Local’s View: our guide to Notting Hill
Whether you’re after a bargain or a banquet, this corner of west London – known as much for its bohemian antique shops as its swanky restaurants – is almost unbeatable
- Rory FH Smith
- Stephen James
Since the advent of its world-famous street carnival in 1966 and the eponymous 1990s rom-com, much of Notting Hill has been transformed into a tourist hotspot. And while Londoners often overlook the neighbourhood in favour of lesser-known spots, its pretty painted townhouses, magpie-enticing antique markets and exquisite eateries remain hard to beat.
Rooted in history, the area was once known for its kilns, which made bricks, pottery and tiles to fuel the rise of Victorian London in the early 19th century. Not long after, foundations were laid for fashionable houses built to attract the middle and professional classes. After World War II, Notting Hill was redefined by a community of Caribbean emigrants, giving birth to the annual carnival – a celebration that has defined the area’s character and culture for six decades now. Now home to some of the city’s best restaurants, emporiums and architecture, it’s one of our top London spots – and we’re thrilled to present our local’s guide to its best shops and stops.
Villa Bologna Pottery, 102 Portland Rd, London W11
One of the latest residents on Portland Road, part of the Clarendon Cross enclave of high-end homeware vendors, offbeat clothes shops and smart galleries, is the family-run Villa Bologna Pottery. Neatly (if coincidentally) in keeping with Notting Hill’s origins, the shop sells slip-cast ceramics, all made in Malta using the finest earthenware clay. As the first overseas outpost for the company, the shop is a mecca for those looking for charming handcrafted items, from teapots and cups to quirky figurative soap dishes and piggy banks.
Sirplus, 306 Portobello Rd, London W10
Making use of offcuts and leftover material from London’s shirtmakers, Sirplus started out selling boxer shorts from a market stall on Portobello Road. Now with six shops across the capital, the menswear brand has expanded, making everything from suits and jackets to shirts and socks. Despite the growth, the shop remains a permanent fixture on Portobello Road, albeit having graduated to a spot opposite the site of its former market stall.
Portobello Road market, London W10
A rite of passage for any visitor to Notting Hill, Portobello Road market stretches for two miles through the middle of the neighbourhood. Given the embarrassment of riches on offer, with antique shops, clothing and food stalls and pubs lining the street, it’s all too easy to get carried away and virtually impossible not to stumble serendipitously across a vintage gem in need of a new home. While the market is on every day (check the website to see opening hours), Friday is the best day for antiques.
Dining and Drinking
Sumi, 157 Westbourne Grove, London W11
Established as the little-sister restaurant to Endo Kazutoshi’s Michelin-starred White City restaurant, Endo at the Rotunda, Sumi is a slice of inner-city Tokyo on the edge of Westbourne Grove. Its unpretentious take on sushi, alongside other authentic dishes, make it one of the best – albeit pricier – spots for Japanese in the capital.
The Cow Saloon Bar and Dining Rooms, 89 Westbourne Park Rd, London W2
Despite being a firm favourite with well-known west London faces and the occasional A-lister, The Cow still offers a warm welcome to all drinkers, especially those in search of the best Guinness in town. Started by Tom Conran – son of Sir Terence – in 1995, this institution on the end of Westbourne Park Road has a lively, unpretentious bar downstairs with a cosy, tableclothed dining room upstairs, serving some of the best pub food in the capital.
Secret Sandwich Shop, 103 Talbot Rd, London W11
If there was anything London didn’t need, it was another ordinary sandwich shop. But thankfully Talbot Road’s Secret Sandwich Shop takes this centuries-old staple and turns it on its head. Inspired by the Japanese wanpaku, the unmarked shop – located above the legendary Globe nightclub (once a hang-out for The Rolling Stones and The Clash) – churns out chunky doorstep sarnies with a sparky Asian twist.
Golborne Rd, London W10
Don’t want to follow in the footsteps of the tourists looking for the bookshop from Notting Hill? Head for Golborne Road. Lined with cavernous antique stores, lively Moroccan and Portuguese cafés, and the irresistible Golborne Deli and Wine Store, the road is home to market stalls on Fridays and Saturdays too. In stark contrast to Notting Hill’s historic houses, the road frames Ernő Goldfinger’s brutalist Trellick Tower, which stands tall at the north-eastern end of the street.
Electric Cinema, 191 Portobello Road, London W11
Built in 1911, Portobello’s Electric is one of the longest serving cinemas in the UK. After 90 turbulent years, the site was taken over by the Soho House Group in 2002 and restored to new levels of comfort, with big leather armchairs, footstools and side tables. Still thriving, its programme of new releases is supplemented by showings of classics and arthouse films.
Museum of Brands, 111-117 Lancaster Rd, London W11
Established – perhaps unwittingly – when founder Robert Opie bought (and kept) a packet of Munchies from a vending machine in Inverness, the Museum of Brands is another idiosyncratic destination in keeping with Notting Hill’s more eccentric cultural offerings. Situated on Lancaster Road, the site features a ‘Time Tunnel’, which traces advertising back to the Victorian age and through to modern times.
Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Rd, London W14
Head south towards Kensington to discover this gem, once the home of Victorian painter Frederic, Lord Leighton. In the mid to late 1800s, the celebrated artist commissioned architect George Aitchison to build him a purpose-built studio-house in Kensington in opulent Orientalist style. After an £8 million restoration, the house – linked with Linley Sambourne’s nearby – has been returned to its former glory with its magnificent Arab Hall, Winter Studio and Silk Room now open for all to visit.
Turquoise Island, Westbourne Grove, London W11
It may be more modern than our usual fare, but we couldn’t not mention Turquoise Island. Designed in 1993 by Piers Gough (of CZWG Architects), the obscure, slim triangle has become a listed Notting Hill landmark. Housing public WCs and a small retail space occupied by florists Wild at Heart, the island is the glorious gateway to the high-end shops that line Westbourne Grove.
Lancaster Rd, London W11
Notting Hill would be nothing without its brightly coloured houses – and there’s no better place to take them all in than Lancaster Road. Ditching the done-and-dusted pastel shades, the houses here, with their vivid crayon-coloured façades, are worth wandering off Portobello Road to see, if only to gain some lurid palette inspiration or a quick snap.