During my stint in London I was lucky enough to call Notting Hill home. I vaguely knew some of the history of the area, but it wasn’t until I read Julian Mash’s book, Portobello Road: Lives of a Neighbourhood, did I truly get acquainted with it’s past… Slums and race riots, Carnival, the death of Jimi Hendrix, that famous Blue Door and travel bookshop made famous by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, the fruit and vegetable market, Pink Floyd’s first gig, Damon Albarn… This is a neighbourhood to get really excited about. It has an amazing energy about it and attracts people from all walks of life including bankers, musicians, fashionistas, movie stars, artists and bohemians alike.
The majority of visitors are happy to just wander down the touristy Portobello Road Market on Fridays and Saturdays… but they will miss all the best parts of the neighbourhood! There are so many independent boutiques to shop, delicious cafes and restaurants catering to every taste, pubs and bars a plenty to wile away a lazy afternoon and fascinating history and architecture you can get lost in by wandering around the neighbourhood.
Here is my local’s guide to one my favourite areas of London.
Since I love food as much as I love good Sir Dilly Dally, its probably easiest for me to start with a list of my favourite restaurants…
- Crazy Homies – a cosy Mexican restaurant and bar with the best tostada’s in town. As the name suggests, this place has a great buzz. Watch out… margaritas are strong!
- The Oak – An old pub now an intimate Italian restaurant with wood fired pizzas and wine. The dim candlelit tables provide the perfect atmosphere for a cosy dinner or alternatively soak up the sunshine in one of the outside booths. The bar upstairs has big comfy leather armchairs and lounges to enjoy a pre-dinner prosecco.
- Boom Burger – a little piece of Jamaica in the heart of Notting Hill. Tucked under the Westway, this lively place offers Carribean inspired burgers and banging tunes. Their signature Boom Burger smothered with bacon jam and oozing with cheese is one of my favourites in London.
- Honest Burgers – right in the heart of Notting Hill, on Portobello Road sits another amazing burger joint serving juicy burgers, rosemary fries and craft beers…
- Nama – if you are on a health kick or just want to avoid a food coma, Nama is the place for delicious energising vegetarian and vegan raw food, think nut rice sushi and zucchini noodle lasagne. They also offer cleanses and cooking courses.
- Polpo – Italian style tapas, need I say more… The limoncello martinis are divine. Look out for their cookbook to recreate the dishes from this trendy eatery at home.
- Grangers & Co – located on the posh part of Westbourne Grove, you can’t miss this place… there is always a queue of hungry people out the front waiting for Bill’s world famous Aussie brunch. Despite the queue, the service is friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed. My favourite dish is the courgette fritters, but the ricotta pancakes are good too!
- Pizza East – down the very end of Portobello at Golborne Road is this stylish laid back pizza joint… industrial chic interiors with decent fresh food but it’s more about the atmosphere here. Grab a table on the outside pavement and watch the world pass by.
- The Ledbury – world class dining that oozes with understated elegance. It offers an amazing vegetarian tasting menu but requires bookings months in advance.
- Acklam Village – if you are looking for something more casual then check out this street food market and bar (with live music) under the Westway.
After food… the next most important thing is drinks!
My favourite bars for a tipple:
- The Little Yellow Door – look for the gentleman in a bowler hat standing outside the yellow door at Notting Hill Gate… follow the stairs up inside and enjoy a handcrafted cocktail in the comfort of what could be your own cosy lounge room.
- Negozio Classica – located on the corner of Westbourne Grove and Portobello Road, you really can’t go past this wine bar for people watching and an Aperol Spritz…
- La Cave à Fromage – a cheese shop and wine bar serving up a yummy (and stinky!) selection of French and British cheeses.
- Cépage[s] – a little bit further afield is another a great little wine bistro with share plates inspired by French classics in a quiet part of Notting Hill.
Nothing beats an English gastropub and Notting Hill if full of so many great options serving up comforting pub fare and craft beers to warm yourself up with.
- The Westbourne – my favourite pub on a sunny day in a quiet pocket of Notting Hill away from the hoards of tourists. Grab a table out the front in the terrace and enjoy a long lazy lunch. The menu changes daily using the freshest in season ingredients.
- The Ladbroke Arms – another nice gastropub away from the hustle and bustle of Notting Hill Gate with a pretty garden terrace full of colourful flowers. Inside is also cosy and nice for dinner.
- The Metropolitan – next to Westbourne Park tube, The Met is a great place for a sneaky pint or a Sunday roast (offering a tasty vegetarian option as well as the usual carnivore choices).
- Walmer Castle – a traditional style pub perfect for a pit stop to take a break and relax with a G&T after all that shopping on Westbourne Grove.
SIP & NIBBLE
- Coffee Plant – London is not known for its coffee, so if you are a bit of a coffee snob like me, skip the numerous chains and head straight to this independent roaster on Portobello Road for the best flat white in the neighbourhood and pick up a bag of organic fair trade beans to take home.
So many of the great little cafes in this neighbourhood seem to be hidden in shops! Here are a few interesting ones to check out…
- Pedlers – a cool little shop offering a stylish selection of bags, stationary, homewares and giftware. Stay for a light lunch in their café with delicious coffee and yummy bruschetta.
- The Idler Academy – a lovely bookshop and cafe selling “literature for loafers” and offering a range of classes on various subjects including philosophy, astronomy, calligraphy, ukulele, etc. Enjoy a pot of tea or coffee and cake in their cute little garden.
- Books for Cooks – a shop devoted entirely to cookbooks, complete with a little test kitchen at the back were you can get lunch, the menu changes daily.
- Biscuiteers – cute designer biscuit shop and icing café.
- Daylesford Farmshop – organic produce farmed using sustainable practises, pick up some groceries straight from the farm or stay and have a seasonal salad in the café.
One of the main draws to Notting Hill is the famous Portobello Road Market. If you are into vintage fashion head to the Portobello Green Market under the Westway. If antiques are more your thing, explore the market between Chepstow Villas and Elgin Crescent (but be careful there are a lot of fakes these days), bric-a-brac can also be found along Golborne Street Market and is much less touristy. If you are not really a market person take the time to walk down Westbourne Grove. It is full of stylish boutiques as well as some high street chains like LK Bennett and Whistles. Here are my favourite shops in the area:
- Aesop – upmarket unisex Aussie skincare brand concept space.
- Dolci Follie – a luxury lingerie boutique with an elegant boudoir feel offering a range of independent designers.
- Pistol Panties – a gorgeous swimsuit boutique with a glamorous retro style.
- Nellie Atelier – an elegant boutique with beautifully tailored investment pieces.
- Native & Co – beautiful minimalist style handcrafted homewares.
- Pop – A popcorn boutique selling flavours like English Toffee and Sea Salt, Chilli Cheese, Salt and Vinegar, as well as seasonal specials like Apple Caramel Cinnamon and Marmalade popcorn.
- Honest Jons – a must for any music lover, established in 1974 this neighbourhood institution specialises in soul, jazz, reggae and world music.
- Rough Trade – another longstanding independent record shop that was established in the area in1976.
Other fun things to do in the area include:
- Pavement Poetry – it’s always nice to see things hidden in plain sight. Keep your eyes peeled for seven inconspicuous coalhole covers, each with a unique poem relating to its location, written by a local author.
- Portobello Wall – visit the murals installed along the North wall of Portobello Road between Oxford Gardens to Golborne Road which celebrate the history, events and personalities that make Notting Hill what it is today.
- London West Bank Gallery – displays an interesting collection of contemporary and street artists.
- The Penny Market – every Saturday at the north end of Portobello Road Market (just past Golbourne Road) is a charitable initiative with colourful canvas stalls selling fresh organic and eco-friendly produce. Half of the market’s profits are redistributed back into local charities and social enterprise projects.
- The Electric Cinema – the only place to watch movies… a beautifully restored cinema with big comfy armchairs with foot rests, blankets, carafes of wine and gourmet snacks.
- Kyoto Garden, Holland Park – everyone visits Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, but close to Notting Hill is the lesser known Kyoto Garden, a beautifully manicured Japanese zen garden complete with water feature, fish and peacocks. Explore the rest of the gardens, which include a rose garden and Holland House, a stately home that was a victim of the Blitz.
- The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising – a quirky little museum which examines the history of British consumer culture from Victorian times to the present day.
This list is just of my favourite places while I was living there… but Notting Hill is one of those places which is always changing with new things always popping up. So if you have the time go exploring off the main drag, away from the tourists and you won’t be disappointed.
I am always keen to avoid the tourist traps when travelling, so here are a few different guide books I used when living in London: