This is the forgotten street of not-so-wild west London. The street that you walk up when you get lost looking for Notting Hill Gate, or walk down to find High Street Kensington. It’s the geo-glue in the middle, holding the two together, where proper old-money types mix with organic, biodynamic, wheat-and-dairy-free fashionistas.
Kensington Church Street is an old part of town from a simpler time, way before Richard Curtis managed to convince the world that Hugh Grant was just an innocent spluttering boy being seduced by a girl in a flat which would cost bazillions in reality. It’s eccentrically posh, like Withnail’s Uncle Monty but without the harassment – camp, fun and welcoming to the odd young lush.
Even Madonna once set up home here, and for good reason. Not only are there 13 antique shops within about a mile radius, there are also beautiful pubs and flowers everywhere – and (unlike Madge) KCS doesn’t take itself too seriously. A few years ago you could find a shop here flogging real suits of armour for your ‘Scooby-Doo’ castle; now the street has done whatever the opposite of gentrifying is and the top brekkies are served by a Welsh Scouser. It all adds up to somewhere that you can use to impress visiting parents, American friends and mates with a fear of going west.
Blueberry pancakes with bacon at Ffiona’s. Run by Ffiona herself, it has what must be the most comprehensive brunch menu in all of London. Any of the Lebanese dishes at Randa by Maroush. Delicious staples such as falafel, quality kebabs, salads and pastries are available to eat in or take away. Or be adventurous and try the lisanat (lamb’s tongue). Organic sharing plates, while sitting on barrels in The Shed. Set up by ruddy friendly farming chaps the Gladwin brothers, it serves seasonal food alongside a brilliant cocktail list. A spot of afternoon tea at The Orangery, a royal pavilion in Kensington Gardens.
Anything at the Churchill Arms: probably the most beautiful pub in London, known for its huge floral exterior. The interior is just as delightful and the staff are as friendly as they come. A key lime martini at Dirty Bones, a basement bar and restaurant with DJs and kitsch 1950s decor. A pale ale at the Mall Tavern. It’s one of the few drinks you can get there for (just) under a fiver, but the atmosphere is great, the burgers delicious and they serve a great cocktail with lavender in.
Go antiquing. It’s less intimidating and gaudy here than in other nearby areas such as King Street. There are three dedicated antique chandelier shops for starters, and plenty of other bargains to be had for those with a discerning eye. Head to Kensington Palace and hang out in its vast 242-acre grounds, which include a Diana Memorial Playground and a Dutch‑inspired tulip garden.
Vintage menswear from Hornets, the ‘oldest gentlemen’s vintage clothier in England’. The people living in Ezra Pound’s former house opposite leave cushions on the walls for visitors to sit on. Who said Londoners weren’t welcoming? All manner of great finds in the local charity shops. This is premium castoffsville, so don’t be surprised to see vintage Chanel among the bobbled cardigans at Trinity Hospice or Octavia Foundation.
If you only do one thing…
Meander down Kensington Church Walk, a secret passageway with beautiful hanging flowers and a few tightly squeezed boutiques.
By Rebecca Wint. Who totally reckons she could pull off a suit of armour.
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