With the melting pot of cultures that Portobello Road represents, a fusion-inspired menu feels like the only way to do the iconic postcode justice. Notting Hill’s Portobello 177 is headed up by chef Shay Ola, co-founder of Rebel Dining Society and the now-shuttered east London Mexican street food joint Death By Burrito, which inspired a cookbook of the same name. At Portobello 177, Ola pays homage to Caribbean flavours with a modern British twist, mirroring the area’s carnival heritage, and adding the occasional nod to Japanese ingredients, bringing in a welcome citrus-induced freshness.
As you enter, you’re enveloped by a lively, loud buzz: with large groups chatting over sharing plates, alongside couples tucked away on intimate booth corner tables. It’s a stylish place, with intimate low level lighting, dark wood panelling and padded sea green seats. On the walls, colourful artwork of tropical scenes creates a relaxed atmosphere, conjuring images of sunny days abroad.
As the newest venture by the team behind Trailer Happiness – the long-running tiki bar downstairs – Portobello 177 invokes a similar kind of celebratory spirit.
While the food is technically ‘small plates’, it’s not the kind where your waiter informs you it’s four to five dishes per person and each dish is £20, bankrupting you through one-bite courses. Instead, we shared five dishes between two, leaving us pleasantly full with room for dessert, alongside my cocktail choice of ‘The Fun One’: a refreshing, tart-tasting blend of tequila, mixed with notes of chilli and calamansi.
Cured mackerel was a definite highlight, beautifully arranged on a bed of pickled and peppery kohlrabi, then lightly dusted with toasted nori for crunch, alongside slices of preserved kumquat adding an extra zing of flavour. The oxtail tart was a comforting combination of buttery pastry and ‘smoked’ (aka mashed) potato, layered with a surprisingly bitter padron pepper puree. This was followed by a succulent pork collar with butter bean mash, evoking the pleasant nostalgia of a Sunday roast. The headliner though had to be the hispi cabbage with miso and XO sauce. Here, the humble cabbage acted as the perfect canvas for the addictively umami mushroom-heavy sauce.
As the newest venture by the team behind Trailer Happiness – the long-running tiki bar downstairs – Portobello 177 invokes a similar kind of celebratory spirit. Ola’s cookery guides you on a journey that excites and surprises, but never once tries to overload you.
The vibe A stylish and lively addition to the heart of west London, celebrating the area’s rich heritage of British and Caribbean influences.
The food Sharing style small plates, infused with Caribbean flavours and the occasional nod to Japanese-inspired culinary subtlety.
The drink An impressive selection of tequilas, natural wines and cocktails, jazzed up with fresh herbs and fun ingredients, from Thai basil and yuzu to cinnamon and absinthe.
Time Out tip Treat yourself to two desserts for a perfectly balanced flavour combination: the melt-in-your-mouth hibiscus cheesecake, and the heavenly peach sorbet.