London’s bookstore’s key ingredients for success
Story & photographs by Abby Deering
Notting Hill, the ultra boho-chic neighborhood in West London, is probably best known for the eponymous film in which a bumbling bookstore owner (Hugh Grant) and a famous American actress (Julia Roberts) serendipitously meet and fall in love. However, just off Notting Hill’s Portobello Road, there is an actual bookstore with far more real-life charm and magic than Hollywood could ever muster.
Opened in 1983, Books for Cooks remains one of London’s best-kept secrets … from tourists, that is. For top London chefs and home cooks, this bookstore is akin to Mecca with more than 8,000 tasty titles packed into the wall-to-wall shelves like sardines.
Current owners Rosie Kindersley and Eric Treuille met and fell in love at Books for Cooks. At the time, Rosie was managing the bookstore, and Eric, a chef in a French restaurant, would regularly visit just to see her. The owner eventually offered Eric a job, he and Rosie were married, and they bought the store in 2002.
Rosie and Eric haven’t tampered much with the shop’s recipe for success, created by original owner Heidi Lascelles. They attribute this success to one key ingredient tucked in the back of the shop: a tiny, open-plan test kitchen. It’s from this kitchen that a time-honored Cooks for Books tradition continues: cooking lunch.
Tuesdays through Saturdays, Rosie and Eric pick a book from latest titles on display, decide which recipes to cook, tweet what’s been chosen, and then go to the Portobello food market to buy what they need.
“It varies hugely, French, Indian, Thai … whatever the cookbook says,” Eric explains.
Stacks of books are temporarily moved from display tables, which transform into cafe tables, and from noon until the food runs out, lunch is served. Two courses will only set you back about $6.50 or $9 for three — unheard-of prices for a fast food meal, let alone this level of cuisine and experience. On Tuesdays, they cook vegetarian dishes, and on Fridays, it’s fish. Eric sells $4 glasses of biodynamic wine from his small vineyard in the Southwest of France.
This fabulous concept, started way ahead of its time, allows Rosie and Eric to put theory into practice. “Food here is not just something to be perused in books; it is something to be cooked, eaten and enjoyed,” says the husband-wife team. “If we recommend something, you can trust we have tried and tested it thoroughly.”
The self-published book, “One Year at Books for Cooks,” compiles the best recipes tested throughout the year. To purchase a copy, visit www.booksforcooks.com or their London location at 4 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London W11 1NN.