Today I’m in Golborne Road, at the bottom (northern) end of the Portobello Road market, and although it’s just a 20 minute walk or so from Notting Hill, it’s a world apart from it’s fashionable neighbour, and often missed by tourists. The area has a much more working-class feel to it so if you're looking for ‘trend’ and glamour this isn’t the place for you. But I love it - it’s home to thriving Portuguese and Moroccan communities, there’s some great places to eat and shop and the second-hand market, which is at its best on Saturdays, is always fun to poke around in.
Walking up, you’ll see clothes laid out on the floor, second-hand clothes, Rastafarian hats (this area’s also home to a large Afro-Carribean community), and oddities such as medicinal bottles, statues of Jesus Christ and a blast from the past in the form of a giant Rubik’s cube (for pictures of these, see my next blog). and a random selection of antiques and bric-a-brac. You can’t help but feel you’ve escaped the commercialism of Portobello as you walk here - not only is everything cheaper but it’s less crowded - because many people visiting the area never make it this far up.
At the end of Golbourne Road, you’ll see Trellick Tower (built in the 60s, it’s a listed landmark and an architectural must-see). Around the corner is George’s Fish & Chips, a pie and mash shop (which I can’t vouch for but my grandmother swears by), a stall on the road named ‘Moroccan Fish’ (popular with the locals and famed for its fish and grills and spicy soups) famous for their fish grills and spicy soups). There’s also the Danish restaurant Snaps & Rye (I’ve been told they serve a mean liquorice hot chocolate). But the ‘piece de resistance’ for me has to be Lisboa cafe.
I discovered Lisboa at the tender age of 20 (my beloved first love introduced me to the place) and it fast earned a place in my heart for it’s delicious ‘natas’ - traditional custard tarts made with wonderfully flaky pastry. I have extraordinary memories from the first time I ever tasted one - sitting outside (on a cold, bright winter’s day) with a cup of steaming coffee and biting into one of these gooey delicacies. Even now, I still remember my then-boyfriend’s face as he looked at me and spied my delight. Before we left, we ordered two more and took them round to my grandparents (who lived not far away). My grandmother followed my lead and became an addict too.
Today, it’s still beloved by locals and always packed at the weekends. Opposite is the Portuguese deli, owned by the same people, where everything a Lisboan in exile could want - sweet wines, traditional biscuits and a wide array of cured meats. This, in my opinion, is the kind of store that makes Golborne Road so special - owned by the same family for years, and supported loyally over the decades by locals and people who travel across London for little bites of their childhood food.
So, as I said before, if you’re looking for glamour and trend, this isn’t the place for you, but if you want a slice of local West London life, then a stroll in this neighbourhood won’t disappoint. Personally, my great fear is that the area will end up a victim of heavy investment, driving small businesses away and I’m not alone apparently since, only two years ago thousands of people signed a petition to stop the ‘back-door gentrification’ of the area. Knowing the way London is going, however, it wouldn’t surprise me if - in ten year’s time - Golbourne Road will have gone the same was as Camden Town. So my advice is go now…and enjoy it whilst you can.
In terms of getting there, if you’ve walked down from Portobello Road, just continue on. Otherwise take the tube to Westbourne Park and it's a 5-minute walk. As a friend of mine remarked a while back, Golbourne Road might be the poor relation of the Kensington & Chelsea family, but she's got just as interesting a life story…