In Australia there are far too few of those elusive creatures – the cafe-in-a-bookshop. Berkelouw is one, and it's a prince among its kind.
There is an excuse for those bibliophiles out there who have simply walked past. The entryway into Berkelouw Paddington is less than impressive. In fact, it looks more like an airport book shop than a place of cosy nooks and coffee. Step just a little further in, though, and you will find just the sort of thing to set a book lover's heart a-flutter: tables of elegantly arranged books, aisles of packed shelves, and, better still, a stairway leading to more.
Up those stairs is the caffeine station. (They call it a cafe but let's not kid ourselves. We know what a deranged book reader is there for and it's not the food.) A tidy little wine list is a good addition to the usual café fare, particularly after a long day. And yes, there is food for those who seek it.
One sunny winter's afternoon found me ensconced at the perfect table, with a cheeky little glass of red and an apple – yes, they sell those, too.
Berkelouw Paddington is the perfect place for a weekend reading session. If you have your choice of tables, the ones in the window provide for good people-watching, perched up above the crowd, or you might want something more shady further in.
The second and third floors also sell books, some of them second-hand. I managed to pick up an almost new Georgette Heyer for a steal, simply because a previous owner had carelessly let it go. Further finds no doubt lurk in them thar shelves, but for me they had to wait until next visit.
In short, Oxford Street is lucky to have such a great little venue in its midst.
Berkelouw: if you ever install a set of bunks in your Oxford St store, I may just move in.