Ah, Notting Hill. That part of West London famed for its carnival, Portobello Market, the shopping centre, and Hugh Grant’s blue front door (which is now black by the way, if you’re planning to look for it).
As part of the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Notting Hill is one of the priciest suburbs of London. Once a centre for the Caribbean community in the 1950s and 1960s, today the area is a playground for the rich and famous: leggy blondes Elle Macpherson and Claudia Schiffer reside in the area alongside the super stylish offspring of rock stars Stella McCartney and Jade Jagger.
Yet, instead of being snobbish, the style-savvy and often flamboyant locals delight in introducing visitors to the latest nosh (snack or small meal) and hodgepodge (a good drink). Like every area you visit, if you really look hard enough, there are places you can go where you won’t be required to sell a kidney in order to buy a decent meal or a fun day out. Here is a guide to those places with all the prestige of Primrose Hill but for half the price.
1. A lavish lunch at The Ledbury
Okay, so maybe you will have to sell one of your kidneys to finance a trip to this two Michelin star restaurant, but this place is all the prestige with the price tag to prove it. My advice, if you really want to dine in the best restaurant in the UK The Ledbury came top of the National Restaurant Awards 2011), is to book for your first day in London, when you can still afford to dine like the King of the (Notting) Hill. The set lunch is still a costly €35 for two courses or €42 for three courses (excluding drinks) but hey, it has been the UK’s best restaurant two years in a row. The menu changes with the seasons and the fillet of Brill really is brill.
In order to redress the balance in your budget, for the remainder of the day opt for a FREE stroll around the Japanese Garden in Holland Park, stopping to watch the giant fish from the stone bridge; or, look for the peacocks which roam around nearby. In the Zen tranquility you can sit back, relax and reflect on the fabulous meal you’ve just had. Did I mention that The Ledbury is the top restaurant in the whole of the UK?
127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AQ
Average price: €60
Transport: Westbourne Grove
2. Theatrical times at The Tabernacle
If you don’t want to look like a tourist (not that there’s anything wrong with looking like a tourist, or indeed being one) then take a visit to The Tabernacle. It’s a winner with the Notting Hill community and a favourite haunt because it’s a hodgepodge of everything.
A ten-minute stroll from Notting Hill, tucked away among small boutiques, charity shops and My Beautiful Laundrette, this stunning Grade II listed building is a multi-purpose venue. The ground floor is a bar & kitchen/gallery/dance studio and there’s a theatre on the upper floor. Every nook and cranny will lead you to something new and exciting, be it an exhibition by an upcoming London artist, street dance classes, or the Tabernacle burger (€12). Sit yourself down in one of the hidden booths and sip some wine; no more than €6 for a glass.
The Tabernacle itself is a great place for some night time entertainment. Lily Allen apparently had her debut there, ages six years old. Some events held in the theatre are a bargain. Book Slam, a monthly book club night, is hosted every now and then. Tickets are only €10 and the night’s entertainment includes author and poetry readings plus live music. In the past writers David Nicholls and Andrea Levy have read extracts from their latest works. Free WIFI is available.
Powis Square, off Westbourne Park Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AY
Average price: €15 – €25
Transport: Westbourne Park/Notting Hill
3. Easy-on-the-pocket pancakes at My Old Dutch
Looking for a place in London that serves a cheap dish but doesn’t taste cheap? Well, head on down to this little pancake house down towards Kensington. Established in 1958, My Old Dutch serves a selection of sweet and savoury pancakes but also feature quite interesting starters. You can opt for the My Old Dutch platter (for two people) and sample everything for just under €10; great value. The pancakes are huge, served on a 17” plate, and they have the usual fillings but also some unusual ones, like smoked duck or ratatouille & creamed spinach.
For those of you with a sweet tooth go for the peaches pancake served with cream or ice cream. I love the Vermeer plain pancake dusted with sugar with a scoop of ice cream and a shot of Vermeer. The portions are huge so do go on an empty stomach. You won’t pay any more than €12 depending on what pancake you go for. There’s a great selection of wines served by the glass too. For something different go for a fruity beer; the Mongozo Banana or Floris Mango go well with any of the dishes.
16 Kensington Church Street, Kensington, London, W8 4EP
Average price: €15
Transport: High Street Kensington
4. Pages and perfume at Lutyens & Rubinstein
This is perhaps one the best bookshops in London (the Notting Hill area at least). It’s only a ten-minute walk from the tube station, on a quiet leafy road. It’s not huge (the best bookshops are always quite poky in size) but its two floors are crammed with many interesting titles, as well as crockery and perfume by CB I Hate Perfume (many of the scents are literary-inspired; a poem by Stevie Smith or EM Forster’s A Room With A View). Every book in stock – whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, and children’s book or art reference textbook – has its place on the shelves because somebody has loved it and recommended it.
Lutyens & Rubinstein
21 Kensington Park Road, London, W11 2EU
Average price: €10 (per book)
Transport: Ladbroke Grove / Notting Hill Gate
5. Fish Friday at Mr Fish
When in Rome do as the Romans do. Likewise, when in the UK, eat fish and chips. Mr Fish serves top quality cod, haddock, or plaice, alongside a portion of chunky chips and optional sides including the much loved British delicacy, mushy peas. The Art Deco interior is quite frankly superb; a seaside eatery from back in 1930s Britain. The fish are deliciously prepared battered, poached, bread-crumbed, grilled or coated in Matzo, all cooked to very high standards. The popular choice is cod and chips with a pint of beer, but you won’t be snubbed if you decide to go for a burger or chicken served with salad and a glass of wine instead. It’s all delicious and you’ll be partaking in a very British national tradition.
9 Porchester Road, Notting Hill, London, W2 5DP
Average price: €20
Transport: Royal Oak
6. Keeping things afloat on Jason’s Canal Boat
A trip on Jason’s boat offers you a chance to experience London on a canal boat that is over 100 years old and called Jason. The trip takes passengers on a boat ride along the Regent’s Canal starting from Little Venice and heading all the way across North West London to the heart of Camden. The 45-minute route provides views of the beautiful townhouses of North West London, flashes of the capital’s industrial heritage, and the interesting hippy houseboat community of London. A return only costs €11. Go on the 10:30am trip and come back on the 1:15pm ride. Afterwards, get your sea legs back to land legs and take a 15-minute stroll to Mr Fish for lunch. The day is bound to go off swimmingly.
Jason’s Trip, Opposite 42 Blomfield Road, London, W9
Average price: €11
Transport: Warwick Avenue
7. Sofas and the silver screen at The Electric
Located on Portobello Road is a great little movie house with plush leather seats, footstools and side tables for your popcorn, hot dog or nachos. It’s cheaper to go on a Monday or Sunday and if you sit in the first three rows (€10). Plus they have a great programme of all the latest films. If you’re a loved up cuddly couple go for one of the comfy two-seater sofa beds. The price is between €30-€38 depending on what day you go.
191 Portobello Road, London, W11 2ED
Average price: €15
Transport: Ladbroke Grove
For more things to do in London, check out our Soho street guide.
Author bio: Since the age of 6, when she wrote a story about a blue cat called ‘Puppy’, Nina Koo Seen-Lin has been known as one of those ‘quirky’ beings. She has an MA in Children’s Literature from the University of Roehampton, where she got the chance to visit the Roald Dahl Museum (and sit in his chair!), and was chased by the resident campus geese in between lectures. She has written for various online and print publications, including the bar and restaurant guide Fluid London, and also writes a children’s book blog called The Kooky Toon Book Corner
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