Sunday, 22 February 2009
NOTTING HILL AND PORTOBELLO ROAD MARKET.
I'll be showing you the best places to shop in London, cool places to visit and let you in on some insider info to help you plan your visit to London. I'm a London girl, I live and work here and I'll take all the photos myself to give you a feel for the area.
Visiting Notting Hill and Portobello Road:
PORTOBELLO ROAD MARKET DAYS:
SATURDAYS: This is the BIG PORTOBELLO ROAD MARKET DAY, the long, famous Antiques and Flea market also offers bric-a-brack, fashion, household,and junk/treasure and is on Saturdays only. Portobello Road Market stretches almost all the way down the road and spills out to the sides.
MON-THURS: is the general Fruit and Veg and Household-Wares market (not interesting, trust me). The stalls finish before lunchtime on Thursdays.
FRIDAYS: Portobello Road fashion and fun. Friday is the best day to hunt for fabulous unique style. UNDER THE BRIDGE is where you'll find a great selection of Vintage clothing, junk jewellery, leather scraps, retro sunglasses, and Up-and Coming-designers who go on to great things and get picked for stardom from this market. There are also quite a few great food stalls all along the market; crepes, falafel, sausages, olives and smelly cheeses. The Notting Hill locals come out to shop and socialise on Fridays without getting swept away in the crowd you get on Saturdays, and the stylish/crazy London girls and guys also come out to play, so it's a great place for meeting up with friends and for people watching!
SUNDAYS: I'm not around here on Sundays but I'm told it's pretty busy with a Friday vibe, with some Antiques traders selling.
I know that some tourist guides say the market is on all week, and I suspect the visitors who come Mon-Thurs go home really disappointed telling their friends "it wasn't all that", so now you're savvy I hope you can make the most of the wonderful Portobello Road market.
HOW TO GET TO PORTOBELLO ROAD:
I would suggest getting the Subway to Notting Hill Gate tube station on the Central, Circle or District line. When you come out of Notting Hill Gate subway station you will not be in Portobello Road Market! You need to walk down Pembridge Road, which leads into Portobello Road, and then walk a little way down Portobello Road before you reach the market.
It's not far from Notting Hill Gate Tube Station to Portobello Road, and its a nice walk, and this way you get to start at the top of the market, not somewhere in the middle, and follow it down.
There are some great retro clothes stores like Retro Woman, along Pembridge Road with designer vintage and newer clothes. I'm told stylists often bring in clothes left over from shoots to sell to these stores. There's also a great Sicilian Cafe called Arancina (19 Pembridge Road) selling traditional Sicilian dishes including pizza and cakes. If you need a rest, away from the crowds, make sure you come here as they have a hidden cosy space to sit upstairs. You can't miss it as it has a cute orange car (cut in half) in the window!
Follow Pembridge Road and it will turn left into Portobello Road, the market doesn't start here yet, so carry on walking along Portobello Road past the pretty ice-cream coloured houses. Look out for the blue plaque high on a house wall stating that 'Novelist/political Essayist George Orwell (Animal Farm) lived here'. On a Saturday you'll start to see stalls here but on other days you'll need to walk down another block.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN PORTOBELLO ROAD:
Have you seen the movie Notting Hill?
Portobello Road is one of the top ten most popular tourist attractions. Visitors mainly come to see the famous market and the locations in the almost-as-famous movie Notting Hill. Even though the movie is now 10 years old tourists still want to find the places where it was shot, and they remember the colour of Hugh Grant's door - the blue door (now black). I am regularly asked by tourists the whereabouts of the door and the Travel Bookshop.
The Travel Bookshop location 142 Portobello Road
Near the top end of Portobello Road is the location for the 1999 movie Notting Hill. The struggling little Travel Bookshop owned by Hugh Grant's character William Thacker was filmed at 142 Portobello Road, currently a shoe sale shop, next to the Butchers with the red awning. There is actually a real Travel Bookshop a few blocks down on the left at 13 Blenheim Cresent, which local Richard Curtis, who made the movie 'Notting Hill' based the shop on.
The Blue Door; 280 Westbourne Park Road
Another block down on the left, on Westbourne Park Road, opposite Nuline Hardware store is the famous door to Hugh Grant's character William Thacker's flat. This was actually owned by Notting Hill writer Richard Curtis, who still lives locally. The property was put on the market after filming for £1.3 million, and I'm told that the lady who bought it was not told by the Real-Estate agent of its recent history, and as a result she was bombarded day and night by fans and tourists, apparently hoping for a glimpse of Julia Roberts - or at least a Welshman in grey y-fronts. The blue door has since been sold for charity and replaced with this black one.
Portobello Road is much the same as in the movie, but now with much less graffiti and hugely inflated property prices! The Tattoo Parlour is genuine (Saints Tattoo Parlour, 201 Portobello Road), as are some stall-holders featured in the movie, and the corner where Hugh Grant bumps into Julia Roberts, spilling orange juice over her is now Coffee Republic, on the corner of Westbourne Park Road and Portobello Road.
If you want to know more about the locations used in the movie Notting Hill, this is a great site to check;
You could just spend some time here watching cool characters of all ages and Celebrity spotting. I've seen quite a few here myself including fashion designer Julien MacDonald, Gwyneth Paltrow, Will Young, Rufus Wainwright, Bond Girl Eva Green, model Laura Bailey, Ruby Wax, and Pixie Geldof. Many showbiz types live locally, and magazines often interview bands here, and do fashion shoots on Portobello Road.
The Electric Cinema 191 Portobello Road
This little cinema is said to have the most comfortable seats of any, and even has tables at the back. They have a Mothers and Babies day every Monday hilariously called 'Electric Scream!' where mummies can relax and watch a movie without being made to feel guilty if their baby starts screaming.
WHERE TO BUY ANTIQUES IN PORTOBELLO ROAD
If you're into antiques or need unique gifts form London then you're in the right place.
At the top end of Portobello Road there are stores where you can buy antique furniture, ornaments, silver, antique map prints, English pottery, and souvenirs as well as a few small fashion stores. On Saturdays the market is bustling with Antiques traders and tourists swarming around the numerous stalls that line the street. Among other finds, you can buy antique charm bracelets, you could pick up a unique bracelet for £10 loaded with silver coins, baubles and cute vintage charms. There are also several indoor Antiques arcades such as the Good Fairy and Geoffrey Van which offer even more treasure to be discovered. Along this stretch there is also..
Alices 86 Portobello Road
I mention this store as it's a well-known antique/retro-style store and local landmark that you'll probably see on postcards and which has been featured in London movies such as 'The Italian Job' with Michael Caine.
Retro/Art Deco Shop 135 Portobello Road
This is not strictly an antiques store but it's worth stopping for a look. Coming out of this furniture and retro interiors store are some of the most O.T.T kitsch and flamboyant pieces you will ever see. It's a mix of genuine faux antiques and actually very stylish design classics, baroque-style gold furniture that would have Elton John and Liberace wannabes drooling over, and eccentric 'conversation pieces' like the chair shaped like a giant cowboy boot in the window at the moment. The photo is pretty tame, but take a look and you'll be amazed at what they've got!
(As a side-note, tucked down the left side, is Vernon Yard - number 119 is where Richard Branson and the Virgin headquarters was based from 1974-1984).
WHERE TO BUY CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES IN PORTOBELLO ROAD
'Oi' 77 Portobello Road
This is a lovely jewellery store which has very pretty tinkly, girly jewellery, some imported, some made by independent designers, and some made by the lady behind the till as you browse!
Paul Smith 122 Kensington Park Road
If you turn onto Westbourne Grove which cuts Portobello Road you'll discover numerous designer fashion stores, including Paul Smith. On your left at the end of the block is a corner white house which has the Paul Smith store inside. You could even be served by the man himself, as my friend was.
Across the road is Agent Provocateur 305 Westbourne Grove
This is a saucy high-end lingerie boutique owned by designer Vivienne Westwood and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren's son Joe Corre.
Appletree 127 Portobello Road
This is a lovely boutique. Darius and his team of creative, enthusiastic shop girls have done a great job creating this shabby-chic interior, filled with quirky clothes and accessories, many of which are handmade and limited in quantity, so a great place to go to avoid mass-produced fashion and support designer-makers. They also have another branch a little further down the road.
American Apparel 176-178 Portobello Road
Edgy, stretchy, cool and colourful selection of clothing in this successful chain.
Size 200 Portobello Road
Cool Trainer/sneaker store with some hard-to-come-by labels and styles, there is also a branch on Carnaby Street.
Lush 202 Portobello Road
Heavenly smelling natural toiletries store with slices of soap that look good enough to eat!
Office 217 Portobello Road
Cool shoe store with branches around London.
Further down, there's a shop called Supra 249 Portobello Road, that is worth checking out if you like cool, statement-making T's, Sweats and sneakers, and some snazzy jewellery. Turn left onto Lancaster Road and you'll find Euphoria an edgy boutique showcasing hot designers that londoners love.
As we walk under the bridge there is a small indoor shopping mall on your left called Portobello Green. Inside are some great up and coming designer shops, but many are closed during the week and open when this place comes alive on Fridays and Saturdays.
THE VINTAGE FASHION MARKET
If you're here during the week Monday to Thursday this area under the bridge is probably pretty dead, but on Fridays it is filled with vintage and retro fashion stalls, and new hand-made clothes and accessories, as well as belts, junk jewellery and scraps of leather and fabric.
On Saturdays it is packed solid with even more stalls which stretch towards Ladbroke Road Subway Station to the left, and further down Portobello Road, added to the stalls which stretch right up the road too.
Stylists often peruse this area for inspiration, and to find hot accessories for magazine shoots, and talented designers often start out here going on to successful careers in the industry.
Patricia Field, stylist for Sex and the City for example, bought a hand-painted leather jacket from one of the designers here, that Carrie wore in the series, and stylists borrowed some of my handmade jewellery, which they featured in a spread for iD magazine. Yay!
WHERE TO BUY GIFTS IN PORTOBELLO ROAD
Dotted up and down the road there are independent shops mostly catering for tourists with scarves and souvenirs. There are more the further down you walk, with elaborate clothes, accessories and furniture from North Africa to Afghanistan.
Frame 137 Portobello Road
If you want to buy unique art prints without a huge pricetag Frame the Picture Framers have a great selection of original and limited-edition prints which you won't find elsewhere. They are constantly selecting new artists to showcase, so keep your eyes peeled for some great affordable art that will fit in your suitcase. I love the 'Diamond Geezer' Bull Terrier prints by Sonia Rollo and all the gorgeous Kozyndan Bunny prints!
There are some good record stores around Portobello Road, from vintage vinyl to DJs' delights including, on Talbot Road, Rough Trade. If you're not into hanging out at music shops then next door there's a fab store you will like:
Pedlars 128 Talbot Road
This cool shop hasn't been open long. The shop interior is a bit like Magma, another cool store at Seven Dials, Covent Garden ( Magma 16 Earlham Street, WC2). They've really done a good job at finding cool, interesting gifts and items for you. your beau and your home often with a touch of British quirkiness. Downstairs they now sell fresh farm produce!
HoneyJam 267 Portobello Road
This is a toy Shop I wanted to mention because it's so sweet. It has lots of retro and wooden toys without being twee, including wooden pirate ships and french mini stationary. It is owned by model Jasmine Guinness and her friend Honey.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN PORTOBELLO ROAD:
Eating out in London can be expensive. There are plenty of great places on Portobello Road where you can spend your money on great food, however if you're on a budget you can eat here more inexpensively, especially if you don't mind eating as you walk or stopping at the side of the path. On Saturdays there are numerous food stalls from around the world serving noodles to crepes.
Hummingbird Bakery 133 Portobello Road
This little shop sells the most gorgeous cakes around and the guy who owns it is very sweet too. Here you'll find gorgeous vanilla or chocolate sponge cupcakes topped with thick soft icing in the prettiest of colours, topped with a butterfly or sprinkled with stars. They're quite pricey, but perfect as a treat for you, or buy several in a cute box to share with your girlfriends. They also have great Brownies, and will make you larger cakes for special occasions with an iced message of your choice. They have been featured in numerous magazines, and I've seen the shop exterior used as a location for fashion shoots too. The line of salivating customers stretches down the street on Saturdays. Probably the favourite shop for many girls who visit Portobello Road.
The Coffee Plant 182 Portobello Road
This Eco-friendly coffee shop is an understated cool and cheap place for refreshments, with Organic Coffees, teas and snacks, and a laid-back bohemian atmosphere. They play music from the famous local Rough Trade music shop round the corner on Talbot Road and their customers include TV presenters, media types and other locals. There is often a TV or film crew hanging around outside here, shooting an advert or filming for a TV show, or trying to catch celebs across the road at the Electric Bar and Grill. As I overheard an effortlessly cool lady say; 'This is where it's at'.
Electric Bar and Grill
Right next door to the Electric Cinema is this cool bar, where you can also eat, and which has tables at the front so you can people-watch - or rather be watched.
It gets quite a few celebrity customers, including Victoria Beckham and other more interesting ones I can't recall right now, who head for the VIP room upstairs.
If you arrive via Notting Hill Gate Subway Station there are some sandwich chains including Pret a Manger. If you're a fan of McDonalds there's one near the station, (108 Notting Hill Gate) and a little past McDonalds there's a Tesco supermarket where you can get fresh sandwiches, pastries and fruit etc.
Arancina Sicilian cafe 19 Pembridge Road
As you walk down Pembridge Road there is a Sicilian cafe I mentioned earlier with seating upstairs, I can recommend as I go there myself, that has fresh pizza and cakes. It's not really cheap but it won't break the bank and you can rest your feet (and use the bathroom. As the facilities are woefully inadequete in London ALWAYS remember to take advantage of cafe, museum and other restrooms and facilities to freshen-up. BTW when you go to Oxford Street, in Topshop,
Fish Pond 185 Portobello Road
There is a tradition Fish and Chip shop on the left side of the street, no seating, where you can buy thick chips (add salt and vinegar) and battered fish wrapped in paper for you to eat in the street.
Lebanese Express 189 Portobello Road
They have a good little hot buffet here for about £3.00 including rice, chickpeas, aubergine and meat if you want, and other dishes for reasonable prices. There is a bar where you can sit and a table outside.
Across the Street there is a great German Sausage stand with a variety of types to choose from, served hot in a bun with onions and sauce. I am a vegetarian but the food from this stall smells great (please forgive me fellow veggies). Further down the road on the left is a new sausage shop with seating and an open frontage with numerous quality sausage types to try written on blackboards in chalk.
Tesco Supermarket 224-226 Portobello Road
You can buy fresh sandwiches, pastries, drinks as well as toiletries etc. If you're unfamiliar with the currency you can be sure they won't short-change you. I don't mean to say that the smaller grocery stores will steal your money, but I got stung by a little store in Paris when I was a student, so am aware that if you're unsure of the foreign money, you want to be able to trust the shop assistant to give you the correct change!
The Vegetarian Street stall
Just after Tesco is this friendly stall where you can buy falafel wraps with a choice of fillings and fresh herbs. If they're busy you may be given a fresh little falafel to nibble on while you wait.
Greggs Bakers 238 Portobello Road
5 doors down from Tesco Supermarket is an inexpensive bakery called Greggs. It's not glamourous, but it is cheap. You can takeaway fresh sandwiches, hot savoury pasties, soup, hot drinks, bread and cakes. I often get my lunch there.
The Grain Shop 269a Portobello Road
Extremely popular and well priced destination for lunch if you don't mind eating from a foil container in the street. (you can sit and eat it in the bar a few doors down if you buy a drink there but I don't think anyone bothers). This place has a super choice of vegetarian hot and cold food. You don't need to be veggie to enjoy it. They used to offer a small serving option but now the cheapest price is around £3.80 for a loaded container big enough to share.