MADE famous by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, Notting Hill has never lost its stellar appeal. Every Saturday, crowds line Portobello Road Market looking for the most famous door in London, eager to recapture the romance of the silver screen.
But like so much of London – this is a tale of two cities or should I say streets. The first belongs to guide books with British brands eagerly coveting for the tourist pound among the mobile crepe stalls, antiques and cheap souvenirs. The other is more local – where residents and traders remember a Portobello Road of the eighties. A time when rents were cheap and W11 was more village than high street.
For many such as Books For Cooks, Ceramica Blue and even newcomer Provence Village Butcher, Portobello Road is about community, where life is punctuated by the familiar rhythms of its weekly fruit and vegetable market, lone buskers, and the Rastafarian beats of the second-hand clothing stores. It’s a place where home-made preserves are for sale in a front yard with the sign “bring jars back if you can”.
Go on a Friday and you’ll get the chance to experience a more local W11. Start your walk at Notting Hill Gate station, walking down the side streets to get to Portobello Road. This is the famous antique area where you can buy anything and everything from Birmingham guilloche to 1930s enamelled soup ladles. Quality is varied and so is the price but that’s the appeal. It’s also home to Hummingbird Bakery (no.33) - famous for its red velvet cupcakes (it opened its first store here in 2004), GAIL’S Artisan Bakery (no. 138) and the wonderful La Cave a Fromage for its selection of fine cheeses (no. 148).
With soaring rents, high street brands have taken over, but directly off Portobello Road, you’ll find some true locals. On Westbourne Grove is Alexeeva & Jones – an artisan chocolate salon of truffles, chocolate bars, pralines and ganaches from over twenty-three countries, including the owners own (n.297). Opposite at number 300 is Still Too Few – if it’s open go in and see author Elizabeth David’s kitchen dresser among its collection of antique kitchenalia.
Nearby is the very popular The Grocer on Elgin – for the best excuse to get take-away (no one will ever know), as well as the oh-so-conveniently paired Mr Christian’s (for the best deli goods at no. 11) and Jeroboams Wine Merchants (no. 13) . The Spice Shop, Books For Cooks and Ceramica Blue offer a trio of culinary experiences on Blenheim Crescent, with the former being one of the best places in London for tableware. Lindy Wiffen has worked with the best of the best supplying wares to Mark Hix, Yotam Ottolenghi and Gordon Ramsay among others. Two doors down is Books For Cooks – a cook’s paradise, so extensive is its range of books from the most recently published to those that you have always wanted but have never been able to find. Follow your nose to find The Spice Shop, allowing your mind to wander down centuries old spice routes to take inspiration from the extensive herbs and spices on offer (no.1).
Having crossed Blenheim Crescent, there is a perceptible change in rhythm as the street narrows. As you head towards Ladbroke Grove, look out for R. Garcia & Sons - a landmark since 1957 (no. 248-250). It offers one of the best selection of Manchego, peppers, tortilla, jamón in London. Close by is Talkhouse Coffee (no.275)– an independent cafe specialising in single origin coffee and at Portobello Star Bar, you’ll find Ginsitute, an in-the-know destination for gin lovers who know a good old-style London gin when they taste one (no. 171).
If you continue along, Portobello Road you’ll reach Golborne Road. Or, you can head back to Kensington Park Road, home to Provence Village Butcher - winner of the 2014 New Butcher Shop of the Year (no. 33). Opposite is Biscuiteers that does what it says it on the tin. It’s decorated biscuits such as London landmarks make the perfect gift. You can even enrol in classes to create your own masterpiece. At no. 116, Native & Co offers a lesson in pared back simplicity with its selection of handcrafted homeward goods from Japan and Taiwan.
Don’t forget to buy your jam on the way home, just leave something extra if you can’t return the jar.
Notting Hill address book
The Hummingbird Bakery, 133 Portobello Road. Tel. 020 7851 1795
Gail’s Artisan Bakery, 138 Portobello Road, W11 2DZ. Tel. 020 7460 0766
La Cave a Fromage, 148 Portobello Road. Tel. 020 7221 1000
Portobello Star, 171 Portobello Road, W11 2DY. Tel. 020 7229 8016
R Garcia And Sons, 248-250 Portobello Road, W11 1LL. Tel. 020 7221 6119
Talkhouse Coffee 275 Portobello Road W11 1LR.
The Cloth Shop, 290 Portobello Road, W10 5TE. Tel. 020 8968 6001
The Grocer on Elgin, 6 Elgin Crescent, W11 2HX. Tel. 020 7221 3844
Mr Christian’s, 11 Elgin Crescent, W11 2JA. Tel. 020 7229 0501
Jeroboam’s Wine Shop, 13 Elgin Crescent, W11 2JA. Tel. 020 7229 0527.
The Spice Shop, 1 Blenheim Crescent, W11 2EE. Tel. 020 7221 4448
Books For Cooks, 4 Blenheim Crescent, W11 1NN. Tel. 020 7221 1992
Ceramica Blue, 10 Blenheim Crescent, W11 1NN. Tel. 020 7727 0288
Provenance Village Butchers, 33 Kensington Park Road, W11 2EU. Tel. 020 7229 8814
The Biscuiteers, 194 Kensington Park Road, W11 2ES. Tel. 020 7727 8096
Native & Co, 116 Kensington Park Road, W11 2PW. Tel. 020 7243 0418
Alexeeva & Jones, 297 Westbourne Grove, W11 2QA. Tel. 020 7229 1199
Still Too Few, 300 Westbourne Grove, W11 2PS. Tel. 020 7727 775
Portobello Road Fruit & Vegetable Market, between Elgin Crescent and Talbot Road.
THINGS TO DO AND PLACES TO SEE