The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea isn’t all palaces and parks. 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 and its surroundings pulsate with life on most days, Saturdays especially, when hoards of tourists and culture vultures flock to this West London hot-spot. It’s definitely a ‘foodie’ trail starting from they very beginning all the way to the end. At Notting Hill Gate Station, you pass three notable food stops; The Portobello Restaurant is a lively 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 Pembridge Road offers Sicilian street food; pizza slices, deep fried risotto balls, grilled veg and cannoli. They also have Cassatine, small versions of the Sicilian uber-cake, Cassata. Across the Road from Arancina is Manzara, possibly the only place for homemade borek in West London. Stacks of freshly baked spinach and cheese pie steam up their windows.
Wandering north up Portobello Road, the senses are constantly fed by an abundance of absolutely everything. Churros, crepes, Bratwurst, salads, fruit and veg, paella, sizzling jerk chicken… And thats only from the market stalls, not taking cafes and bars into account. Other market stalls which line Portobello Road sell music, vintage clothing, antiques, lace, jewellery, prints, Moroccan textiles (look out for this vendor, he’s a smiley chap open to negotiation), olives, cheeses, wild mushrooms, haberdashery, and just about absolutely everything else you can think of. There is always something new and treasures to seek out.
Two of the most authentic Southern Italian style restaurants in London run along Portobello Road and offer a real taste of la cucina Napoletana. Saporitalia offers a flavourful, genuine menu, (think pasta with mussels and beans, an antipasti spread to die for and seafood spaghetti ‘in cartocio’ that may transport you momentarily to the shores of the Amalfi coast) and glorious Neapolitan pizzas ready in minutes from a dome shaped wood-fired oven. Across the road and slightly further up, tucked behind a small indoor market is in my opinion London’s best kept Italian secret, The Portobello Garden Cafe. In an appealingly informal yet trendy setting this place offers generous portions and a warm welcome. Try buffalo mozzarella atop friarielli (spicy typical Neapolitan sautéed greens) with truffle shavings, cheese stuffed paccheri pasta with truffles or any of the daily specials which never fail to please.
It was always a tradition to stop off at The Grain Shop (269 Portobello Road) for a take away lunch – you can choose various dishes from the counter and walk away with an over filled container brimming with home-cooked, wholesome, vegetarian food. Maumau next door welcome you with your lunch if you can’t find any place to sit outside, that is of course if you buy a drink.
Running parallel to the lower part of Portobello Road is Kensington Park Road. Lined with bars, restaurants and boutiques, it makes for a welcome shortcut when the volume of people on Portobello Road becomes too much. The side streets which connect Portobello and Kensington Park Road also offer their fair share of quirky and appealing shops. Kensington Park Road comes alive at night, as does nearby All Saints Road.
Continuing north along Portobello Road, you’ll reach Spanish institution R Garcia and Sons on the right. This grocery store has serviced the Spanish community since it began thriving in North Kensington at the height of the Spanish Civil War. It now feeds not only its diaspora but the cultural addicts of London too. Noticeably Galicia Restaurant and the Spanish School are just a few steps away.
By the time you reach the Westway, an overhead motorway which cuts across Portobello, you’ll probably hear steel drums and reggae music floating on the air and have your appetite reawoken by smoke from bustling food stalls. This is the atmosphere on a day to day basis, imagine what its like around carnival time! At this point you can turn left and further explore the vintage market stalls, turn right and enter the Acklam Village street food market which offers live music on the weekends (try the Roman style porchetta sandwiches at the Porchetta & Grill stall, a must for meat lovers), or go straight ahead towards one of my favourite streets in the entire city, Goldborn Road, just a bit further north.
The tourist trail fizzles out beyond the Westway and you can see die hard stall holders selling treasure for some and junk for others; ancient cameras, accidental shabby chic furniture, piles of yellow-paged books. My eyes are always searching for ceramics here, for tiles and pots, turquoise usually. The tail end of Portobello Road, just beyond where it meets Golborne Road is home to Cockney’s Pie and Mash shop, George’s Fish Bar, a handful of cafe’s homing groups of Moroccan men debating life and Anar, an opulent looking Persian Restaurant which 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. At the foot of the Trellick Tower, a West London icon, Golborne Road is a mix of old and new, of utmost English eccentricity and international influences. Its authentic, loved, upcoming yet timeless. Its what makes London great.
With markets stalls lining both sides of the street, its hard not to notice the Moroccan kiosks which dish out freshly grilled fish, meat and harira soup to those in the know. Its not unusual to see cars full of people pull up and use their car roof as a table as they tuck into streaming portions of street food. There are butchers, grocery stores and cafes which seem to cater for the area’s Moroccan community and for people like me who crave a fix of arid far away lands. In fact Golborne Road goes by another name, Little Morocco. It’s influences can be seen from the top of the street to beyond the Trellick Tower where you can find a hidden Moroccan sanctuary in Meanwhile Gardens, complete with a colourful zellige fountain and young olive trees overlooking the canal. Fez interior shop is another go-to place for lovers of the orient. Piles of wedding blankets, beni ouraine rugs, colourful ceramics and patterned lanterns are more than tempting. Trendy, health-conscious cafes are also present song Golborne Road which always are packed for brunch such as The Golborne Deli and Snaps & Rye, a Danish eatery (if you’re like me and love liquorice, this is a great place!). Palestinian cuisine is also represented at Maramia, a cosy, home style Middle Eastern cafe / restaurant.
Lisboa Patisserie has catered for both the Portuguese community and local residents for years. Watch trays of freshly baked custard tarts fly out to please eager stomachs and drink possibly the best Cappuccinos in the area – short and verging on tepid, just like in the Mediterranean. Unpretentious and slightly shabby, Lisboa Patisserie is a must.
The street’s newest addition, Zayane, is the perfect fit for Golborne’s unique mix of culture and appeal. A perfect marriage of Moroccan fusion food, inviting, unpretentious interiors with British Michelin starred chef, Chris Bower, I knew I would love Zayane from the very first moment I caught wind of it. It’s a breath of fresh air in a city where Moroccan kitchens come with a heavy dose of spice by offering refined, light handed and beautifully thought out dishes. There’s live music all week (Gnawa style musician) and a DJ on weekend nights; as if the food wasn’t already reason enough to go the atmosphere will draw you in. Reasonably priced for the standard they offer, Zayane is my new favourite place.
In between the cafes, restaurants and stalls of Golborne Road you’ll find mounds of old furniture, shoes and other ‘junk’ (treasure) which spill from pavement to road and seem to attract people like magpies. They appear to be an extension of the eccentric prop / interior shops which sell everything from life size merry-go-round horses to retro glam one off pieces of furniture. Glitter balls, ornate tables, fireplaces. Everything can be found here. Golborne Road offers highly unique shopping experiences like Kokon To Zai which is hard to decipher at first glance. Pass the threshold and you’ll find an insanely cool world of high fashion apparel and accessories, butterfly taxidermy and lifestyle concept. Rellik is an ultra trendy vintage clothing store opposite the Trellick Tower well worth a look. the Goldfinger Factory is testament to the community feel of Golborne Road; with workshop spaces, an academy, a shop and a community cafe this unique venue aims to turn waste into gold.
For info about what’s on in Golborne Road check out this site or follow @RBKCMarkets and @lovegolborne on Twitter / Instagram for snapshots of local life.
Page updated early 2016.