and-white striped ceiling to the cheery old-fashioned tunes being played as background music. Come in here simply to shop - everything else you can see, including the vintage furniture, is for sale - or sign up for a "do" craft session, such as a pin-up hair and make-up class. The cafe, serving lunch, afternoon tea and cocktails, is at the back, where the space unexpectedly opens up under a huge skylight that floods the space with light. Hard to think of a nicer spot for Sunday Scrabble - or one where the competitor with the highest word score gets a free cocktail. A little bit of charm amid the Kings Cross grunge.
Address 9 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX. 020 7278 4335, drinkshopdo.com.
Randall & Aubin
The heritage of this restaurant is clear from its lovely gold-lettered shop front. It was opened in 1911, as a butcher's, by Morin Randall and Cavenur Aubin, whose names are resplendent above the door. A restaurant since 1996, it retains all the charm and history of the original establishment, but these days it does a brisk trade in champagne and oysters rather than pork chops. And I doubt Messrs Randall and Aubin would have thought much of the chandeliers and glitter ball. Most nights, there's a queue of Soho's bright young things sipping drinks as they wait for a seat at one of the marble-top benches. But the seafood and rotisserie menu are worth the wait.
Address 16 Brewer Street, W1F 0SG. 020 7287 4447, randallandaubin.com.
Foodies cannot get enough of the smorgasbord of restaurants and shops in Brixton Village, the 1930s market arcade that has been rescued and revitalised in recent years. If you would like to experience, under one roof, the tastes of the myriad cultures that exist in London, this is the place to come. It may not be as polished as many of the venues featured in this book, but the market's atmosphere is electric, especially on Thursday and Friday nights, when it stays open late. There are too many culinary temptations for just one visit, but ones to put on your menu include Thai at family-run KaoSarn, rare-breed Yorkshire pig burgers at Honest Burgers, irresistible sourdough breads and on-site roasted coffee at Breads Etcetera, and exotic store cupboard buys such as chilli and mango ketchup at Brixton Cornercopia.
Address Granville Arcade, Atlantic Road, SW9 8PS. honestburgers.co.uk, brixtoncornercopia.ning.com.
This is an edited extract from London Style Guide by Saska Graville, Murdoch Books, $34.99, which goes on sale Tuesday.