For a culture fix I usually hop onto the Piccadilly line and alight in Little Turkey, i.e Green Lanes. But as a West Londoner I needn’t travel so far for I have Little Morocco and Tiny Spain on my doorstep. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea isn’t all palaces and pomp. It is home to one of the most culturally diverse areas I know well and love: North Kensington; the home of Notting Hill Carnival.
Portobello Road pulsates with life on most days, Saturdays especially, when hoards of tourists and culture vultures flock to the to marvel at this West London hot-spot. Starting at Notting Hill Gate Station, you will pass three of my favorite food stops; The Portobello Restaurant is an Authentic Neapolitan eatery with traditional wood fired oven (everything I have ever eaten here is lip-smackingly amazing!). The Portobello’s terrace is perfect for people watching but book in advance as it gets extremely busy in the evenings. Arancina on Pembroke Road offers Sicilian food at affordable prices; Pizza slices, sides, cannoli, San Pellegrino drinks etc. I always go for Arancini – stuffed risotto balls, Arancina offer them with a range of meat and vegetarian fillings. They also have Cassatine, small versions of the Sicilian uber-cake, Cassata. Arancina extended to open another branch in Westbourne Grove. Across the Road from Arancina is Manzara, possible the ONLY place for Borek in West London. Stacks of the spinach and cheese pie steam their windows. I still prefer my own Borek of course, but sometimes Manzara is good for a quick fix.
Wandering up Portobello Road, all senses are fed by an abundance of absolutely everything. Churros, crepes, Bratwurst, salads, fruit and veg, Paella, sizzling Jerk Chicken… And thats only the food on offer in the market stalls, not taking the actual cafes and bars into account. Pop into DriDri Ice Cream parlour who have the most amazing selection of flavours (my favorite is Bacio and Almond). The other market stalls which line Portobello Road boast music, clothes, antiques, jewellery, prints, absoutley everything you can think of. I used to stop off at The Grain Shop (269 Portobello Road) for a take away lunch – you can choose from their vast counter and walk away with a container over-filled with home-cooked, wholesome, vegetarian food. Maumau a next door bar, welcome you with your lunch, that is of course if you buy a drink. Running adjacent to the lower part of Portobello Road is Kensington Park Road. Lined with bars restaurants and boutiques, it makes for a welcome shortcut in avoiding Portobello road when the volume of people is simply too much. Kensington Park Road comes alive at night, as does nearby All Saints Road. Check out a family favorite, Osteria Basilico.
Continuing north along Portobello, you’ll reach Spanish institution R Garcia and Sons on the right. Its famous Deli, Grocery store and Cafe/Tapas Bar have fed and serviced the Spanish community since it began to thrive in North Kensington at the height of the Spanish Civil War. It now feeds not only its diaspora but the gastronomy addicts of London too. Noticably Galicia Restaurant and the Spanish School just a few steps away breath a familiar arid air into the area.
Back onto Portobello Road, when you reach the Westway which cuts across the street, you have an option to go left and follow the market, turn right for an extension of the market (more food stalls and home to the Portobello Film Festival and one of London’s best nights out; Supperclub) or go straight ahead.
You’ll probably hear bongo drums, steel drums and reggae sounds floating in the atmosphere. If thats on a day to day basis then imagine what its like around carnival time!
Heading further north to the very top of Portobello you begin to leave the tourist trail behind. You will pass market stalls selling interesting items; ancient cameras, shabby chic furniture, piles of yellow-paged books. Some may call it junk but I call it treasure.
Golborne Road cuts through the north of Portobello Road. Beyond it, at it’s tail end you’ll find Cockney’s Pie and Mash shop, George’s Fish Bar, a handful of cafe’s home to groups of men debating life’s troubles and Anar, a fab Persian Restaurant which also delivers locally. Golborne Road is an experience not to be missed if you’re visiting these parts; it’s not your typical sleepy street in the Royal Borough.The first thing which hits you is a barbecue smell; the street is home to various meat and fish kiosks, where the hungry in the ‘know’ travel from afar to eat kebabs and grilled fish which are more that reasonable priced. In fact its not rare to see cars full of youths pull up and use their car roof as a table as they tuck into wholesome grub. Noticeably, most of the stalls are owned by North Africans – most of the people who perch on its stools are also from that area of the world. There’s a bakery, grocery and interior shops on Golborne road who cater for them (and for people like me!) – it’s not known as ‘Little Morocco’ for nothing! Be sure to pop into Lisboa Patisserie for an authentic Portuguese experience – watch trays of freshly baked custard tarts fly out please eager customers. In between the food shops and stalls you’ll find mounds of old furniture, shoes, ‘junk’ (treasure) and textiles which spill out from pavement to road, an extension from the road’s eccentric prop / interior shops. In there you’ll find every thing from old ceramics to merry-go-round horses. Life sized ones! Then you find surprises such as Kokon To Zai which at first glance seems to be a furniture shop. Step through the threshold and you’ll find an insane world of high fashion and lifestyle.
For info about what’s on in Golborne Road check out this site. What a great street at the foot of London’s iconic Trellic Tower – it sums up pockets of the city perfectly – the taste of the world mixed with English eccentricity.