This popular Portobello Road basement bar calls itself a tiki bar, but the hilariously dodgy decor resists simple categorisation. It looks like a suburban-American rumpus room c1964; even Alan Partridge might find it a bit much. But underneath the thick layer of kitsch is a very good cocktail bar. Staff go to great lengths to make sure you order the right drink for you, and the bartenders know their business. They also spin a great ’60s playlist. On weekdays, even though there can be sizeable crowds, you’ll be okay without booking. The semi-private room at the back is great for larger groups; the booths near the entrance are cosy, but have cramped leg-room.Read more
From a distance, with its white wooden cladding and high pitched roof, this restaurant does look suspiciously like a shed. Home for years to the old Ark restaurant, under brothers Oliver and Richard Gladwin it’s had a playful makeover that’s as much barnyard as back-garden, with piggy portraits, bits of tractor, and charming staff in check shirts. It’s a fitting setting for the food, which goes beyond the usual hackneyed take on British. Plates are small, meant for sharing, and divided into sections such as ‘mouthfuls’, ‘fast cooking’ and ‘slow cooking’. The menu changes regularly; many ingredients are sourced from in or around the family farm in Nutbourne, West Sussex (including wine from Nutbourne Vineyards). From fresh-tasting carrot houmous with sourdough breadsticks, to the meaty goodness of the Nutbourne banger with own-made mustard, it was all delicious, and inventive without being tricksy. Hake with samphire, capers and a slick of red pepper sauce was possibly our favourite plate, though spatchcock quail with cucumber, poppy seed and a delicate barbecue sauce ran it close. Only a slightly too salty, overly fatty veal blade with haricot beans and black cabbage disappointed. Puddings are wickedly good – their ‘Magnum vienetta parfait’ is a reinvention of the old standard (with added salted caramel and dark, dark chocolate) that has to be tried. We’ll be back – especially as prices are so very reasonable for the area and the quality.Read more
Venue says: Join us for one of our jerk chicken burgers and wash it down with a £5 cocktail from our happy hour menu every day from 6-8pm! Rum n' Ting!
There surely can’t be a more jolly place to drink in Notting Hill: colourful wooden wall-slats and furniture fill the upstairs bar, and down in the party-time basement there’s good reggae, very friendly staff and rum, rum and more rum. The selection is enormous, and you could spend weeks here without getting through it all. On the cocktail front, there are plenty of big fruity numbers, but the classicism of a perfect daiquiri makes us think this is the way to go. There’s a happy hour from 6pm to 8pm too. If you stay later, you’ll probably find yourself unable to resist the lure of jerk chicken, saltfish fritters or just an enormous bowl of sweet potato fries.Read more
Few haute establishments have the hospitable hum of the Ledbury. Whether it’s due to the off-centre location, the Aussie input, or diners’ sheer delight in securing a table, this former pub remains top-tier for gustatory good times. British ingredients – Hampshire buffalo milk curd, smoked eel, Cumbrian lamb – line up alongside delicacies such as foie gras, Tokyo turnips, Bresse chicken and black truffle, but it’s chef Brett Graham’s clever contemporary treatment of them that sets the place apart. Best go for the set lunch or commit to the mesmerising £105 tasting menu; at £80 for three courses, the carte does not have the other menus’ winning sense of value, particularly if you choose the simpler ingredient-led dishes. A spring plate of creamed Jersey Royals with morels cooked in tea would have been a delightful inclusion in a dégustation, but served as a starter was not sufficiently above mashed potato to justify the outlay, even though the mushrooms were sublime. Ledbury signatures, however, are consistently thrilling – particularly the flame-grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, celtic mustard and shiso; and, well, all the desserts. The wine list is personable with a particularly good choice of sweet wines by the glass, plus great beers from Australia, the US and even Notting Hill.Read more
This stylish addition to the capital’s Hellenic dining scene opened in 2012 in what used to be Costas Grill. Its food has more in common with the creations of leading Athens restaurants than anything you’d find in London – and the relief from the city’s Greeks is almost palpable. Purists might be troubled by the progressive presentation – mezédes are served in Kilner jars; tyrópitta is separated into filling and filo for DIY crumbling – but the flavours are reassuringly authentic. A jar of creamy white taramá hit just the right note of tangy, savoury deliciousness; another of fava (spilt-pea purée), accompanied by tender octopus, was so light it could have been whipped. Horiátiki contained top-quality oil and feta, properly ripe tomatoes, and (unexpectedly) Cretan-style rusk croûtons and salty capers. The hot dishes are better still. Keftédes were sublime and Mazi’s slabs of feta encased in black-sesame tempura with punchy lemon marmalade might well consign the humble saganáki to history. An all-Greek wine list showcases the region’s best bottles but on a Friday night, cocktails made with mastiha resin spirit were preferred by the gangs of young Greeks tightly packed either side of us in this fresh and contemporary dining room.Read more
Like the storm which bridges its final acts, Robert Holman’s play swells, pregnant with meaning and guarded, overcast silences, before breaking into beautiful, painful torrents. A family drama that begins with two orphans on the morning of their father’s funeral, it’s built quietly from a series of counterpoints and contradictions, as two very different men play out what it means to outlive their childhoods, and what inheritances they are inevitably burdened with.Holman’s style takes time to sink under the skin – at first the strangeness of his turns of phrase, overloaded with significance as if romantically misremembered from a vital conversation in the distant past, can be alienating, almost affronting. But soon its brilliance reveals itself: its rhythms and language may be heightened but they’re also clear and honest, they’re perfect kin for his vivid imagery: a wasp crushed into a jar with shards of windfall apple, a childish arrow fired north to Scotland in the crash of a thunderstorm. There’s a touch of the gothic to ‘A Breakfast of Eels’, in its concern with inheritances and legitimacy, and its contrasting of the pampered urban with the wild and barefooted countryside, but there’s a thread of the classical too. Holman is literate without being laboured, he uses music and song with the same sure and deft touch he uses to swat away melodrama and ground his plotting in the truth of his characters and their lives.No small part of its success is due to the work of Andrew ShRead more
The word ‘taquería’ is traditionally associated with street stands churning out endless tacos. They do that here too, but in rather more salubrious surroundings and with a clipboard-toting greeter thrown in for good measure. It’s a charming, independent-feeling little place of two rooms, with dark wood floors and pristine white walls decorated with a few Mexican film posters. The food is equally unfussy: a dozen or so tacos (using corn tortillas made in-house daily), a handful of tostadas and a few monthly changing specials. One taco of ‘house-made chorizo’ came topped with flavoursome mince; a slow-cooked pork version contained meat as soft as cotton wool; another of steak was just the right side of chewy. A ceviche tostada had great texture – silky yet chunky pollack – but tasted too fishy, suggesting it wasn’t the freshest of catches. Service was swift if somewhat harried. To drink, there’s Mexican beer, aguas frescas (cooling fruit or nut-based drinks), an extensive selection of mezcales and tequilas and some fine cocktails. The delicious habanero hot sauce is made by sister operation Cool Chile, and available to buy. The acoustics were our only real cause for complaint – something about the main dining room amplified our fellow diners’ chatter to wince-making levels.Read more
Venue says: Special occasion... romantic evening... business meeting... we are known for it!
This Notting Hill restaurant represents John Burton-Race's return to London. The kitchen is headed up by Stephen Humphries, with Norman Fabrizi running the dining room. There's a French slant to the modern-European menu, with a la carte options ranging from a pressed terrine of foie gras served with peanut praline, seasonal fruit purées, radish and toasted brioche to a tortellini of truffled goat's curd with toasted almonds, crispy garlic, white Alba truffle and a sage beurre noisette. Tasting menus are available, too. The wine list, put together by Burton-Race and sommelier Csaba Adamy, boasts a French bent too, complemented by further old world options plus some new - including bottles from Japan and Hungary.Read more
The Portobello Star is the home of the incredible Portobello Road gin, and gin (of numerous brands) takes pride of place on the drinks list. But there’s much more on the quaintly old-fashioned menu (which includes elaborate discourses on the origins of the drinks). The room is good-looking, long and thin, with a mirrored and wall-tiled alcove at the back with banquette seating. It can easily get crowded even on a weeknight, with mostly young Notting Hillbillies in search of strong, well-made drinks. We wish the stools weren’t quite so high and the climb to the loos not so steep (dangerous if you’ve had a few). But these are not serious complaints about one of west London’s true star bars. Upstairs is the ‘Ginstitute’, where you can book a course to find out all about London’s spirit (and even make some yourself).Read more
Venue says: Welcome to Greek Affair! Greek Affair is a family-run Greek restaurant in London's Notting Hill Gate offering authentic home cooking based on popular regional recipes of both the Greek islands and the mainland. Greek Affair was created in 2003 by a family that has been in the restaurant business for over 30 years. The taste, style and presentation of our dishes represent the original ouzeri/mezedopolio type of establishment offering a vast variety of meze dishes (tapas style) for both vegetarian and meat eaters. Our restaurant looks and feels like home. It is small and cosy, with a very informal and relaxed ambiance. When mixed with the Greek hospitality and exquisite taste, it will take you back to the colours and essences of Greece.
Time your visit with dinner at the tail-end of the week and there’s plenty of buzz at this decade-old spot in Notting Hill; on our Friday lunch trip we experienced deathly silence and empty tables. Greek Affair reduced its midday openings to Fridays and weekends in early 2013, and perhaps Fridays will follow suit. Nevertheless, there’s lots to like about this relaxed and contemporary space. The huge wooden dining table by the entrance is just right for a celebratory meal and there’s clearly plenty of skill in the kitchen. Greek rather than Cypriot food is the speciality. Expertly spiced soutzoukákia were faultless, while a piping hot portion of well-seasoned fried calamares was simple and delicious. Other dishes were disappointing: a humdrum aubergine and halloumi dish; a tower of beetroot and feta swimming in balsamic. And there’s no place in a horiátiki for iceberg lettuce, especially not piles of the stuff. We’ve had much more success ordering from the main courses – the pastitsio (a baked pasta and meat dish) is a favourite – and we love the upstairs courtyard terrace. But there’s work to be done if Greek Affair is going to keep up with its new neighbour, Mazi.Read more