When you think of Notting Hill, you probably think of wealthy, yummy people who dress their children in Junior Gaultier and drop them off at Montessori nursery before a session with their personal trainer and a trip to Whole Foods for the weekly replenishing of kale and goji berries. And you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But of course, Notting Hill wasn’t always like that - the neighborhood has a long history as a place for hippies, druggies, squalid bedsits (now probably worth two million quid each), and a thriving West Indian community. So when looking for places to eat and drink in the area, you’ll find a mix of old and new. Whether you’re looking for a place for a quick bite or a special occasion, here’s where to head.
Clarke’s was the first restaurant in Britain to do the whole ‘farm to fork’ thing, though no one was calling it that when they opened in 1984. It’s all about buying the best ingredients around, cooking them simply, and putting them together on the plate with a few other great ingredients. Yes, everyone’s doing this now. But Clarke’s got there first – and still does it as well as anyone in town. Ordering à la carte is expensive, so stick to a set menu unless it’s a very special occasion. There’s also a café and bar where you can have coffee or a glass of wine. The upstairs room in the main restaurant is a perfect spot for a romantic date.
Farm Girl goes all in on the Australian healthy-eating thing, right down to the coconut ‘bacon’, macadamia butter, and optional sprinklings of superfoods. If you want to roll your eyes, by all means, go for it. But you should also know that the whole health thing here actually comes with some very good food attached. Sandwiches and salads are great, and so are the drinks. ‘Liquid Gold’ - lime juice, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, astragalus, and honey - would be worth drinking even if it weren’t allegedly good for you. The location guarantees a mob scene on Saturdays, naturally, but you’re just as likely to queue on Monday.
Granger and Co. runs three Australian restaurants in London, and the Notting Hill location is the smallest of the three. The menu’s the same as at the other two venues, and it’s full of the kind of fresh salads, sandwiches, small plates and main dishes that you’d find at a cool cafe in Sydney - think shrimp burgers, ricotta hotcakes, and plenty of stuff with avocado. The small size and quality food means getting a table might be the hardest thing you’ve done since you tried to walk down Oxford Street on December 23rd, so be sure to book if you’re going at peak times.
Having The Ledbury a five-minute walk away is almost enough to make Marianne look cheap. The operative word being almost. This tiny little room – room for 14 people, and a kitchen that may be smaller than the one in your flat – serves serious food at serious prices. The menu changes every day but it’s always equally good for meat, fish, and vegetarian. Considering the tiny space and maximum booking size of six, this isn’t the spot for a big, rowdy dinner, but for small groups who want to talk in peace and quiet, Marianne is perfect. Put it on your shortlist for a serious date or anniversary type of event.
If you don’t know what to expect when you walk through the door here, you might be confused. Hereford Road has an ultra-modern look, but the food couldn’t be more traditional, with heavy emphasis on old-fashioned British cooking, meat, and the whole ‘nose to tail’ shtick. What we like best about Hereford Road is that nose to tail doesn’t cost an arm and a leg: prices aren’t nearly as high as you’d expect in this hedge-funded area. Order the set lunch for a great deal (£13.50 for two courses), or come by with a date or group for dinner.
Originally a Protestant chapel, now a community centre, The Tab is a Notting Hill institution. You can join the locals and come here for exhibitions, for yoga or dance classes, or for a drink or a meal in the café/restaurant right at the front of the building. The food has a West Indian bent but there are also burgers and breakfasts. This is not a place for a date: you’re eating in what’s essentially the foyer of a public building. But the local vibe, all ages and all races, makes the Tab a great place to hang.
Having The Ledbury a five-minute walk away is almost enough to make Marianne look cheap. The operative word being almost. This tiny little room – room for 14 people, and a kitchen that may be smaller than the one in your flat – serves serious food at serious prices. The menu changes every day but it’s always equally good for meat, fish, and vegetarian. There’s a good deal at lunch (£35 for 3 courses), but dinner is a tasting menu only situation(from £85). Considering the tiny space and maximum booking size of six, this isn’t the spot for a big, rowdy dinner, but for small groups who want to talk in peace and quiet, Marianne is perfect. Put it on your shortlist for a serious date or anniversary type of event.
The name tells most of the story, but not all of it. Yes, it’s a cheese shop, but it’s also a café/restaurant/wine bar serving charcuterie platters and hot dishes in addition to cheese. Sharing two platters (one meat and one cheese) and a couple of glasses of wine is one of Notting Hill’s best formulas for a light, low-cost, but very refined lunch. And in our experience, getting a table here even on Saturday is somewhat easier than at much of the local competition.
Books for Cooks is a cookbook shop that also runs a café at lunchtime. The dishes all come from recipes in books they’re testing, so the no-choice menu changes every day. Check their Twitter feed to find out what’s cooking, and bring a bottle – there’s no alcohol license. Book-buying is optional but recommended: they have the biggest selection in the country.
The Cow is a good 15 or 20 minutes north by foot from Notting Hill Gate, so use a different station to get here. But do get here. This was one of the early gastropubs and it’s maintained consistent quality with a simple formula of pub menu downstairs and fancier stuff in the dining room on the first floor. Seafood is a speciality: a pint of Guinness and six oysters is one of the most popular orders. A good number of the people in here are going to be platinum-card-carrying members of the one per cent, but you won’t feel out of place if your credit limit barely makes it into four digits.
This is one of the liveliest restaurants in the area, and it serves some of the best tacos in town. The servings are small-plate size so you’ll need three for two people, plus a couple of sides and/or nibbles. Plus a small bathtub’s worth of margaritas and beer. Bright lighting and very basic seating make this a venue for all-out embarrassing behaviour rather than a quiet date. Go with a gang, and don’t miss the fish tacos.
Come here for good fish and chips in a simply decorated restaurant a short walk from Notting Hill tube and Portobello Road market. The location and the quality mean it’s usually pretty rammed, even though the tables are packed pretty close together.
Saporitalia serves some of the best Italian food in west London, in an unpretentious, friendly, family-run space. Get the mixed antipasto or soup to start, and then pasta or a grilled veal chop to follow. Or one of the pizzas, best of all. The crusts are thin and light, toppings are mostly simple. At lunch there’s a cheap set menu. In the evenings, take advantage of the well priced wine list. Walk-ins are a breeze during the week, but you definitely need to book at the weekend. And when you get there, remember: looks aren’t everything.
bars and pubs
If you like gin, you’ll really like Portobello Star, where they not only serve gin but also teach classes about it and distill their own (though not on the premises). This is a very popular cocktail bar, a local hangout that also happens to make great drinks. Health and safety warning: if you need to use the facilities after sinking a couple of Brambles, be careful. You’ll be climbing (and then descending) a near-vertical staircase.
If you’ve ever gone to Portobello Market from the Notting Hill tube, you may have noticed The Sun In Splendour. Next time, consider going in for a drink and maybe a meal. Notting Hill has changed tremendously but the Sun has barely changed at all – except in bumping up the size and range of its menus. There’s a changing set of real ales, craft beers in bottle, and traditional English food including Sunday roasts. And genuinely friendly service. And a garden out back with shelter from the rain. Forget the market. Come here instead.
This basement bar looks like it was decorated by someone who went drunk shopping on the Hawaiian Décor website. That’s one reason we enjoy it so much. The other is the excellent rum-heavy drinks list. The snacks are good too, and essential if you’re staying for multiple drinks. Or even one Zombie. This is Notting Hill’s number-one venue for a rowdy night out - or for finishing your evening with a rum-fuelled bang. W11 weekends start here (and so do hangovers.)
Rum Kitchen is decked out to look like a Jamaican beachside bar, but the impact isn’t at all rosy-tinted or theme-parky. Our favorite way to use this place is to come at happy hour and drink daquiris, but you’ll also enjoy having a casual dinner in the clubby basement room. In either case, soak up the alcohol with some sweetcorn fritters or sweet potato fries.
The Castle has remained largely unspoiled by the changes in the area, and that’s enough to make us love it. That, plus the big windows – great for watching the crowds struggle by on market day. And the good selection of cask ales. Probably more of a place for drinking than eating, but what’s wrong with drinking?