Tucked away in Bury Place, in between Bloomsbury Way and Great Russell Street, lies a little bookshop, London Review Bookshop. In the area, Dickens, Darwin, Yeats, Sayers and J.M. Barrie have strolled around when residents, and John Maynard Keynes penned out his “Keynesian” theories. Here Virginia Woolf held her court of intellectuals and artists, know as the Bloomsbury Group, and often visited the National Library, now British Museum.
I have visited in the British Museum several times during my stay in London. The Museum is a huge complex of collectibles, accumulated over centuries of imperialism and Victorian meticulousness: you can admire Greek, Roman, Japanese, Malayan, Mexican, Nigerian, Norwegian, Australian, Assyrian and Egyptian artifacts – just to mention a few. If you are on a schedule, my recommendation for a visit is to choose an area you want to see and stick with that – it is easy to get lost in the swirl of antiquities and spend the whole day gauging at thousands of objects which will melt into one deformed lump in your mind by the time you manage to stumble out of the building. Another tip is to buy a 2-pound brochure, which points out 10 most famous objects, and start your treasure hunt.
Either way, strolling around the museum is hefty business for both mind and body, and after all the masses of students, tourists, and leisurely loiterers, it is necessary to find a quiet nook where to rest your brain and feet.
London Review Bookshop (and Cakeshop!) is situated about 100 meters from the Museum entrance – but conveniently out of the sight of the tourist flocks. The bookshop has two floors and covers everything from poetry, literary criticism and travel literature to cookery books, history, philosophy and children’s books. On display they have novelties from both British and foreign literature (I spotted the Finnish Unknown Soldiers with the very familiar red and white cover, and a whole table full of Ali Smith – I was very enthusiastic over Ali Smith over half decade back and tried to convince some Finnish publishing houses to take on her Hotel World. I did not succeed then, but noticed now that some of her novels have been translated, so enjoy Ali Smith, dear Finnish readers).
But now, to the cakes! Adjacent to the bookshop you find a smallish, but airy and light, space dedicated to teas, coffees and cakes. There are some individual tables lining the wall and a bigger communal table next to the counter. The atmosphere in both the book and the cake shop was calm and if the weather hadn’t been amazing I would have enjoyed my cuppa indoors. But the sun was shining and before stepping in I had noticed there was an interesting looking court yard at the back so I took my tea and pie out, and enjoyed a Bloomsburian afternoon outdoors.
Yes, you read right: I did have some tea as I was saving myself for a rendez-vous over a coffee. And instead of a cake, I opted for a savory pie (asparagus) with a salad (beans and greens) and munched away in the Pied Bull Yard. The yard was filled with customers from the surrounding restaurants, of which one was Cordon Bleu’s coffee shop with its Parisian 1950’s look – something to remember when in the area next time!
London Review Bookshop was a very pleasant find, and I am now happy to visit British Museum for the tenth time, as I have a quiet nook where to calm the overloaded brain and refresh the worn out feet.
My other visits to London’s bookshops: