Christmas arrives in Notting Hill
Guest Feature by Russell Bowes
As November ebbs to a close Christmas will be on us all to quickly. I usually don’t start thinking about Christmas until well into December, leaving my gift shopping to the final moments and fighting my way through the stores. This year Christmas has kicked off a little earlier for me with a trip to the Red Lemon Pub’s pop up Port and Portobello bar. I wasn’t sure what to expect when going to a pop up bar within a pub, after all don’t all pubs have a bar? Onwards to Notting Hill to investigate.
The Red Lemon is perfectly situated for a cozy drink and nibbles following an afternoons shopping. It sits at the end of All Saints road, just a stones throw from fashionable Portobello road and its markets which are perfect for getting in some Christmas shopping.
Alli Kyle took over the Red Lemon this year and has crafted it into the perfect London pub. It is invitingly local for people popping in for an afterwork drink but has a distinct gastro pub and arty feel. Downstairs the walls are adorned with beautiful pictures by a local artist. There’s a real homely feel to the pub, helped by the lovely roaring log fire going in the corner. But the pop up bar is what I’m here for so upstairs I go.
Upstairs that cozy and homely feel has been continued in the Port and Portobello bar. Walking in the room feels warm and inviting, helped again by another fire going at one end of the bar where we toasted marshmallows at the end of our evening.
The bar area is decorated in a festive fashion with holly and Christmas lights and the splash of holly is continued in the table decorations. I liked the stocking hanging from the fireplace too.
The bar itself is unobtrusively placed in one corner of the room with a selection of ports, sherry’s and bottled ales. A draft ale from the local Portobello Brewing Company (situated a stones throw from the Red Lemon) is available downstairs at the main bar, though ours were brought up to us upon ordering. It is a rich dark burnt coffee colour, I expected it to be very strong. Trying it I was surprised to find a much gentler light tasting ale with a background note of chocolate. My partner who isn’t an ale drinker at all, found it an excellent drink and she really enjoyed it with the sharing snacks.
After an expert introduction to the range of ports, sherry’s and ales (they really know their drinks here) as well as the food we would be tasting we ordered one of the Christmas sharing selections of bar snacks and a half of the pared ale. Though the sharing board comprised several snacks with a pretty wide variety of tastes and flavours, the ale was perfectly chosen to pair with all of them.
The Christmas bar snack selection board comprises:
Colston Bassett stilton and onion marmalade on toast
Sausages wrapped in bacon
Savoury cheese and bacon bites
Mini Mince pie parcels
We delved into the first board with such gusto that I failed to make much of a note and forgot to sample each of the snacks with the pared drink it goes best with!
Our second board arrived with our chosen selection of drinks, a glass of the Graham’s 10yr Tawny Port and the All saints Muscat sherry. Popping on my reviewer hat I carefully sampled each of the bar snacks with the two drinks.
As advised by the excellent staff the 10 year old Tawny port perfectly complimented the stilton and onion marmalade on toast, I highly recommend this combination and I could have eaten a lot more of it! The strong and distinctive taste of each gave a really rich and wonderful experience to try together.
Next I tried the Welsh rarebit with the All Saints Sherry, my personal favourite from the evenings drink selection. The sweet stickiness of the sherry married excellently with the tangy bite of the aged cheddar. It also paired well with the mince pies, the double hit of spiced sweetness worked to create a real feel of Christmas in your mouth.
I felt the sausages and the cheese and bacon bites worked best with the ale whose light taste worked best with the salty pork and the rich silky melted cheese. The sherry, though my favourite, would have overpowered them just a little.
A real stand out was something I wasn’t expecting – cranberry sauce. Usually I would pass straight away on this but in full reviewer mode I tried some and straight away fell in love.
After enjoying our selection of bar snacks we sat back with some of the sherry and the warmth of the fireplace. As a final treat we each toasted a giant marshmallow on the open log fire, a large basket of marshmallows and toasting sticks are right by the fire.
The Port and Portobello bar is open daily from 12 -8pm from 27th November till Christmas eve.
The Red Lemon Pub
45 All Saints Road,