It’s achieved fame through such films as Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Hugh Grant’s romance with Julia Roberts, Notting Hill is an area where the rich and famous have houses, the yearly carnival attracts millions and contains some of London’s best hidden gems. We took a visit to Notting Hill on a busy Saturday to sample the delights of the central attraction – Portobello Road Market.
It’s been around 15 years since I last visited Notting Hill. In truth, i’ve been avoiding it. Other areas of London have been exciting, interesting and surprising – my memories of Notting Hill are none of these. We arrived at Notting Hill Gate shoulder to shoulder with the weekend crowds of tourists heading the same way. It’s easy to find your way to the market by simply following the signs or the crowds.
We approached the market after strolling past the white terraced houses – which you could buy if you had a few spare millions. Turning off Pembridge Road down a side street leads onto the Portobello Road, opening out into a large straight road with an antiques market that appears to stretch for miles. This was my memory of all those years ago, boring antiques! Now i’m older I can appreciate the variety of things for sale here and just how popular they all are.
Crowds gather round the stalls selling antiques such as old footballs from various London sides, war medals, old coins and even boxing gloves. All the prices seemed quite reasonable but if you are planning on picking up a historic item do bring plenty of cash. Scattered in between the stalls were little stands selling hot crepes and crisps layered up on a skewer.
Save your appetite though. Head a little further up past all the bric-a-brac and soon the waft of street food fills the air. Notting Hill is famous for its Carnival so one item I was desperately seeking out was Jerk Chicken. After passing stalls selling everything from Paella to Ghanaian food we ended up at a stand run by a man and woman with a barbecue stacked with Jamaican Jerk Chicken, at a very good price, this place is the ‘Jerk Chicken Shack’ located outside Sainsbury’s on the Portobello Road.
The people running the stall were really friendly and the food seemed to be popular with the locals. The choice is either a Jerk Chicken Leg with rice and salad or Jerk Chicken fillets in a wrap with salad. I opted for a wrap, as a late breakfast at VQ Bloomsbury had left both of us still feeling full. As we left the stall a huge crowd of people soon descended on the shack – a theory that our readers were following us was starting to seem real!
They were right to follow us though because this food is awesome. The wrap was smeared with a sweet,sticky and slightly spicy sauce which went perfectly with the smoky, hot chicken. The salad and mayonnaise adds much needed relief to the kick of heat but this chicken wasn’t blow-your-head-off spicy, just perfect in fact. For £5 ($6.65 US) you can become the proud owner of a wrap or for £6 ($7.98 US) grab yourself a leg.
Other attractions in the area include a superb bookshop (not the one from the film, Notting Hill) called ‘Books for Cooks’ a place Mr Gordon Ramsay has an account with. Here you can find seemingly every single cookbook in existence. We had a great time browsing the shelves and coming across some real gems. You can even grab a coffee and sit in the reading area flicking through your next purchase, it’s a place well worth visiting.
Then there’s the pastel coloured houses which, although beautiful, must be a nightmare to live in as tourists chase their latest Instagram post by literally marching up the steps and posing outside the door. This is people’s property, have some respect. We took our photos from a fair distance.
After checking out the houses and getting our fill of culinary literature we headed back up the road where there’s supposed to be a street food market. Just under the railway bridge on the junction of Cambridge Gardens sits the Acklam Village Market. Stalls of street food along the underside of the bridge just like a mini Borough Market. There’s so much variety here with Portuguese Pastel’s (custard tarts) and burgers proving very popular on our visit.
If you want to cut out the antiques and save your legs walking all the way up from Notting Hill Gate then get off the train at Ladbroke Grove station which is just five minutes walk from the Acklam Village at the top of the Portobello Road. Westbourne Park station is the other option but Ladbroke Grove is far closer and an easier walk. Notting Hill Gate is ideal for the antiques end of the market.
My opinion of the Portobello Road is the polar opposite from my last visit all those years ago. Street food is a massive part of London’s food scene now and virtually every district of the city has a little area dedicated to this growing trend. Notting Hill’s claim to being a contender for the best street food in the capital is a strong one. The variety here is stunning and the area is beautiful in comparison to more gritty areas like Brixton or Southwark.
There’s so much to see and do in Notting Hill, especially on the weekend. Many bars, restaurants and even an Electric Cinema make for a great day or night out in this area of London. You might even bump into Hugh Grant…
Acklam Village Opening times: Saturday-Sunday 1100-1900
Portobello Road Market Opening times: Daily 0900-2300
Nearest Tube (Portobello Road Market): Notting Hill Gate (Central Line)
Nearest Tube (Acklam Village and Street Food Market): Ladbroke Grove ( Circle/Hammersmith & City Line)