“I love dis great polluted place
Where pop stars come to live their dreams
Here ravers come for drum and bass
And politicians plan their schemes,
The music of the world is here
Dis city can play any song
They came to here from everywhere
Tis they that made dis city strong.
A world of food displayed on streets
Where all the world can come and dine
On meals that end with bitter sweets
And cultures melt and intertwine”
– An exert from Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem ‘The London Breed’
Portobello Market, situated in the heart of trendy Notting Hill, never ceases to amaze me. From its vibrant coloured doors, buzz of human activity on every street corner, untold number of genuine antiques lining the street, the lingering fragrance of almost every world nation’s cuisine drifting through the air, to the constant hum of music that follows you down the street; in amongst all of this peaceful chaos it feels like home. I’ve been going to Portobello Market ever since I was little and even now, astonishingly it is as if I have never truly explored all of what this market has to offer. It is not a stagnant place, but rather over time it has changed, adapted, and modified all for the better.
To begin our journey to Portobello Market we find ourselves starting on Goldbourne Road just seconds from Portobello Road, where the market formally starts.
1. Lisboa Patisserie.
This modest quintessential Portuguese cafe has THE BEST Pastel de Natas in London, hands down! Delving into one takes you back to the streets of Belém, Portugal where these heavenly parcels of joy were first created. Now, if you don’t know what Pastel de Natas are, you may have to ask yourself, are you actually living life? They can only be described as a Portuguese custard tart, but believe me when I say that they are much more than that. The crisp and flaky layered pastry encomposses the smooth, soft, and yet firm yellowy goodness that is a Pastel de Nata. These can be washed down with either a warm hot chocolate, Guaraná (my preferred beverage), a Bica (Portuguese Espresso), or a Galão (Portuguese Latte). After eating a full box of these pastries ensure that you try the other traditional Portuguese cakes and pastries that Lisboa Patisserie has to offer. Don’t worry about bursting the bank just yet as prices here are very affordable. TIP: Get here early, because the Pastel de Natas do run out fairly quickly, especially on a Saturday. WARNING: You will have withdrawal symptoms after eating one.
2. International Street Food at Acklam Village (The Taste of Cuba stall and POPTATA stall is a MUST!)
By now, making your way through the relentless stream of stalls filled with vintage clothes, traditional afternoon tea sets, and other unique knick-knacks that you certainly don’t need for your home but definitely want, you have almost definitely built up an appetite. Thankfully, Acklam Village comes to the rescue! With its extensive range of cuisine, you are definitely spoilt for choice when coming here.
I highly recommend going over to POPTATA. This stall is all about chips, and then some. The potatoes are pealed right infront of your eyes. They are fried not once, but twice to create just the perfect crisp on the outside, and fluffyness on the inside. They are then tossed in a gorgeous mix of rosemary and other seasonings, and then topped with your choice of cheese. My favourite is Parmesan cheese with a squeeze of BBQ sauce. These freshly made chips are the perfect remedy to a chillly day in spring. There is always a line of people waiting to get there fix of POPTATA’s chips, but it is worth the wait, trust me.
Now that we’ve gotten the side dish out of the way, we go in search of the main meal. This takes us over to the Taste of Cuba stall that will have you thinking you are on the narrow cobbled streets of Old Havana listing to a live band play Guajira music, it’s that delicious!
I always get their signature ‘Cuban Sandwich’ which consists of pulled pork, ham, cheese, salsa, mustard and jalapeños. I then add a squirt of BBQ sauce and ask for a portion of fried plantain. All of this is delicately placed into a warm and toasted Cuban baguette.
Biting into one of these sandwiches, is literally an explosion of flavour. The juicy well-seasoned pulled pork (and if you’re fortunate with a bit of crackling) is complimented by the slightly tangy mustard and BBQ sauce. The jalapeños and salsa give it a subtle kick of spice, while the fried plantain sweetens the palate. The ham, cheese, and bread soak in all the flavours to ensure that all the toppings are not overpowering. For only £7, this is a definite winner! The portion sizes are more than substantial and throw in some great Cuban hospitality, what more could you ask for?
If you’re wondering where we are going to be devouring this feast, well look no further as Acklam Village has it’s very own free indoor seating and dining area, where you can sit back, relax, eat and recharge in preparation for the next half of your journey.
Here you can enjoy live music from the various artists at this venue, while sipping on a cool cider from the bar. The mismatched furniture and bold art on the walls is just one of the many charms to this place.
3. Mau Mau Bar
The Mau Mau Bar is a great spot to listen to live music from some very talented and undiscovered artists. It was actually fairly recently that I stumbled across this place while walking through the market. While shuffling through some old vinyl records I heard this soulful voice come out of nowhere. I saw a crowd of people spilling out of the Mau Mau Bar onto the pavement and so went over to see where this voice was coming from. If you get the chance to, pop in here to listen to some of the most authentic musical artists this city has to offer. It is a small and intimate setting, but packs in lots of character.
4. Rough Trade and vinyl record stalls
If you’re a vinyl lover and collector, like myself, then Rough Trade is a great shop to find your next vinyl obsession. They have a lot of variety and genres to choose from, that it shouldn’t be too hard to find just what you’re looking for. TIP: Be sure to go to other vinyl record stalls placed sporadically along the market, as most often you can get vinyls for a fairer price than you would in an actual vinyl shop.
- Humming Bird Bakery:
Great cupcakes, especially the Red Velvet!
- Street Art:
Keep on the look out for the awesome street art Portobello is sheltering. #DOITFORTHEGRAM
For those times you are in need of a toilet, but don’t want to have to buy a coffee from Starbucks just to use theirs, make your way to the corner of Talbot Road and Portobello Road where you will find free public toilets. I know what you’re thinking, PUBLIC toilets? Don’t worry, these toilets aren’t as grimy as the ones you remember from your childhood.
- Street Performers:
Spend a little time listening and watching the street performers, they add to the quirky ambience of Portobello Market. Show them some love by dropping in some spare change if you like what you hear.
- Opening Times: Portobello Market is partially open throughout the week, but the best time to go is on a Saturday morning when it’s in full swing and you can truly see it in all it’s glory. It is the busiest time to go, but can you say you’ve truly experienced a London market if you haven’t been knocked in the shoulder every 1.5 minutes?
If you’ve read to the end of this blog, then you’re one of the real ones and I thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my tips and favourite places in Portobello Market. Leave a comment and let me know what are some of your favourites.
Until next time,