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Area Guide: Notting Hill

Notting Hill is without doubt the most character-filled, vibrant and unique area in London.

It's here, on the world famous Portobello Road, where the wealthiest Londoners rub shoulders with eccentric locals, where Europe’s biggest street party is hosted each summer, where film stars own flats next door to street vendors and where the melting pot of cultures, from Caribbean to Punjab, all have the same local watering hole.

Breakfast & Brunch
The day starts early along Portobello Road as the street stalls start to set up around 4am, with a melodic sound of metal clinking as the frames are constructed, trestle tables being dragged, the hats and coats, eclectic glassware, unearthed antiques and fruit and vegetables all being laid out for sale. For something on the go, nip by Fabrique bakery for a flat white and one of their gorgeous cardamom or sumac pastries. Other good coffee options come via Coffee Plant (strong), Mr Christians (chummy service) or The Grocer (full of other tempting carbohydrate-based snacks). 

The area’s most famous breakfast spot is probably Granger & Co, now with four outposts across London, but it was here in Notting Hill that Bill Granger’s Australian-styled restaurant first opened. It’s (annoyingly) no reservations and its legendary scrambled eggs can attract quite the queue, so try and go on the weekdays to enjoy the ricotta hot cakes, fresh smoothie bowls or dig in to the chilli fried egg and bacon brioche roll.

Another hot-spot for mornings is The Electric Diner, part of the Soho House group. An American-styled restaurant complete with red leather booths and an open kitchen, this place is usually buzzing in the mornings and is also (way too) kid friendly. The buggie brigade check out late morning and the locals descend for coffee and late breakfast.  Think eggs, almonds pancakes, granola and pastries for breakfast and French toast, Philly chilli cheese dogs and honey-fried chicken for brunch - all washed down with some tasty cocktails of course. Breakfast Peach Fizz anyone?

If you're looking to escape the crowds on a weekend, walk with purpose just a few streets away to All Saints Road and The Tin Shed. With an onsite bakery, these are probably the best croissants you'll have outside of France, and their eggs and avo breakfast options are suprising affordable. Downstairs and out the back is a tiny courtyard which is a suntrap when the weather's playing nice. This is truly a hidden gem and they also didn't judge us when they served us wine with our breakfast that one time. 

Best places to work
Got emails to attend to? Grab your laptop and hunker down in the charming Bluebelles Café, a sweet coffee shop that specialises in fresh breads, healthy breakfasts, well-made coffees and some of the best eggs come the weekend in the area. Another great place to work is Pizza East on the corner of Portobello and Golborne - complete with Soho House strength wifi and a high breakfast bar style counter that attracts a lot of mac books during the day. If you're local - ask for a W10 keyring. They'll know what you mean and it halves your bill. No jokes. 

Lunch
In the mood for something fresh? Daylesford Organic on Westbourne Grove is a great farmshop and bistro-styled venue that come lunch serves broths, autumnal salads, freshly baked quiches and even flat-iron chicken and beef burgers, sourced from their own Cotswold farm. There's also an Ottenlenghi tucked just off Westbourne Grove. We know you already know what to expect, but it's a welcome treat to find it there. On Golborne Road you’ll find the small and charming 108 Garage, a venue which Jay Rayner himself described the dishes as “good, in places exceptionally so.” This is food with hints of Italy, but more so it’s modern, and beautifully balanced. Given the size of 108 Garage and the wait we've endured to get tables in the past, we’d recommend booking, even for lunch – but honestly - we're almost giddy about it's greatness. The same team have also just opened Southam Street - a second, much larger venue on the corner of... Southam Street, There's three floors each with different dining options, but the sushi on the first floor is really well made. 

Notting Hill has become famous in the past few years for its health movement, with plenty of its affluent residents found sporting active wear and carrying their yoga matts from the studio to the beauticians to lunch. You’ll find this movement in full force at Farmacy, a restaurant free from most things – dairy, refined sugars, meat and additives, but as the Time Out review observed, not free from taste. Treat yourself guilt free to delicious pastas, a vegan burger and lashings of smoothie ‘mocktails’.

Back on the increasingly trendy Golborne Road you can revel in a delicious Danish-styled lunch from Tuesday to Sunday at Snaps and Rye. Think the famed Danish Smørrebrø, or open sandwiches, and other plates that bring together fresh seafoods and meats with pickled vegetables, rye breads and salads, all set in this bright open venue.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more exotic than Denmark however, you can’t go by Taqueria, on Westbourne Grove. This Mexican place is actually quite simplistic to the eye, don’t go expecting the typical bold colours and a mariachi band in the corner. Instead go for tacos served on corn tortillas made in-house daily or the beautiful tostadas. Knock it all back with some Mexican beer or the aguas frescas. The other, newer option for Mexican now is Killer Tomato. Cheeseburger Tacos. As you were. 

Shopping & Culture
Notting Hill’s main attraction, and one which brings the tourists by the tube-load, is Portobello Road Market, a hilarious mix of antiques, tourist stalls selling pillows with black cabs and telephone boxes embroidered on to them, fresh vegetables, street food, copious amounts of hat stalls and some selling what can only be described as junk from the attic. But who knows what treasures might be unearthed? The space underneath the Westway hosts the best stalls for vintage clothing and also Aklam Village - a kind of less-good Street Feast, but it's in West London so... we're pleased. Surrounding Portobello Road there are streets with brightly coloured houses that attract the instagram generation, seen posing outside the area’s pretty front doors. 

Come summer however and this area is home to London’s most famous party – Carnival. Across August’s long-weekend home owners with board up the house and escape the area while the crowd descends to watch the parades, listen to outrgeously loud sound systems and dance in the street, drinking lashings of rum and wolfing down jerk. It’s bright and bold and plenty of fun, a party every Londoner should attend at least once. 

Dinner
Get your credit cards at the ready for Notting Hill has some upmarket venues, none more so than The Ledbury, a two-Michelin starred restaurant that serves an exquisite set menu at a cool £145 per person. Add in the paired wines and you’re looking at over £250 each (Just so we've said it - worth every penny). Would you eat this way every day? Well depending on your bank balance, probably not. However if the occasion comes around and you can afford it, little else beats a meal at this institution of flavours and service. Newcomer Clare Smyth (ex Gordon Ramsay illuminati) has also just openend Core on Kensington Park Road. We've not been lucky enough to eat there yet, but it's supposed to be delicious. Next date night. 

For a simple and beautiful Italian meal head over to Chucs on Westbourne Grove for classic dishes within the quiet elegance of their dining room designed by Peter Mikic, or outside on warmer nights in the luscious garden terrace.

Another new addition is the French wine bar Cepages in Westbourne Village (which is estate agent chat for That Bit By The Cow). The pared back brick work and slightly brusque service become increasingly unimportant as you work through their delicious wine list and creme brulee fois gras - for us - this is a great find. 

Hereford Road, which opened ten years ago back in 2007, is another of the area’s well-loved restaurants that serves classic British fare that feels very local. With mouth-watering mains such as braised rabbit and roasted pheasant, all accompanied by a wine list that is well-executed and often organic, its little wonder this stunning venue has become so well-known.

Up by the Gate on Hillgate Street you’ll discover the unpretentious Mazi, a Greek-styled venue that is aiming to re-educate us all on just how innovative, tasty and refined Greek food can be. Order the black truffle chicken or shredded lamb shoulder and we think you’ll find yourself pretty clued up pretty quickly. Finally we couldn’t miss the opportunity to recommend The Shed on Palace Gardens Terrace which serves up a menu of slow and fast cooking, imaginative flavour pairings and thrives off the ethos of farm to table. 

Drinks
West London used to be the mecca for a night out drinking cocktails but the scene slowly shifted east, leaving behind a plethora of gastro pubs and not a lot else. Thankfully there’s still a few gems flying the cocktail flag though. With the closure of The Portobello Star it seemed the area was really shutting up shop, but the team quickly reopened The Distillery, an entire building dedicated to the pleasures of gin and food. Grab yourself a drink – probably one of the outstanding Gin & Tonics and some tapas plates in the upstairs Gintonica or a stirred down and boozy mixed drink in The Resting Room on the ground floor. This is where the best in the west come to make classic cocktails and you won’t be served a bad drop of booze, or even food for that matter. 

Across the road, descend the stairs to Trailer Happiness, a kitsch Tiki destination which has been keeping the rum flowing in the area since 2003. This venue’s décor is gently Polynesian and certainly plays into their love of rum (there’s over 200 on the backbar) but the guys here take the drinks seriously, and you’ll find a menu of Tiki classics made to perfection whilst DJs play a mixture of old-school hip-hop and dance music. This is where Notting Hill comes to party on the weekends and it’s not short of a good time.

Most pubs have now had the obligatory make over and an ever increasing number of boutique gins added to their back bars as they try to cater for the number of tourists piling down the road and sadly - even The Cock and Bottle couldn't resist. Not much could compare to the secret joy of being wholeheartedly sneered at as you meekly order a dry sherry on a damp Tuesday evening but alas - homogenized.

One venue that has maintained a stoic middle finger to modernisation is The Cow - the very last of Tom Conran's W11 restaurants. (RIP Crazy Homies). Oysters, Guinness, actual regulars and uncomfortable chairs make this tiny pub a bit of an institution. If you are happy with a pretty limited drinks list and can avoid eye contact with the (whisper it) celebrities, you'll certainly be welcomed back. We always seem to miss Beckham but shall keep up regular attendance on the off chance. 

For dim sum and cocktails head to Ricker Restaurant's E&O on Blenheim Cresent. Everyone still sits outside, and we're not quite sure why - but there's worse places to enjoy a glass of wine and the food is still really very good. 

The bartenders at 65 & King on Westbourne Grove have proved themselves time and again with creative drinks, a great knowledge of classics and the ability to host a great time. It's a bit off the beaten track and it's probably technically Bayswater, but whats a post code between friends. 

And finally - for the wine lovers among us, a drop by Negozio Classica is well worth your time. Expect those great big olives, lashings of cheese and beautiful varietals all waiting to be sipped on and discovered. If you manage to get an pavement table on a sunny Saturday afternoon - you've basically hit the jackpot. Order an Aperol Spritz and literally watch the world and his wife go by.