News from Notting Hill, London
Still the chicest neighborhood
The movie may have come and gone, but Notting Hill is still the chicest neighborhood in London. The ladies who lunch here also produce films, run law firms, and preside over the local garden committees. And celebrities are thick on the ground in a quiet sort of Notting Hill way. Was that the actor, Alan Rickman? Film director Stephen Frears? Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones's Diary?
The shop of choice these days is Vessel, which sells svelte (svelte being the current London word for cool) back-in-vogue Scandinavian goods, such as the fruit bowl below. There's tableware to die for: Classic Alvar Aalto flower vases; bowls and platters in subtle drenched colors; sculptured glass candlesticks; bowls for sushi and mugs for sake in pale, muted greens and grays; egg-shaped vodka glasses so heavy they don't really sit flat on the table (so you just keep drinking). Best of all, the wittiest tray in town for a TV dinner is a hot-pink amoeba-shaped china platter with slots for the pink plate and mug. (114 Kensington Park Road, London W11; 44-2-07-727-8001.)
At the crossroads of Kensington Park Road and Westbourne Grove is an elegantly restored townhouse that lodges Paul Smith, Ltd., the west London edition of Smith's empire. God really is in the detail here: the glass stairs; the Smithian selection of gags and gadgets; a brilliantly edited assortment of gifts, books, jewelry, toys; men's suits off the peg or bespoke; woman's clothes, sweaters, shirts, ties. You might even see Madonna or Meg Ryan waft by. (122 Kensington Park Road, London W11; 44-2-07-727-3553.)
The best gossip in the area—everyone eavesdrops—is exchanged by the clients at the top local hair salon, Parsons Skott (243 Westbourne Grove, London W11; 44-2-07-243-0939). It's located conveniently across the street from Wild at Heart, the world's most inviting (and expensive) flower stall, and Tom's (Tom Conran, son of Sir Terence), for bagels at breakfast and salads for lunch.
Need a great baby gift? What about a set of cashmere baby sweats in ice-cream stripes from The Portobello Road Cashmere Shop? A few blocks north of Westbourne Grove, it has a laid-back, hole-in-the-wall appeal. It sells top-quality cashmere at half the ordinary price.
Open only on Fridays and Saturdays—Portobello Market days. (166 Portobello Road, London W11; 44-2-07-792-2571.)
Down the incredibly trendy Westbourne Grove is Emma Hope for cute shoes. Delicious little backless velvet mules (in great colors), zebra loafers, and classic pumps with a twist. (207 Westbourne Grove, London W11; 44-2-07-313-7493.)
For a quick bite, head for Mr. Christian's Deli in Elgin Crescent, a block from Portobello Road. You'll find cheese, cold-cuts, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. The breads—try the fig and fennel—are superb; so are croissants, pain au chocolat, and Danish. All of it's dished up by the nicest guys in town: Greg, Ben, Matt, and Trish (not a guy). Mr. Christian's is open by 7:00 a.m. in case you're shopping in the Portobello Antiques Market early, when the dealers and connoisseurs go. (11 Elgin Crescent, London W11 2JA; 44-2-07-229-0501.)
More sustenance on the other side of Notting Hill: the newly instituted real English breakfast at Kensington Place. KP is a big, noisy, brilliant brasserie. Now you can settle down to bacon, eggs, sausage, kippers, the works, in its small, private, white-linen room where the smell of fresh coffee's in the air, from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. (201-209 Kensington Church Street, London W87LX; 44-2-07-727-3184.)