After three months on the road across Europe it was wonderful to come home for Christmas and see family and friends. We stayed at our place in Notting Hill, which we rent on Airbnb when we're travelling, and it felt almost like being a tourist in London. I lived in the area for ten years before our journey to find our new home began this year and over time I've discovered my favourite places and people, so I wanted to share them with you here. This is by no means a definitive list, merely some places to consider as you discover the area for yourself.
A day in Notting Hill will likely begin at Notting Hill Gate tube station, from where you can follow the hoards of tourists on market days (Friday to Sunday) heading to Portobello Road. Over the years it has become busier and busier and if the weather is good it will be heaving. Much of the traditional antiques market has gone but there are still stalls selling everything from antique handbags to African artifacts.
In the middle of the busiest section of market is Katrina Phillips' beautiful interiors store (www.katrinaphillipsinteriors.com), stacked with ceramics, paintings, ethnic artifacts and jewellery collected on her travels around the globe. Katrina runs the store with her daughter and is a Notting Hill veteran who seems to know everyone. When we finally find our new home I'm going to come here and treat myself to something or perhaps a few somethings.
Further down the hill the antiques market gives way to traditional fruit stalls and food vendors. Here also you'll find Coffee Plant (www.coffee.uk.com), which all locals agree, sells the very best coffee in Notting Hill. It's an unassuming place but at the weekends people queue out of the door. They roast and grind their fairtrade beans on site and you can buy coffee to drink at home. My friends and I refer to it as 'the office', and we have spent many hours sitting on the tables outside watching the world go by.
Directly opposite is The Electric Cinema, which has a private members club upstairs (www.sohohouse.com) and the fantastic Electric Diner (www.electricdiner.com) next door. Soho House brought in Chef Brendan Sodikoff from Au Cheval in Chicago, an award-winning French-American Bistro, and the food here is pure indulgence. We are obsessed with the honey fried chicken, sweet pickles and Moscow mules.
On Fridays and Sundays you can also find Jake on his stall nearby, serving up an awesome selection of Blues, Jazz, Soul, Rock and anything else that takes his fancy. He's an encyclopedia of musical knowledge and supplied us with a fitting soundtrack for our trip back in September.
Around the corner on Talbot Road we always pop in for a browse and a chat at Pedlars (www.pedlars.co.uk), whose store has a changing selection of the vintage, quirky and unusual. They also serve excellent coffee if the queues at Coffee Plant are too much to bear.
Further east on Westbourne Grove, filled with upmarket fashion stores and cafés, you can find Wild at Heart, arguably the area's best florist. These guys specialise in English flowers and provided us with a very simple bouquet and button hole for our civil wedding in London last summer. There store is housed within a beautiful triangular building tiled in rich turquoise and is a local landmark.
Back towards Portobello Road, you mustn't miss Kensington Park Road, filled with resaurants and bars, our favourite of which is Montgomery Place for the best cocktails in the area (www.montgomeryplace.co.uk). Directly opposite you'll find the twin stores, Couverture & The Garb Store (www.couvertureandthegarbstore.com). Couverture specialises in womenswear and accessories, childrenswear and homewares, and The Garb Store in the basement offers menswear and accessories. They source the latest brands from all over the world and we always pop in to see their changing collection. If we ever open a store, this place would be a big inspiration.
On Elgin Crescent nearby The Grocer provides gourmet ready meals which are popular among the busy and well-heeled. The fresh mini pizzas which they sell outside on market days are a great snack to keep you going as you shop.
If you follow Portobello towards the railway bridge you come across a tiny Italian restaurant next to the Tesco Supermarket, Saporitalia (www.saporitalialondon.co.uk). This is our favourite place for pizza and pasta in the area, and it's also very reasonable. Try the pizza with truffle oil - just trust us on this.
Under the railway bridge you'll find a busy market at the weekend and underneath the bridge the Portobello Green covered shopping area filled with tiny independent stores. Our favourite is the Chinese Tea Company (the-chinese-tea-company.com), run by the charming Juyan. We always stop off to sample the amazing teas Juyan chooses and imports directly from China, watching the hypnotic ritual of making tea the traditional way. Juyan also sells beautiful teapots, cups and accessories and we always leave feeling refreshed and relaxed. We took her tea with us on our journey and we stocked up for more on this visit.
If you follow Portobello Road beyond the bridge you reach a stretch of restaurants, galleries and vintage stores. On the right you can also find the wonderful Cloth Shop, our go-to emporium for all things fabric. We bought all the fabrics here that we used in our van, and they look great and have withstood our travels. We love browsing all the wonderful linens and vintage fabrics they source, as well as pretty accessories for the home. We also bought a blue enamel coffee pot here in the summer which has brewed our hot water for morning teas and coffees throughout our trip.
Further along still the market stalls start to thin out, but vintage furniture can be found along the last stretch leading up to Golbourne Road. This is by far our favourite part of the market and area, with its Moroccan street food stalls serving delicious fish and meat, amazing antique and vintage shops, and a handful of stylish boutiques that have recently moved in to the area. We love the 4+1 Café for its excellent drinks, snacks and cakes.
I always stop for a browse at boutique Lali (www.facebook.com/LaliShopLondon) directly opposite; there selection of women's clothing, accessories and homewares is curated with a sharp eye for the unusual and a strong emphasis on quality.
All the shops on this stretch merit a browse, and the Moroccan stores are a fabulous place to stock up on food supplies. The Portuguese bakeries are worth a look too for the excellent cakes and pastries. We always buy our seafood from Golbourne Fisheries, an old-fashioned fishmongers with the best selection in the area.
There are so many wonderful places in Notting Hill, and I couldn't talk about all of them here but I hope this gives you a taste of what I think is London's best village. Its always a pleasure to come back and indulge in city life with everything on your doorstop and a whole world of people and experiences to keep you on your toes.
A few more places to consider:
Makan Café, Portobello Road - excellent and cheap Malaysian food
Santo, Portobello Road - Mexican food and salsa night at the weekend
The Spice Shop, Blenheim Crescent - no explanation needed