A First-Timer’s Guide to Notting Hill
Notting Hill is a London neighborhood in known for its quirky, eclectic, and endlessly fascinating charm. Globetrotting fashionista and former London resident, Catherine Dionne, shares her insider tips for exploring the neighborhood.
SHOP: PORTOBELLO MARKET
Notting Hill is is well known as a destination for the colorful Portobello Market. Saturday is the busiest day when hundreds of vendors, musicians, and food stalls are present. However, I personally prefer visiting on Fridays – when local residents, designers, and stylists come to evade the crowds. Nearly all the vendors are there, but the neighborhood has a more intimate feeling. I never tire of going to see what turns up and chatting with the vendors about the provenance and history of their wares. Keep in mind that many of the shops don’t open until 10:00 am and most stalls begin packing up around 5:00 pm. The market is divided into the following sections along Portobello Road:
Section 1: Chepstow Villas
A variety of antique china, porcelain, silver and collectables. Be sure to enter the tiny shops that line the street behind the stalls, like The Clock Centre, where former Christie’s antique dealers sell high-end antique clocks and unique, hand made wind-up objects including hand-painted miniature birds that pop out of silver boxes, flutter their wings and sing enchanting melodies, or a monkey dressed as a courtier in gold brocade, playing the ukelele. Next door is a shop that sells antique military gear.
Portobello Market (photo by Pablo Recio)
Section 2: Elgin Crescent
Here vendors supply the locals with fresh fruit, food, and flowers. Highlights include the Spanish stand, with its beautiful array of olives with almonds, lemons, and spices, home-made English pastry stands, Ghanaian stews, and Paella. I call it the “Rhythm section” because entertainers can be found posted on belting out tunes on every corner. At the Portobello Garden Caffe, in the rear of the Portobello Arcade, two brothers from Naples have recreated a truly authentic Italian trattoria in a cheerful conservatory.
Section 3: The Bridge
Cool Brittania is all about eclectic, rock-and-role style, much of it inspired by great design of the past. The Portobello clothes market in this section is a true fashionista destination. Most vendors are regulars, however, one never knows what they will have. Bargaining is expected, but don’t expect to end up with much more than 20% off the offer price. Here you can find beautiful vintage designer clothes, faded French factory denim wear, lace dressing gowns, jodphurs, and Eastern formal tribal wear and jewelry.
Section 4: Golborne Road
After the bridge Portobello narrows, but be sure to continue on to Goldborne: this is the best part! On Friday and Saturday afternoons, the street is packed with an eclectic array of people, mainly locals, shopping and socializing in this last non-tourist section. A favorite is the Golborne Café where the vendors pop in for an early breakfast and a hot cuppa. Not far down the street is the famous Portuguese pastry shop, O’Porto. Be sure to have one of their cream tarts; we dare you to stop at just one.
Below are a list of my personal neighborhood favorites. Some have only a few tables so be sure to reserve in advance, if you can.
Inventive fare at The Ledbury (photo from www.theledbury.com)
A Michelin two-star restaurant with understated elegance. The kitchen places an emphasis on game, intriguing vegetables, and unique herbs and roots from small-scale suppliers. The prix-fixe weekend menu is a real bargain. 127 Ledbury Rd, London W11 2AQ; www.theledbury.com
An insider secret, Algerian-born Chef Rabah cooks for only 12 tables, serving Mediterranean fare that features unusual but outstanding tapas and meze dishes. 16 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, London W11 1HH; wormwoodrestaurant.com
Modern meets Moorish at the Wormwood (photo from www.facebook.com/wormwoodrestaurant)
Notting Hill Kitchen
Enjoy Iberian tapas in a chic townhouse setting. 2 Kensington Park Road; www.nottinghillkitchen.co.uk
A spin-off of the Shoreditch original, this original twist on the traditional pizzeria is a stylish – and delicious – surprise. 310 Portobello Road, London W10 5TA; www.pizzaeast.com/
It’s rare to find seating but this café is always worth a visit, especially for take-away. It serves some of London’s most original and freshest menu of salads, cakes, and pastries. 63 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AD; www.ottolenghi.co.uk/nottinghill
Sample of Ottolenghi’s salads and soups (photo by Colin Campbell, www.ottolenghi.co.uk/)
Lisa’s Kitchen + Bar
White, airy, and elegant, this Swedish café and bar is comfortable and long on style. 305 Portobello Rd, London W10 5TD; www.lisasportobello.com
This legendary haunt features delicious pastries and strong coffees in an authentic, low-key setting. 62 Golborne Rd, London W10 5PS
Granger & Co
It takes at least a week to score a table for brunch. Locals swear by the relaxed atmosphere and breakfast favorites like sweetcorn fritters and Aussie scrambled eggs. 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2SB; grangerandco.com
Scrambled eggs at Granger & Co (photo from www.facebook.com/grangerandco)
The brunch here is very good plus the chic clothing range in the boutique downstairs may be irresistable. 202-204 Westbourne Grove; www.202london.com
This bistro is cute, quirky, and addictive. We love the English style breakfasts and tiny outdoor garden in the back. 226 Westbourne Grove; www.newtoms.co.uk
WELLNESS GUIDE TO LONDON
This is one of London’s favorite and hippest gastropubs, offering freshly-sourced menu of tapas and snacks plus a large selection of ales, lagers, beers, wines, and cocktails. It gets packed on the weekends – especially on the terrace during warmer months – Sundays are the better day to go. 101 Westbourne Park Villas, London W2 5ED; www.thewestbourne.com
This is the saloon where you’ll find delicious seafood, a roaring fireplace, understated celebrities, bankers, trustafarians, and local drunks. 89 Westbourne Park Rd, London W2 5QH; thecowlondon.co.uk
Elegant Walmer Castle (photo from www.thaipubs.co.uk)
This handsome pub also serves excellent Thai curries and great views of chic shoppers. 58 Ledbury Rd, London W11 2AJ; www.thaipubs.co.uk/location/walmer-castle
Have you ever visited Notting Hill? Share your recommendations in the reply section below.
About the Author
Catherine Dionne is globetrotting blogger who worships fashion. Raised in New York City and fluent in four languages, she has lived throughout Europe and now resides in London. Her work in international finance, fashion, and acting has taken her around the world—from Asia to Scandinavia and Latin America. A previous position as an assistant stylist and editor-in-chief for Luxos Magazine granted her front row access to her favorite pastimes: runway shows and art exhibitions. Discover more of Catherine Dionne’s discriminating taste and stylish adventures at www.afrolista.com.