Pastel-hued houses, a renowned antiques market and Hollywood validation mean that Notting Hill is one of the most famous and desirable corners of London. It’s easy to see why people are so keen to pay the area a visit as they pass through London or even try and settle here.
To be perfectly honest, Portobello Road is so rammed at the weekends it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not keen on crowds. It’s also unfortunate that there’s been a certain amount of Camdenification of the market in order to bait tourists, but there’s no question that Notting Hill is special and attracts a fuss for a reason.
The last time I visited this part of London was all the way back around Carnival time, so I decided to stop by this weekend to enjoy a blustery Saturday wander. Despite the obscure and frightening weather that has been battering the UK, the sun was shining in central London. I headed out of Notting Hill Gate station and walked past the tall white villas to the south end of Portobello Road. Beams of sunlight bounced off the bright facades and the market was in full swing.
It didn’t take long for me to be tempted in the direction of food. I’m sorry to say it wasn’t through the doors of Rum Kitchen or Granger and co or Taqueria either — all places I’ve been meaning to go for a while. Instead I got lucky and scored a table at Honest Burger — or old faithful, as I think of it — with only a ten-minute wait, during which I took the opportunity to take a sniff inside the Spice Shop and press my nose up against the window of Books for Cooks.
Inside Honest Burger, I ordered the cheeseburger, medium rare with Stilton. I’ve flirted with more American-style burgers, with sliced, processed cheese and pickles, but what I really desire in a burger is what Honest Burger gives me. Shiny, puffed-up brioche buns, red-onion marmalade rather than some vivid mayo-based condiment and a choice of excellent cheese. Most important of all, the patty will be formed from the best beef and cooked to order. A big plus is that the divine rosemary chips come with the burger, rather than you having to order them as a side. For £8.50, that’s a pretty sweet deal.
Back on Portobello Road, my next stop was Talkhouse Coffee, which reminded me of one of my other favourite London coffee shops — Electric Coffee in Ealing. There’s a big glass case full of seriously tempting cakes, an excellent coffee selection and big tables where you can spread out the weekend papers if you wish. I’d intended just to get a latte, but then something caught my eye inside the glass case. Doughnuts from St John’s bakery are legendary, but I’d never had the chance to try one before — I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity.
When it comes to supermarket doughnuts, I’d always go jam over custard anytime, but St John’s is famous for its custard, so I took a risk. It paid off. The custard was mixed with cream and speckled with vanilla. It was totally scrumptious.
Some find custard sickly, but personally I find it incredibly moreish. With this in mind, I headed even further up Portobello Road in search of the Lisboa Patisserie (which is actually on Golborne Road).
Notting Hill is desirable these days, but it hasn’t always been this way and the immigrants who have poured into the area in its less desirable years consistently make it a very exciting culinary destination. They sell pastel de nata, Portuguese custard tarts, all over London now, but I’ve tasted none better than those from the Lisboa Patisserie. When I first popped my head round the door, I must say that my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. I lost all self control and bought not only a custard tart, but an almond custard tart and, yes, another custard doughnut.
I’d like to say, I wasn’t alone on this expedition, so I didn’t eat all of this lot on my own, but that still doesn’t entirely excuse my pigginess.
We wandered back to the tube station enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, depleted crowds and custard treats, and we weren’t a bit sorry.