If you have the chance to spend a sunny Friday afternoon strolling up and down Portobello Road - this is truly the best way to spend a day - the market in full swing (sans tourists) and stopping off for coffee or cake or Spritzes on the corner of Westbourne Grove in the afternoon sun. Bliss.
But it’s suffered recently, and without getting into anything too heavy in a light hearted bar review, actually - it’s bar scene has suffered too. RIP some classics - the Lonsdale, the old Portobello Star, the old Portobello Gold - all glorious watering holes in their time, but… change is in the air. New faces are joining the fold, breathing new life into old buildings and giving you a new reason to head West and explore this world famous corner of London.
Drink somewhere new…
This place is a brilliant addition to the area and as it beds in - will certainly get better and better. Set over four floors and keeping the outdoor/indoor feel that the last incarnation so brilliantly captured - this is a late night, high production kind of venue - just what you’d expect from the owners of Mahiki. We were there on opening night and the walls weren’t quite dry BUT the drinks were tasty, the food was tasty, the décor looks great and by losing the bedrooms that used to live on the top floors - there’s now more bars, more dining rooms and a private party room for 30 in the eaves - so this is like being at home, but better. If you can – book a table in the Garden Room and hope the retractable roof does its thing.
Little Yellow Door
As far as we can count - this is the third version of this ‘house-party’ style cocktail bar in Notting Hill and taking over the old Rum Kitchen site, this is certainly the biggest and fanciest it’s ever been. Little Yellow Door is split over two floors, with a relaxed feel throughout. They’re going for bohemian, though we’re not sure the crowd quite matches that - there were definitely some (gasp) suits in last time we swung through. However - it’s a late license, the music cranks right up and unless you’re bellowing too loudly in the street - pretty much anything goes. Fun.
We sulked a bit (lies - we sulked a lot) when The Star changed hands. The Star was where you’d find us most nights of the week, swinging the light fittings, sitting on the bar top and generally being totally annoying. Sorry about that. We sulked for a year, maybe longer, and then one day, under total duress - we went back in, fully prepared to be utterly cross that OUR bar had been ruined. Now then... We at DrinkUp are scrupulously fair - and so - can we say firstly, sorry for being a brat. And secondly - this is still a great little bar. The refurb has done it an absolute turn. It looks brilliant. The space is still narrow and dingy (bliss - just how we remembered it) but the industrial furniture and fittings and attention to detail on the lighting make it feel great. And the drinks are good. Phew. The first floor houses a tiny over spill bar, which is a great hidden gem for when you want to get away from the crowds. Welcome back ol’ pal.
Drink somewhere not-so-new…
You kinda can’t come to Notting Hill without coming here. It’s a bit of a walk and nothing much special happens here but it’s The Cow - and if you don’t have a Guinness sitting on the pavement, you’re missing out. The oysters are excellent - as is the people-watching - as the great and the good and the weird of the area convene from the minute it opens until long after it shuts.
Long live Trailer Happiness. The first proper bar to open in the area right back in 2003, making Notting Hill a destination for cocktail connoisseurs from all around the world. It’s just like it’s always been which is so terribly reassuring. When no one’s in - it’s great. Pull up a bar stool, chat to the team and taste something new. When it’s packed - it’s even greater. Order a Daiquiri (with a beer for later when you’re thirsty and the bar’s busy) and dance the night away.
The (old) Portobello Star grew up and moved fiteen house numbers down the road from 171 to 186 and is now a four storey, bar, restaurant, hotel and fully functional distillery in the heart of Portobello Road. If you’re lucky enough to take part in one of their immersive experiences (The Ginstitute in the basement or the James Bond themed dinner on the top floor), you’ll understand just how good these guys really are. If you’re simply popping in - the best seat in the house is on the ground floor in the corner, with the doors open onto the street where you can sit and watch the world go by.
Eat (& Drink) somewhere new…
Probably the cutest little terrace in W11 - this Asian restaurant, just a step from the tube, is such a lovely place to spend the evening. Dim sum and peking duck as good as you’d find on Queensway (high praise indeed) is made all the tastier by the alfresco setting and the genuine hospitality that comes from a family-run restaurant. We tried the cocktails (natch) and can confirm that while we’ve not had a lychee martini in a while - we’ve seemingly been missing out as this was fresh, well-balanced and delivered with such pride. Love it here.
Clever Jackson Boxer has pitched up in Notting Hill and opened a delicious fish restaurant that definitely deserves a visit. There’s a great private dining room, but for us - long, leisurely lunch would be well spent here. Last time we partook in such activity we were sat next to Tom Parker Bowles himself who gave them four stars in the Daily Mail no less. Don’t be put off. This place is great.
All Saints Road is a bit of a hidden gem in W11 and is full of excellent restaurants that are much better than some of the flashier places on the main drag. However - we’d really appreciate it if you didn’t tell too many people about this restaurant because - it’s, as afore-mentioned, excellent. New to the neighbourhood, this tiny little gem is beautifully decorated with a delicious (and pleasingly limited) menu and a cracking wine list. Alright. Enough. Not telling you any more.
This article is humbly dedicated to ‘Jockey’ – the last great lunatic of the Portobello Road. We hope that wherever you’ve ended up, that the Guinness is ice cold.