Welcome to the Neighbourhood
In the last fortnight alone, five or even six people have walked in to say they have just moved into the neighbourhood. As such, I thought I would create a "Welcome to the Neighbourhood" page for you. This will highlight a dozen or more of our best recommendations, mostly food- and wine-related, but across the board in general. This is a work in progress so will add my choice picks. I have been on the street since 1965 so have a local bias towards W8, but if I can help you sort the wheat from the chaff, happy to do so.
PORTOBELLO PIZZA (7, Ladbroke Road, Notting Hill, W11 3PA, Tel. 0207 221 1373)
Run by Neapolitans, thus perfectly at ease with noisy children! Their vaulted brick oven yields classic, simple, generally thick crust but about as good a pizza as you will get, certainly in the neighbourhood. The set lunch is also pretty good value. The wine list historically not great but continues to improve and includes names like Quintarelli & Antinori etc. A glass roof at the front so nice in the summer months.
HALEPI RESTAURANT (18, Leinster Terrace, Bayswater, W2 3ET, Tel. 0207 262 1070)
A Bayswater institution since the mid-1960s. Do not even bother looking at the menu, just order the ten-course Meat Meze (£28.50), and even if you only eat two thirds - it's still great value. The place hasn’t changed since the '60s and looks like a tourist trap, but looks can be deceiving. Tourists - yes, but mostly well-heeled locals in the know. They have a couple of half-decent Greek wines, and if you are lucky maybe a Margaux or two. Halepi is usually happy to charge £ 20.00 for a “corkage fee”.
SALLY CLARKE'S (124, Kensington Church Street, W8 4BH, Tel. 0207 221 9225)
Another local institution, here since the late 1980s. Sally runs a tight ship with good staff and top notch front-of-house in Paul Baldwin & Colin Livingstone. The wine list continues to improve and has expanded too but the food leads. Perfect portions - neither mean, nor excessive. The old set menu of chicken and root vegetables has given way to a more opulent foie gras; lobster; venison; ribeye; veal chop and so on. Three different rooms (and a private room) so good for the discreet also. The average age is slightly north of centre but if you have to entertain the in-laws, civilised Americans, parents etc., then there are few “safer” places than Sally Clarke’s. They also have a bakery-delicatessen opposite and though the prices are on the steep side, some of the offerings are so good of their ilk that they are worth the indulgence. Chocolate truffles and sausage rolls primarily.
YASHIN (1A, Argyll Road, W8 7DB, Tel. 0207 938 1536)
A couple of things annoy me about this restaurant: the terrible piped music, and the very short serving time for lunch. It's difficult to book on the telephone, and almost impossible not to pre-book. But, their £15.00 set salmon sushi lunch is excellent and for Kensington, a relative bargain. À la carte, more expensive.
MIN JIANG (Royal Garden Hotel, 2-24 Kensington High Street, W8 4PT, Tel. 0207 361 1988)
I rarely recommend a Hotel as a place to eat, but there are two standout reasons to visit Min Jiang: The 10th Floor view across Hyde Park and much of London (in daylight and the spring or summer) is one of London’s best. The other, quite simply, is the duck. The Chinese food is good but only say a six or seven out of ten. The duck, however is definitely a 9/10. You have to pre-order the duck 24 hours or so in advance, and typically you have to book your table 3-10 days ahead. It costs £ 74.00 for a whole duck but you do not need anything else. At £37.00 a head for something this good is, if not a bargain, certainly a good deal.
STICK AND BOWL (31, Kensington High Street, W8 5NP, Tel. 0207 937 2778)
A grubby, counter sitting, cash only Chinese but the turnover here is phenomenal so you can have a cooked lunch for £ 7.00-8.00 or so. Some dishes are not good: seaweed (over-salted), ribs, anything overtly MSG-rich. But, the crispy pork with plain boiled rice pretty much always sells out by 1 p.m. each day and though simple, is rarely bettered in London. The fried garlic chicken, Singapore noodles, and Stick & Bowl special noodle soup are all good. In the evenings you can bring your own wine, no charge. Former PM David Cameron is a regular plus many of the hacks from the nearby Daily Mail and Evening Standard.
THE KENSINGTON CIGAR SHOP (148, Kensington Church Street, W8 4BN, Tel. 0207 243 5599)
A small, narrow shop, easy to walk past as it's right on the zebra crossing. Great cigars, super classic, sensible pricing for London and smells terrific. The owner, Ed Shimonov is fast becoming a local institution as well.
KITCHEN W8 (11-13, Abingdon Road, W8 6AH, Tel. 0207 937 0120)
Classic cuisine, Michelin-star aimed, very rich sauces. Smart, formal yet still a local feel. On Sunday night they have no corkage charge so wine-oriented locals can often pack the place out.
FLAT THREE (120-122, Holland Park Ave, Notting Hill, London W11 4UA, Tel. 0207 792 8987)
Scandinavian meets Asian. Hit-and-miss but again when they hit the highs they are challenging, dynamic and a real treat. After Sally Clarke’s, we book Flat Three for excellent wine producer dinners or private dinners and when we have pre-arranged menus with them, the results have been outstanding.
THE FISH SHOP (287-298, Westbourne Grove, W11 2QA, Tel. 0207 221 7524)
Dour in appearance but utterly dependable Fredrik Lindfors has been dragged kicking and screaming from the old Kensington Place site (expiring lease) by the “Tasmanian Devil” that is Chris D’Sylva, a hugely energetic local Aussie to Westbourne Grove (on the corner of Portobello Road) for the minimalist spacious new Fish Shop. 3-4 stops on the 52 or 452 Bus will have you there in barely 5 minutes.
PROVENANCE BUTCHER (33, Kensington Park Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 2EU, Tel. 0207 229 8814)
Run by two Kiwi brothers. In my view as good as Lidgate but I believe about 20% cheaper.
UNE NORMANDE À LONDRES (Market Stall in Portobello Road Market, opposite Caffé Nero / Electric Cinema, Portobello W11)
Friday/Saturday market only. Great French cheeses and a bit of Charcuterie, Foie Gras, Honey and Jams.
THE GATE CINEMA (87, Notting Hill Gate, W11 3JZ)
A mid-Victorian restaurant which became a Cinema in 1911. The films hover between commercial and highbrow current releases but they regularly hold showings of mid-20th Century classics (Marilyn Monroe etc…). You can also take in a glass of wine! Canoodling banquettes at the back. The soundtrack still plays in the toilets. Price concessions.
PORTOBELLO ANTIQUES MARKET
LOCAL GARDNER - YECEL ACOSTA (Tel 07886 189 382)
REMOVALS - SIMON PARSONS (Tel 07946 774 297)
From the Antiques Trade and for successive House moves I have known Simon Parsons for over 35 years. In the week he is often at Sotheby’s of Bond Street and knows how to handle anything from a genuine Canalettos to formaldehyde tanks by Damian Hirst! He prefers to work in and around London but has done moves to Ireland; The Continent; America so can drive anything anywhere. A safe and trusted pair of hands, his team typically move house in half to a third of the time of the famous named Removals Companies and if on the weekends, you might save hundreds or even four-figures in the move. With his experience you don’t need to explain or pre-pack anything, even antique metamorphic furniture, he’ll look at it and know what is needed. Just hand him the keys and go and have a good lunch. Again, tell him “Tuggy recommended” otherwise he might not ring you back!
ANDREW EDMUNDS (46, Lexington St, Soho, London W1F 0LP, Tel. 0207 437 5708)
An early 18th century Soho townhouse with sloping wooden floors, sloping wooden tables, no-nonsense waitresses but exudes all the character of a William Hogarth engraving, such that you can actually buy next door, as indeed I have been doing since circa 1981. The food is more homely-cooking, Bistro-like, French-English but the short wine list, on price, is one of London’s greatest treasures. If Berry Brothers charge say £ 100 for a 1996 Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux, it’ll likely be £ 100-120 here. If anywhere you are tempted to upgrade on your wine choice, here it is.
NOBLE ROT (51, Lamb's Conduit St, Holborn, London WC1N 3NB, Tel. 0207 242 8963)
Where Sally Clarke’s leads with the food, Noble Rot leads with wine. Dan Keeling, formerly in the music business, was such an anorak about wine that he has fashioned himself a geek’s paradise. He also publishes a useful monthly magazine called Noble Rot. It looks like a younger, trendier, more spacious Andrew Edmunds. Younger crowd for sure and around 6.30 p.m. begins to fill-up pretty quickly. Ever-changing but usually fabulous selection of quality & cult wines by the glass. Ramonet for £ 20.00, Graham’s 1977 Port for £ 16.00, what is not to love? You want an Yquem 2001 or Pichon Baron 1983 by the glass…
NOIZÉ RESTAURANT (39, Whitfield Street, W1T 2SF, Tel. 0207 323 1310)
A curious atmosphere, not ideal for say a romantic couple but if you are four or more (or just a wine nerd like me) and create your own atmosphere this is a must visit. The wine list is adventurous, clever, very well-priced for the typically rare, aged and cult picks. The owner and also Sommelier, Mathieu Germond is absolutely tip-top and his last recommendations were all outstanding. The food is courageous and a little wacky so highs and lows, but definitely more often than not - excellent. If it was walkable I’d be there once a week.
DIP & FLIP (87, Battersea Rise, SW11 1HW)
Simple hamburger joint with stroppy staff but the hamburgers are one of the most outrageously moreish and cholesterol-inducing examples you will come across and for about £ 10.00 a go they embarrass most trendy chains. The hamburger comes topped with sliced roast beef (pink in the middle) and a bucket of beef gravy.
H.G.WALTER (51, Palliser Road, Hammersmith & Fulham, London W14 9EB, Tel. 0207 385 6466)
Though on the edge of West Kensington, this traditional Family Butcher is definitely worth a trip. A mere 10 seconds walk from the period Baron’s Court Tube Station. You might have to queue on Friday or Saturday but worth it. They also supply over thirty Michelin Star restaurants including Kitchen W8 and The River Cafe which is another good sign.
CHEZ BRUCE (2, Bellevue Road, London SW17 7EG, Tel. 0208 672 0114)
For many, “south-of-the-River” is a real mental block but Chez Bruce might even be worth swimming across the Thames to! Hugely popular with the Wine Trade and they host many Trade wine tastings and dinners, either in the simple but smart downstairs restaurant, or in the first floor private dining room. At the moment, they also offer free corkage on Sunday evenings.