The Portobello Road starts in Notting Hill and runs for a mile parallel to Ladbroke Grove. Originally a farm lane, in 1860, when land was bought up for accommodation, the lane became a marketplace for residents in the area and is now the worlds largest antique market with over 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectibles.
Many of the antique shops have been driven out by greedy landlords, but the market and stalls on the street can never be moved and the street will always retain its character.
Between 1948 and 1962, England opened its doors to all its colonies and former colonies. About 500,000 arrived, mainly from the Caribbean (To find out more about this quite unknown piece of history and the relaxed nature that was taken on immigration, read newly published ‘Lovers and Strangers’, an Immigrant History of Postwar Britain by Clair Willis). Due to the large size of houses in Notting Hill and Brixton, Caribbeans tended to make their home there. ‘The Notting Hill Carnival’ in late August is a celebration of reggae culture, food and music and is actually more fun than many of the famous festivals I have been to this summer.
I have always lived near the Portobello Rd. The Portobello road starts in Notting Hill and goes all the way to the Golborne Rd. However, that’s not the reason that I like it. It’s the mixture of many different cultures and influences that produce an energetic, cosmopolitan atmosphere. As soon as I slip into the road, my senses sharpen, domestic life fades and I feel a sense of joy and aliveness.
The real Portobello road starts at Chepstow Villas and the best day to go is Friday, as Saturday is too full of tourists. If I am in London on a Friday I can buy everything I need for a weekend of entertaining, even a few outfits and check in with the regulars for an update on life in the area.
I have a chat with Lawrence who sells original tin soldiers which I used to buy for my son and – who sells rare antique books. I get a bit absorbed here and lose time, tearing myself away I pop into Katrina Philips to buy a gift, there is always an interesting selection here. By the time, I hit the stand on the corner of Westbourne Grove blasting out Motown hits, I am really into the groove and in an overspending mood, charmed by every trader, exchanging jokes with the regulars, past the buskers as the road snakes on down. At Elgin Crescent, I buy all my fruit and vegetables from Linda and her husband – their family has been selling vegetables in this spot for 30 years.
Between Elgin Crescent and Blenheim Crescent, the area is packed with organic produce, amazing salamis, paellas, fish, mushrooms, cheeses, yogurts, falafels, wafer thin pancakes, olive oils, my basket is already bulging. Passing the ‘Electric Cinema’ I make a mental note of films showing.Then there is a short stretch of interior wear, cushions, amazing white rugs from Turkey which cost a fraction of the price I paid in Marrakesh and my favourite shop, a bit further up is ‘The Cloth Shop’, which has incredible Swedish linen, glass, bed covers, coloured glass an jugs, soaps from Le Lavandou. Sam and Linda the owners have pared their colour palette to neutrals, but with the odd splash of red.
If I am looking for clothes, I pick up good vintage from ‘ One of a Kind’, Sophia Loren style summer dresses from two Italian girls under the bridge and ‘Havaianas’ flip flops on the street. If I am feeling strong I dive into the clothes market and head for my favourite traders. For everyday basics, I buy from ‘ Supra ‘. It’s also worth checking out the pop-up shops that spring up for a few months. Alice Temperley’s shop in Colville Mews is always great for an ‘event dress.
By Lancaster Road, the Jamaican/Caribbean vibe really kicks in and, really hungry by this point, I pop into Boom Burger, Josh Delissers Jamaica vibe restaurant for some plantain fries.
Another useful secret is ‘Base Cuts’, the hairdresser next to the bridge to get a quick blow-dry (ask for Marilyn or Danny) and a mini facial at Hydra Healing on Kensington Park Rd. My favourite local Italian restaurant is’ Essenza and E and O’ sells good sushi. , ‘ The ‘Day Rooms’ is good for brunch, ‘Lowry and Baker ‘ is good for breakfast and ‘The Oak is a great place for dates. Other notable mentions are ‘Mr. Christians’, Golborne Deli and the ‘The Grocer on Elgin which sells readymade good soups and curries for lazy people who don’t want to cook.
Nearly ready for the weekend now, I pop into Lutyens and Rubenstein to get a couple of books for the weekend, being a voracious reader, and then visit Harpers and Toms or ‘The Flowered Corner ‘ for flowers.By then I have completely lost any sense of time, but get that feeling in my stomach that everyone is waiting for me at home, so I rush back to impatient faces “you said you were going to be half an hour, it’s four hours later!!” So leave enough time and enjoy!
If you do have the whole day, wander down Goldborne Rd which runs across the bottom of the Portobello Rd – here are the best antique shops, nice cafes, vegan restaurants and two good vintage shops called ‘Found and Vision’ and ‘Relic’.
Portobello Market –
Mon-Wed fruit and vegetables.
Thursday is a framers market.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is a mixture of vintage clothes, small organic food produce, and interior décor.
AVENUE has a mews house on Portobello for short stays or staying for longer, please see this beautiful house in Elgin Crescent, that leads out onto a communal garden.