Rockpool’s Vickie O’Malley shares her tips on where to visit, what to eat and drink in W11.
It’s BLE, you’re in London and you’re looking for somewhere vibrant, fun and relatively nearby to spend some time. Where do you go? Step forward Notting Hill. Vickie O’Malley, md of Rockpool Licensing, takes us through the best places to go, sights to see, where to eat and which bars to frequent in W11.
BLE takes place a hop, skip and jump from one of the most exciting and eclectic areas of London, Notting Hill. A melting pot of cultures that remains vibrant and edgy despite gentrification on a bionic scale. If you’re looking to explore by day or night, here’s a taster of the many adventures to be had.
Museum of Brands and Packaging
The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising should be a Mecca for visitors to BLE. The Museum, which seems randomly plonked on Lancaster Rd, displays over 12,000 products.
A magnificent trip down memory lane (Spangles anyone?), visitors are treated to a visual journey through the evolution of brands and packaging since the 1800s. You may be tickled by trying to spot how many of the featured brands can be found very much alive, well and continuing to evolve at BLE. Less surprising perhaps, the demise of some ill-fated product lines such as Heinz’ Kidney and Real Turtle Soups. I don’t know who ran NPD at Heinz in the 70s, perhaps Liz Smith’s character from The Vicar of Dibley?
Portobello Market is legendary. If you’re in town for the weekend then you’ll get the full Monty on Saturday; antiques, new and vintage fashion, reams of arcades and stalls. For the truly stylish there are fabulous things to find but inspirations for Harry Enfield’s ‘I Saw You Coming’ sketch, also abound. It’s a lot of fun either way and you will spend money, just accept it.
The market runs in pared-down form over the week; Sunday’s action is focused at Portobello Green (vintage clothing and bric-a-brac), Monday to Thursday you can find smatterings of clothing between the fruit, veg and dustpan brushes. Friday acts like a warm-up for the main event featuring antiques, new and vintage fashion.
When it comes to food, all budgets, cuisines and dress codes are catered for. To start your day right, head to Farm Girl (pictured above). Holistic, organic & healthy options (which I might ordinarily consider to be disqualifying attributes) made show-stoppingly pretty and delicious. Flat whites? Last century. Try one of their lattes infused with exotic-sounding ingredients such as rose water, hibiscus or butterfly matcha powder. Bejewel your salad with superfood sprinkles of bee pollen, maca or even chlorophyll (!) You’ll feel far less guilty about the gallon of Sauvignon Blanc consumed in the Hand & Flower, if you start your day here.
If your dinner is intended to impress and you give not one jot about the punchiness of the bill, head to The Ledbury. Sister restaurant to The Square, this place is a genuine London classic with two Michelin stars and many loyal fans. A Chanel suit of a restaurant, understated, beautifully cut, classic, costs a bit. If you’re after somewhere that’s ever so slightly less starched, there’s the authentic Italian charm and fabulous food at Osteria Basilico. An extremely pretty restaurant with a warm atmosphere and a menu that spoils you for choice.
Of course, if you want British while in London, then what fits the bill more than fish & chips? The Chipping Forecast was originally a pop up in Berwick St market but they now have their very own restaurant in NH and so, of course, they’ve tarted up the classic version. They will, for example, grill your fish or coat it in panko crumb… to be clear, you cannot claim to have had ‘fish & chips’ if you do this. To tick that box, you’ll need to get stuck into the stuff that’s battered and fried in beef dripping. Now you’re talking…
Finding a pint and some interesting locals to play with, provides no challenge whatsoever. There are boozers, and good ones too, every third building. Take your pick from The Elgin, The Cow or The Cock and Bottle (you can even play ‘find the Banksy’ in there.) For those seeking a less traditional setting you won’t be disappointed either. I’m having a bit of a pash on Tiki Bars at the moment and NH has its very own; Trailer Happiness. Basement Bar with kitch décor? Tick! Some excellent work on the cocktail-naming front too “I’ll have a Hell in the Pacific, a Breakfast in Tijuana and a Vote for Pedro please!”
The Distillery might have it all. They describe themselves as a ‘Four-floor mecca for the discerning drinker’. It’s not only a working distillery crafting Portobello Road gin but also home of The Ginstitute, their gin-blending ‘experience.’ The cocktails and tapas are excellent. They even have three bedrooms on site if you’re interested to move in. Over the course of a very entertaining evening, Bettina and I made friends with the bar staff, culminating in our being given a tour of the distillery, blending rooms and private bars. It’s a one-of-a kind place with knowledgeable, talented and friendly bar staff. The perfect spot to get corporately hospitalised.
The Kensington Wine Rooms (pictured above) is a bar, offy and restaurant, see? You’re multitasking! They have over 40 wines by the glass and 150 bottles on their list. What’s exciting are the Enomatic wine dispensers… I’ll explain. You load up a pre-pay card and can sample from a wide selection of wines with snifters of 12, 125 or 175ml sizes. It’s a licence to print money.
I know this because after David Scott’s birthday lunch, a few of the ‘usual suspects’ retired to a similar venue on Charlotte Street. It is not humanly possible to resist finding out what that £300 bottle of red tastes like, especially when you can dispense a mouthful with ‘play money.’
The tragedy at Grenfell Tower looms large over this part of West London. You can further show your support for this close community by making a donation. Recently, the London Emergencies Trust teamed up with the British Red Cross, K&C Foundation, the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund and London Community Foundation to help make money immediately available to those who have suffered. If you want help, make a donation at www.londonemergencytrust.org.uk.