"You awright, darling?"
Every morning, as I meander up Portobello road, several of the vendors call out greetings as they open their shops and set up their stalls. An American transfer, I moved to Portobello only a few months ago – and now it feels like home. Often, tourists drifting through the streets ask for directions. So here is my personal guide to the best of Notting Hill.
When to Go: Saturday is the most popular day, when all the vendors, musicians and food stalls are present. I personally prefer Fridays – when local residents, designers and stylists come to get a jump on the crowds. Nearly all the vendors are there, but the neighbourhood 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. Mornings are generally better, but many of the shops don't open until about 10am and most stalls begin packing up by 5pm.
Where to Go: The market is divided in sections along Portobello Road:
Stop 1: (at 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 (87 Portobello Road), 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 yuekele. Next door is a shop that sells antique military gear.
LUXOS SAYS: Have a cupcake at the Hummingbird Bakery, arguably London's best – and most beautiful- cupcakes. You'll need the calories to walk! (133 Portobello Rd, London W11 2DY)
Stop 2: (at Elgin Crescent) Here vendors supply the local neighbourhood with fresh fruit, food and flowers. Highlights include the Spanish stand, with its beautiful array of olives with almonds, lemons, and spices, homemade English pastry stands, Ghanaian stews, and Paella. I call it the "Rhythm section" because entertainers can be found 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.
LUXOS SAYS: Visit the historic Electric cinema, (191 Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 2ED) and the Notting Hill Bookstore from the film, Notting Hill. (13 Blenheim Crescent)
Stop 3: (at the Bridge) Cool Brittania is all about eclectic, rock-and-roll 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, jodhpurs, and Eastern formal tribal wear and jewelry.
LUXOS SAYS: Visit "What Katie Did", the ultimate UK lingerie store, from contemporary bespoke to vintage style lingerie and corsets (281 Portobello Road, London, W10 5TZ)
Stop 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 socialising in this last non-tourist section. A favourite is the Golborne Cafè 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 is a list of my personal neighborhood favourites. Some have only a few tables so be sure to reserve in advance, if you can.
• The Ledbury: Michelin-starred restaurant, understated, elegant. Prix-fixe weekend menu is a real bargain. (127 Ledbury Rd, London W11 2AQ)
• The Wormwood: A true insider secret, former Michelin trained chef, only 12 tables, this Mediterranean kitchen features unusual – but outstanding dishes. (16 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, London W11 1HH)
• Notting Hill Kitchen: Iberian Tapas in chic townhouse (2 Kensington Park Road)
• Pizza East: A spin-off of the Shoreditch original, this original twist on the traditional pizzeria is a stylish –and delicious - surprise.
• Café O Porto: delcious pastries and strong coffees in an authentic, low-key setting. Legendary in London (62 Golborne Rd, London W10 5PS)
• Granger & co: It will take at least a week to score a table here for brunch. Locals swear by it. (175 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2SB)
• 202 Cafe: The brunch here is very good; the chic clothing range in the boutique downstairs may be irresistable. (202-204 Westbourne Grove)
• Tom's: Cute, quirky, addictive. We love the tiny outdoor garden in the back. (226 Westbourne Grove)
• The Westbourne: we last spotted Prince Harry's ex, the haute hippie and great beauty, Cressida Bonas, here with her gang. It's that cool. (101 Westbourne Park Villas, London W2 5ED) Sundays are best.
• The Cow: Delicious seafood, a roaring fireplace, understated celebrities, bankers, trustafarians and local drunks. (89 Westbourne Park Rd, London W2 5QH)
• The Walmer Castle: Actress Thandie Newton used to serve tables here. Excellent Thai curries and great views of chic shoppers. (58 Ledbury Rd, London W11 2AJ)