Those pastel painted cottages winding down to Portobello: the reputation that precedes it and one of the world’s most famous street markets pitched against a luxury mini-district off the beaten touristic track. Notting Hill’s multifarious sides, secrets, and of-the-moment destinations can be unveiled in a few hours or over a roaming few days.
As the sun beams down on Westbourne Grove, the retail district of the road of the same name, it’s a wonder that nobody except the locals really knows about this upscale hub. Passing the jewel-like windows of Smythson, Anya Hindmarch and Pippa Small and proud frontages of holiday shops Heidi Klein, Melissa Odabash and Frescobal Carioca it’s clear that shopping and leisure are a religion for Notting Hill habitués. Indeed, even the church here has been turned into a glossy retail destination. You can also shop at the restaurants – 202, Chuc’s and Daylesford Organic serve as retail destinations around which dining is the main event. Bubbling around this thoroughfare lie some of the capital’s most established gastropubs – The Oak, The Cow, The Westbourne and The Prince Bonaparte were all at the forefront of the movement when it first began.
Winding Westbourne Grove runs from Bayswater down past Portobello Road. Passing south after Bodyism and over the market, you reach the patrician Paul Smith boutiques culminating on Kensington Park Road. Lined with stores and eateries, steer right to check out Couverture and the Garbstore for signature West London fashion, The Library members’ gym, and Core by Chef Clare Smyth, former Chef Patron of 3-Michelin-star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.
Turn right at Pan Asian stalwart E&O to discover Blenheim Crescent. Choose the meal of the month or the Dish of the Day at tiny Books for Cooks. Opposite, The Notting Hill Bookshop is a frequent stop on the tourist trail for film lovers and fans of the Hugh Grant movie. As you arrive on Portobello Road – home to the world’s largest antiques market, which takes over this iconic artery each Friday and Saturday – The Ginstitute stands across the road. Book in here for a textbook understanding – both historical and experimental – of Britain’s favourite botanical spirit. You also get to distil your own gin and bottle it to take home afterwards. Turning right, book a bed for a screening at one of Britain’s oldest picture houses, the Electric Cinema, luxuriating under the cashmere blankets and table service here.
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Heading East along Portobello, step in for a select glass of wine over people-watching at Negozio Classico, then revel in the Notting Hill from the postcards – a gleaming antiques emporia of varying quality but unvaryingly nostalgic – which line the bottleneck of Portobello Road. On our visit, when we poked our heads into Alice’s antique store – central to the Peruvian bear-cum-capital mascot’s recent blockbuster outing for Paddington 2, a shopkeeper poked his head out and muttered, “Sorry, he’s not in today!” Who on earth could he have been referring to?
Up and over Pembridge Villas, you’ll find the pastel-coloured terraces so symbolic of the locale. If, like the residents here, you perceive your body as a temple, then you won’t find a better selection of healthy and concept eateries than in Notting Hill – choose between holistic Farm Girl, non-alcoholic cocktails at Redemption, vegan raw foods at Nama and coiffed Harrods scion Camilla Al-Fayed’s vegan-friendly brasserie Farmacy.
Turning right onto Pembridge Road and over Notting Hill Gate you’ll find British Fish and Chip institution Geales, local farm-to-table phenomenon The Shed, and a handful of handsome heritage gastropubs. Here is where many locals traditionally begin their journey into Notting Hill, not least visitors to Europe’s largest street festival – which takes over the locale on the last bank holiday of the summer this August; as it has, each and every year for over half a century now.
For more on what to do in London, visit our Destinations page.