A Portobello Staycation:
As a teenager in the 1970s I read the fantasy novels of author Michael Moorcock. The Ladbroke Grove/Portobello Road area of Notting Hill as portrayed in his books was the epicentre of a debauched carnival of excess populated by acid queens, transsexual time travellers and assorted other rock’n roll casualties.
The truth wasn’t so far from the fiction. I became a regular attendee at The Notting Hill Carnival, a celebration of the West Indian culture of much of the local population. The streets throbbed to the beats of rum fuelled reggae and soca sound systems and were filled with the smells of curried goat and jerk chicken. The area was later fictionalised in Richard Curtis’ movie Notting Hill in a romanticised fantasy which presented a sanitised and gentrified view of the area.I’ve been invited by Curious Hotels to have an urban staycation at The Portobello Hotel, a rock’n roll haven since 1971 frequented by Johnny Depp and Kate Moss who filled the Victorian bath with Champagne and Alice Cooper who kept a boa constrictor in the bath. My boa constrictor doesn’t drink champagne but it’s a great opportunity to explore the area as well as staying in one of the world’s classic boutique hotels.
Strolling to the hotel from the station you become immediately aware of the area’s vibrant social mix but turning into Stanley Gardens you are in the midst of some of the most elegant Georgian townhouses in London with the hotel sitting in two adjacent neo-classical mansions overlooking one of London’s most beautiful private gardens.The reception staff made checking in a pleasure and showed me the lounge/breakfast room and its well stocked honesty bar. The interior retains a boho country house 1970s feel which gives it a lot of character.
The vintage inspired decor is charming and idiosyncratic with the colourful walls adorned with frescoes. The hotel is serviced by a lift but I enjoyed climbing the long staircases, which recreate the warmth of a family home as you sink into the deep pile carpets.
There are no bad rooms at The Portobello. I was staying in one of the newly refurbished ‘Great Rooms.’ Painted in a relaxing ‘Wasabi Green’ it was more like a mini suite with sofa and a large comfortable bed with dark wood features.
It was at the top of the house and had a balcony with a spectacular view over the gardens creating a positively tranquil feel. The room also housed a collection of stylish antiques and vintage Penguin books sourced from the many antique shops and market stalls around the Portobello Road. There was an exciting hidden closet with a mini bar, an espresso machine and hanging area.
The palatial bathroom with walk in shower, a beautiful Victorian free standing bath and full size luxurious Green & Spring bath and body products all added to the sense of glamour.Before I headed out for dinner I took the opportunity to explore Portobello Road which snakes down virtually the whole length of Notting Hill.
The antiques market runs on a Saturday and is the biggest in the world but even on a weekday evening there was lots to see and do. The range of shops is astonishing; from vintage antique emporiums to idiosyncratic fashion, interiors to specialist food shops and you could easily spend a couple of days wandering around the area.
For culture vultures there is The Gate Theatre and The Electric Cinema and there is also a great range of restaurants and pubs. For eating out you could try Dock Kitchen, John Doe, E&O, Wormwood, Zayane or Cottons Caribbean Restaurant and pubs worth visiting include The Eagle, The Churchill Arms and The Elgin.After a great night’s sleep and a soak in the tub it was time for breakfast. A generous Continental breakfast is included in the room price but there are also cooked options if you want.
Breakfast included fresh juices, delicious pastries and breads, cereals, yoghurts, meats and cheeses, coffees, teas and hot chocolate.
The Portobello Hotel was hard to leave. If I didn’t have to pick up my boa constrictor from the vet I could easily just have moved in and lived out my Rock’n Roll fantasies. If you are looking for a London stay with a bit more edge and character but still with comfort and style then The Portobello Hotel is a great bet.
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The Portobello Hotel
22 Stanley Gardens
London, W11 2NG
Tel: +44 (0) 207 727 2777
Fax: + 44 (0) 207 792 9641