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South Kensington

Beyond Notting Hill Carnival: Guide To West London

In the past, Notting Hill was known as a multicultural melting pot with a free-spirited attitude for people who couldn't afford Kensington or Chelsea. Fast forward 30 years or so and Notting Hill is now better known for its high-end boutiques, designer stores and award-winning restaurants. But despite the bankers having moved in and the sea of tourists searching for Mr Grant’s blue door, the old spirit of Notting Hill can still be found – you just need to know where to look. In the runup to its most famous export – Notting Hill Carnival, we asked West London's locals about the best spots that go beyond what you see on social media.

2023 August 14

Shop for vintage finds at Portobello Road Market

Portobello’s vintage market has made a name for itself as ‘the’ place to find everything from Afghan coats, vintage denim and retro shades – just be prepared to do a little rummaging. Stretching along for more than two miles, you’ll find bric-a-brac stalls next to sellers flogging vintage designer, alongside artisan cheese shops and bakeries. Though open six days a week, you’ll want to head there on either a Friday or Saturday when it’s at its busiest. After a morning spent haggling, don’t leave without refuelling at one of the many street-food stands, where you’ll find everything from freshly stewed lamb curry to hand-rolled sushi and fragrant samosas.

Go deer-spotting in Richmond Park

Despite being just a 30-minute drive away, Richmond is often regarded by Londoner’s as ‘not really London’ – which is where its attraction lies. Just like stepping into the countryside, it has vast parks, quaint taverns, riverside restaurants and even the occasional celebrity. The perfect place to visit for a day out, stop at Petersham Nurseries for a coffee and a seasonal green salad to-go, before you head to the borough’s crowning jewel: Richmond Park. Created by Charles I in the 17th century as a place to escape the Plague, it’s now a national nature reserve, complete with rolling green fields, ponds and local deer. Just make sure to check Richmond Park’s opening times before you head there, as the park closes for two deer culls in November and February to prevent overgrazing.

Explore exotic plants at Kew Gardens

Whilst in the slice of country life that is Richmond, make sure to visit another of its best-loved spots: Kew Gardens. Sprawling over 300 acres, this UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to 1759, making it one of the oldest botanic gardens in the UK. With over 50,000 plants on show, it’s a great place for exploring, with an indoor rainforest and treetop walkway 59 feet above ground. Despite being beautiful any time of year, it’s at its best during the run-up to Christmas, where there is a yearly light installation.

Book a Tik-Tok famous meal

It’s not often a Tik Tok-famous restaurant has as much substance as it does hype, but then there hasn’t quite been a restaurant like Straker’s before. Touted as one of the best places to eat in West London, it’s headed up by the King of butter himself, chef and social media star Thomas Straker. With a grid-worthy interior, this new haunt is what millennial kitchen dreams are made of, with a zinc-topped bar, plants climbing up walls and rustic shelves stocked with independent spirits. The food? Let’s just say you won’t go hungry. Simplicity at its best, choose from a range of small plates all made to share, including wood-roasted oysters, charred flatbread oozing with cheese and freshly made doughnuts.

If you’re after a quick grab-and-go bite, head to one of Notting Hill’s best lunch spots, The Secret Sandwich Shop. Based on the Japanese Wanpaku sandwich, where the bread used is light shokupan which fills you up without weighing you down, it has a frequently changing menu of around eight sandwiches. Choose from ‘The Signature’, which includes 5 seasonal vegetables dressed in a house waft sauce with avocado or for something a little more carnivorous, opt for the meat-on-meat pastrami, ham and salami with Swiss cheese. It's set on the ground floor of famed club The Globe and has little to no signage, so keep your eyes open or you might just walk past it.

Barter for antiques on Golborne Road

At the less-touristy end of Portobello, you’ll find Golborne Road, which has a scruffier local’s feel, with a colourful flea market, second-hand stalls and a treasure-trove of antique shops. Home to one of Notting Hill’s best Sunday markets, thrift bric-a-brac clocks, old-school cigarette cases and utensils as well as furniture, plants and flowers. Next up, head to Les Couilles du Chien which sells everything from hand-crafted mirrors and lighting to framed butterflies and beetles. For antique furniture lovers, Phoenix on Golborne is like going down a rabbit hole, filled with marble-topped sideboards, Victorian dressers and vintage glassware. For a fashion fix, Rellik is often touted as one best vintage shops in London and is favourite of Kate Moss. Hunt for vintage Alexander McQueen, Chanel and Celine – to name a few.

Go boozing in an old-school pub

Rooted in history, it’s no wonder Notting Hill is home to some of London’s most loved old school pubs. However, if you’re looking for something a little more filling than Guiness and pork scratchings, head to The Pelican, a scrubbed-up boozer serving a St John-esque menu. Having stood on All Saints Road since 1872, it’s only right that pub grub classics (stepped up a notch) is what it does best. Showcasing sustainable, local produce, make sure to try the retro-inspired mince on toast or the lemon sole seared with brown butter, whilst the sausage rolls will forever change the way you see a Greggs.

Rock on at a Hendrix-approved dive bar

For something a little more rock ‘n roll, head to the infamous Globe. Opened in the 1960s as a hole-in-the-wall speakeasy that Hendrix, the Stones and Bob Marley all frequented, The Globe is still one of West London’s coolest late-night hangouts. A community favourite that has stuck to its dive bar roots, head there on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday for old-school hip hop and reggae beats.

Watch a film in an old-school cinema

If you’re looking for refuge on a drizzly afternoon, make sure to tick off one of our favourite things to do in Notting Hill – catching a film at the Electric Cinema. One of the oldest working cinemas in Britain, the Electric Cinema was rebuilt by the Soho House team after a huge electrical fire, and has been claimed as one of the country’s best cinemas ever since. As its flagship location, the Electric Cinema has an old fashioned ticket hall, a roomy screening room complete with original period features and an American-style diner next door. The ticket prices are a splurge, costing £20 per person, but for that you do get to sit in an mohair armchair, complete with a cashmere blanket and a footstool, and not to mention a fully stocked bar and pick 'n' mix station. For something a little gentler on the wallet either opt for a front row seat or head there on Sunday for £15 tickets.

If you’re wondering where to stay for Notting Hill Carnival or looking for a base to explore everything that this West London borough has to offer year-round, make sure to book a stay at easyHotel South Kensington, just a short 12-minute drive away.

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