One of the fun things about being an Airbnb guest is the opportunity to have a fantasy local life during your stay. If you’re near bustling Portobello Road, the commercial heart of Notting Hill, here is the ultimate guide to shopping in the neighborhood. You will feel positively native… without breaking your travel budget.
First, a word of advice to visitors, and Americans in particular. Please know that plastic bags ARE NOT customarily given out at the checkout. Shoppers are expected to bring their own “market bags”.
Stuff the odd purchase in your handbag or simply carry it out. If store shopping bags are available, they cost a few pence a few pence each. Otherwise, they are easy to find and inexpensive to purchase…
That’s true of Tesco, the giant supermarket chain, and Poundland, and especially the small local provisioners or market vendors. Don’t stand there waiting for the clerk. You’ll feel foolish and your local ‘cover’ will be blown.
Each location is linked to a map so you needn’t wander around aimlessly. Unless you want to.
Poundland, 211-213 Portobello Road
Poundland is sort of the English version of the Dollar Store. Discounted and dependable. It stocks the usual: health and beauty aids, as well as toys, stationery, paper goods, batteries, all manner of stuff.
I would not recommend Poundland for food, apart from a bag of chips or a bottle of water, but this is where to go if you’ve forgotten shampoo or other necessities. Note that the closest BOOTS pharmacy is at Notting Hill Gate; not very convenient to Portobello Road.
One last note: Poundland is go-to if you want to invest in a U.K. electrical appliance, such as a hairdryer. I’ve found that item to be very helpful, especially when I stay at small hotels or pubs in the country. I think it’s worth tucking one in your suitcase, especially if you use Airbnb regularly. You never know.
Tesco, 224-226 Portobello Road
Tesco is the UK’s largest grocery chain; this outlet is small by U.S. suburban standards but is very well stocked. If you plan to cook or just need the basics during your stay, you’ll want to stop in.
Frankly, I’ve found this Tesco both cleaner and more efficient than these somewhat dated Yelp reviews. Someone must have gotten the proverbial “memo.”
They have a surprisingly good, varied and reasonably priced wine selection. The produce is reasonable, locally sourced with plenty of organic fruits and veg. Two important
Tesco will probably not set your heart afire – and it certainly is not as fun as the Portobello Road markets (Wednesday-Saturday), but if you need a carton of milk, you don’t need anything fancy.
The Master Butcher, 234 Portobello Road
These guys are great; their open butcher shop is top-ranked and a must stop on Portobello Road. They are friendly, helpful, full of cooking tips and ready to trim anything to your specifications. Need lamb for stew? They will cut up a loin in nothing flat and happily share their knowledge with a chat and a smile. Very neighborly!
Just don’t ask for pork chops as I did. I’m ashamed to say it was before I knew better. They sell only halal meat meaning they follow the dietary and butchery laws of the Islamic tradition (“halal” is Arabic and translates approximately to “permissible”). Pork is off the list, but they have probably the best chicken (corn fed) around. And the lamb is amazing.
R. Garcia & Sons 248-250 Portobello Road
London’s ethnic diversity is well known and a characteristic of Notting Hill. A short walk along Portobello you’ll see the flavors of the world. Just up from the Master Butcher is wonderful, and I mean wonderful, Spanish specialty shop, R. Garcia. Spotlessly clean, tidy shelves groan with every imaginable Spanish delicacy and imported household goods grocery for homesick Spanish ex-pats. Looking for a great Rioja? Garcia has an extensive selection of Spanish wines, to go with the mouth-watering jambon and chorizo, olives and cheeses. Just right for taking back to the Airbnb.
Portobello Road is famed for its zany specialty markets; everything from vintage clothing – and other antiques to street performers. Every day there is something going on but Friday and Saturday are the market-a-palooza days; a dazzling circus of people, food, and goods.
Friday/Saturday, when vendors set up along Portobello, the entire street is an open air, foodie delight – produce, fish, meat, cheese, baked goods, you name it.
A table of simply delectable mushrooms, for example. Make it a point to browse, even if you don’t want to cook. Browse the offerings or buy some fruit (in season), flowers or baked goods from the vendors. It feels just as if they’ve just driven in from the country – which is probably the case.
Bonus: On holiday from cooking? A few suggestions…
– Gail’s Bakery – A London chain, but reliable, great food and coffee.
– The Tin Shed – My personal favorite, just off Portobello. Feel like a native as you sip a latte alongside neighborhood moms after school drop-off or eavesdrop on a local business meeting.
Food and drink along or right off Portobello Road:
– MAM – A newcomer to the neighborhood; delicate Vietnamese BBQ right in the heart of Notting Hill. It’s a tiny place; don’t leave the neighborhood without a visit.
– The Chipping Forecast – If you feel you came all this way and need a proper dose of Fish ’n Chips, this is the place for you.
Now go out there and have a great time in your Airbnb palace, you local, you!
What are your favorite spots in Notting Hill?
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