The best restaurants in Notting Hill, from the Pelican to Orasay and the Ledbury

·16-min read
Delicate joy: pink prawns at Orasay  (Nazrin Ibadova)
Delicate joy: pink prawns at Orasay (Nazrin Ibadova)

What’s in a name? For the tourists pouring out of Notting Hill Gate station in search of the pastel-coloured terraces immortalised on screen in everything from Performance and Paddington to Notting Hill itself, the grim stretch of 1950s high-rises around the tube makes for a misleading arrival.

The real Notting Hill lies to the north-west, its summit marked by the junction of Ladbroke Grove and Kensington Park Gardens and its stuccoed crescents curving downwards to Portobello Road — though as few areas embody the process of gentrification in extremis as Notting Hill, “real” might appear to be a fairly loose term in this fairytale corner of fantasy London.

The west London district has gone from being a byword for post-war slums to now being home to some of the most expensive property in the country. Along the way the Caribbean immigrants of the 1950s have been priced out by American bankers while the independent shops flanking Portobello Road Market are being steadily replaced by upmarket international chains. Little Yellow Door, a fashionable cocktail bar, now occupies the site of the Mangrove, the Trinidadian café that was formerly the unofficial head office of the Notting Hill Carnival.

The annual celebration of London’s Caribbean community, held every August bank holiday, is in fact the worst time to eat in Notting Hill as most of the local restaurants are boarded up. For the rest of the year, however, Notting Hill offers some of London’s most essential eating. And although west London has lost ground to Shoreditch as the capital’s axis of cool shifts ever-eastwards, the past couple of years have seen Notting Hill get its mojo back with a crop of high-profile openings.

So from London’s finest Lebanese to three-Michelin-starred fine dining, modern Greek and a new-wave of gastropubs, here are the best restaurants in Notting Hill. And remember: “a wise bear always keeps a marmalade sandwich in his hat in case of emergency.” But it’s far safer to book ahead.

Al Waha

Edgware Road might be London’s most famous Middle Eastern foodie thoroughfare but the best Lebanese restaurant in the capital is found here on Westbourne Grove. Al Waha has been a resident of Notting Hill since 1998 and offers a gently old-fashioned experience, from the white-clothed tables of the small, split-level corner dining room to the smartly turned out waiters and the generosity of the huge portions: either go (very) easy on the mezze to have any hope of finding space for a main course or simply accept that the small plates are the highlight of any Lebanese dining experience and frontload the meal. Highlights include fresh-as-a-daisy tabbouleh, squeaky blocks of halloumi cheese and arayes, a sort of minced-lamb mini pizza; to follow, there are variations on the rice with marinated protein formula (chicken, prawns, lamb), enough meat-free dishes to make a fine vegetarian feast and Lebanese wines to wash it all down with.

75 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UL, 020 7229 0806

Core by Clare Smyth

 (Food Story Media)
(Food Story Media)

Clare Smyth’s first solo project is a restaurant which confounds expectations. Core holds three Michelin stars — Smyth is the first British woman to be awarded the accolade — but the smart-casual interiors are a tablecloth-free zone where one would feel as comfortable in jeans and a well-cut T-shirt as a suit and tie. Smyth grew up on a farm in Northern Ireland and puts vegetables centre stage in the likes of a signature dish of a Charlotte potato with dulse beurre blanc and herring and trout roe, while the likes of Highland wagyu beef with Porthilly oyster prove that British ingredients can be among the best in the world when handled this deftly. And while by no means cheap, Core is not as horrendously expensive as you might expect: £145/£165 for three courses at lunch/dinner or £195/£215 for a pair of tasting menus, though the expertly assembled wine list, with interest from all over the world, is eye-watering. Well worth saving up for, not least because it can take months to get a table.

92 Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN, corebyclaresmyth.com

The Pelican

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

This All Saints Road pub has had more ups and downs than the street itself, ranging from dodgy to desirable and everything in-between. A recent makeover has put it firmly in the must-visit category, and not only because Margot Robbie and Ellie Goulding have been spotted propping up the bar. There are buttermilk-coloured walls, scrubbed wood tables and toffee-coloured sofas, plus a blond-wood bar serving pints of Portobello Pilsner to prove that we’re in Notting Hill not Chipping Norton. More importantly, there is food that is more gussied-up pub grub than the usual global gastropub fare: mince on toast that turns out to be a rich ragù spread on sourdough with a thick snowfall of Parmesan, deep-fried ham hock with pickled red onion from one of the jars happily fermenting by the stairs, or a fish pie filled with lobster and monkfish and a lobster-head gravy. If all that is required is a pint and a bar snack to while away the afternoon, there’s sausage rolls and Welsh rarebit for that, too.

45 All Saints Road, W11 1HE, thepelicanw11.com

Mazi

 (Jade Nina Sarkhel)
(Jade Nina Sarkhel)

With a name that means “together” in Greek, Mazi is as suitable for sharing whether it’s a table for two or 10. Rustic wooden tables, a suntrap terrace and walls covered in fake shutters might look like a stylish spin on the clichéd taverna but the modern Greek cooking is more like the sort of stuff coming out of top restaurant kitchens in Athens (several of which have supplied Mazi with its chefs). Kilner jars are filled with a mousse of creamy cod roe tarama or a garlic-light tzatziki; the Greek salad features feta served crumbled not cubed and gets its texture from crunchy barley rusks; a hot dish of feta encased in black-sesame tempura and served with tangy lemon marmalade is even better. The wine list, meanwhile, showcases why Greek grapes are enjoying a moment in the sun, while there are cocktails made with Greek spirits. Neighbouring spin-off Suzi Tros takes an even more contemporary approach to Greek cooking.

12 Hillgate Street, W8 7SR, mazi.co.uk

Orasay

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Chef Jackson Boxer is a purveyor of a certain sort of upper-middle class boho chic at his duo of London restaurants. There’s Brunswick House in Vauxhall, which doubles as an antique emporium, and Orasay deep in the most villagey part of Notting Hill, where locals might very well holiday on the sort of off-radar Hebridean island the restaurant is named after. British fish and seafood are to the fore on the menu in the likes of Isle of Mull scallop with celeriac, shiitake and vin jaune, Dorset clams with lemongrass velouté and peas, and Shetland cod with roast tomatoes and burnt aubergine, though English veg and farm produce are shown just as much attention and the melt-in-the-mouth Tamworth pork chop is the stuff of legend. Half a dozen wines on tap are an alternative to something orange or expensive from the European list. Rather like the Hebrides themselves, Orasay is at its best in summer, when the front of the restaurant is thrown open and the atmosphere is thick with the air-kissing of passers-by popping in to say hello.

31 Kensington Park Road, W11 2EU, orasay.london

Hereford Road

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

For proof that the gospel of St John works just as well in west as east London, head to Hereford Road, a nose-to-tail specialist housed, appropriately enough, in a converted butcher’s shop, with an open kitchen right by the front door immediately creating confidence in the quality of cooking to come. Chef and owner Tom Pemberton was in a past life the head chef of St John Bread and Wine and was clearly an attentive disciple of architect-turned chef Fergus Henderson, whether in an austere approach to interior design (try and bag a booth for the most comfort) or terse way with menu composition: smoked cod’s roe, cos lettuce and breadcrumbs; lamb’s sweetbreads, green beans and mint; Tunworth, celery and toast. Dishes for the table to share — braised oxtail for two or three people, say — keep things convivial. In a tourist-heavy area, Hereford Road feels refreshingly like a good-value local secret, not least a two-course lunch on Friday and Saturday for £16.50 and kindly mark-ups on the wine list.

3 Hereford Road, W2 4AB, herefordroad.org

Caractère

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Emily Roux is the third generation of the legendary hospitality family to work in London restaurants but here at her first solo project she’s swapped chefs’ whites for the smart-casual mufti of a west London maître d’. The kitchen is instead headed by Roux’s husband Diego Ferrari (the pair met while working at Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche) and both menu and wine list reflect the couple’s French-Italian heritage. The menu is split into slightly precious character traits — “curious”, “subtle”, “robust” — though there’s nothing gimmicky about what comes out of the kitchen, just creative technique and a refined way with flavour in the likes of cacio e pepe made from strips of celeriac in which the intense umami hit of the pecorino sauce is cut through by balsamic vinegar. There is just as much caractère to the tactile interiors: velvet chairs, brick walls, herringbone floors and statement lighting for when it’s dark outside the picture windows. Not cheap though: three courses clock in at £50/£78 for lunch/dinner, or there is a six-course tasting menu for £105.

209 Westbourne Park Road, W11 1EA, caractererestaurant.com

Sumi

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

This informal offshoot of Michelin-starred Endo at the Rotunda in White City has proved such a hit with sushi-loving west Londoners that it is closed for expansion until 8 September to make room for a further 16 diners. The pale wood panelling and white tiling will look much the same as when Sumi opened in summer 2021, however, while owner Endo Kazutoshi is unlikely to allow any dip in food quality, with new head chef Christian Onia having spent time at Roka (Kazutoshi was group head sushi chef of sister restaurant Zuma) and Jason Atherton’s Sosharu. New dishes will include a seafood spin on gohan, the egg-and-rice breakfast dish, kombu-aged rib-eye with brown butter ponzu, kizami wasabi and yuzu salt, and secreto Iberico with shiso salsa, confit white asparagus and grilled baby gem. Sushi and sashimi constructed from top-quality fish, not least house-speciality temaki hand rolls, is likely to remain the highlight.

157 Westbourne Grove, W11 2RS, sushisumi.com

Fiend

 (Jean Cazals)
(Jean Cazals)

Rather like a band member who made it big after answering an ad in the NME, chef Chris Denney shot to fame when he spotted a post on Gumtree looking for a tapas chef with a love of Italian food. Denney, in fact, already had a bluechip CV working at the likes of Viajante and The Square but his arresting food at the short-lived 108 Garage on Golborne Road felt utterly sui generis (and certainly nothing like Italian tapas). Now he’s back at what would once have been considered the wrong end of Portobello Road, on the north side of the Westway, but thanks to 108 Garage is now the most creative corner of Notting Hill. The black walls, low lighting and jewel-coloured fabrics feel gothy in a

glamorous way, if goths congregated around Ladbroke Grove not Camden Town tube, while the small portions of protein-heavy food remain as distinctive as ever in the likes of jellyfish with ponzu and fennel, and lamb heart agnolotti with kohlrabi and mustard dashi. For something less challenging, two former members of the Fiend team recently opened Caia on Golborne Road promising wine, music and a seasonal menu of dishes done on an open grill.

301 Portobello Road, W10 5TD, fiend-portobello.com

Gold

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

The past couple of years have seen a revival of Notting Hill’s magnetism for the gilded youth of London – Golborne Road’s Laylow and Holland Park’s Casa Cruz both ooze glamour – but this Portobello Road party palace is where one is most likely to encounter both pop royalty (Ed Sheeran) and the real thing (princesses Beatrice and Eugenie). The food is more accomplished than the celebrity clientele might suggest, with seasonal sharing plates cooked in a wood-fired oven or over open flames — whole sea bream with wild oregano and capers, say, or gigot of lamb with datterini tomatoes and salsa verde — while vegetarian options are excellent. The best (i.e. most Instagrammable) part of the four-storey set-up is the Garden Room with its retractable roof and indoor trees, though the upstairs dining room, decked out in linen and exposed brick, doesn’t scrub up too badly either. If you’re here for Saturday’s market, note that Gold’s bar is open until 1am at the weekend.

95-97 Portobello Road, W11 2QB, goldnottinghill.com

The Cow

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

A reminder of the time when Notting Hill the movie made Notting Hill the neighbourhood ground-zero for celebrity spots in London, The Cow has counted David Beckham, Stella McCartney and Tom Cruise among its regulars. It is still pulling the crowds 25 years after its heyday because it does what it does very, very well. In classic 90s gastropub fashion, the place is split between downstairs bar and upstairs dining room; a platter of oysters and a pint of Guinness in the pub bit is what the place is most famous for, but the smarter restaurant upstairs should not be overlooked for comforting spins on classic British cooking: soup of the day or leeks vinaigrette to start, bangers and mash and a legendary beef and Guinness pie to follow, plus West Country cheese and puddings from a blackboard. If a pint of the black stuff isn’t your poison, half the Franco-Italian wine list clocks in at under £40.

89 Westbourne Park Road, W2 5QH, thecowlondon.com

The Ledbury

 (Matt Writtle)
(Matt Writtle)

Chef Brett Graham waited until early 2022 to reopen The Ledbury following the first lockdown of 2020, no doubt aware that there had been a loosening-up in diners’ behaviour since his two-Michelin-starred restaurant launched in 2005. Starched tablecloths and smooth-as-silk service remain, but the addition of mirrors, marble and soft-lighting make the new-look Ledbury a sultrier night-time proposition (lunch is only served on Fridays and Saturdays). The cooking is as technically accomplished as ever — Hampshire trout enveloped in charred skin, sweet Cornish crab pointed up by frozen citrus — and luxury abounds, from caviar and truffle piled on to cauliflower purée to the trout-roe hollandaise and white asparagus accompanying grilled turbot. At £185 for the eight-course tasting menu, however, The Ledbury inevitably attracts the sort of prestige diner for whom worshipping at the altar of Michelin is perhaps more important than having a fun time. Still, this remains worth saving up for, even if it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

127 Ledbury Road, W11 2AQ, theledbury.com

The Princess Royal

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Formerly the distinctly average Commander (not, alas, officer class), The Princess Royal instead comes courtesy of gastropub royalty. It’s owned by the Cubitt House pub group (Belgravia’s Thomas Cubitt et al), which has put Sam and Georgie Pearman in charge, a couple who have the Cotswolds eating out of their hands at the likes of The Double Red Duke, while Cubitt House’s Ben Tish (previously of Norma, originally of Salt Yard) is overseeing the kitchen. The pub fixtures remain intact, but the central horseshoe bar is now a seafood counter for crustacea and cocktails, orbited by dining areas which give on to a verdant conservatory and one of the prettiest gardens in Notting Hill. Tish’s signature Mediterranean cooking might bring a quivering scallop crudo or grilled red prawns with the citrus kick of charred lemon, though it’s not all so fishy: saltmarsh lamb with ricotta summer vegetables and bottarga would make as fine a main course as grilled monkfish with mussels, borlotti beans, chilli and salsa verde. Want to live the full Notting Hill fantasy? There are four bedrooms upstairs (which means there’s a fab breakfast menu too).

47 Hereford Road, W2 5AH, cubitthouse.co.uk

Six Portland Road

A sibling of Kensal Green gastropub Parlour, Six Portland Road is smaller and more sophisticated, the sort of local that everyone wishes they had at the end of their street and well worth the journey to Holland Park if you don’t live in this most des of res. With only 36 seats, booking is recommended, though there are a couple of stools at the tiny bar if you don’t mind waiting for a table. No-frills decor that feels like the British equivalent of a bistro indicates the food does the talking here, with a short and snappy menu of five starters and five mains, plus cheese and pudding, keeping things focused on the seasonal. Grilled figs with pickled walnuts and whipped mascarpone might be followed by brined and roasted pork with rainbow chard and mirabelle plums, with perhaps a cherry flan to finish. Simplicity this artful, alas, does not come cheap, but there is a three-course lunch for £24.

6 Portland Road, W11 4LA, sixportlandroad.com

Zephyr

 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

If your idea of a Greek getaway owes more to Aristotle Onassis than Club 18-30 then this sleek (albeit dull) newcomer might well be your alpha and omega. Zephyr has blown onto Portobello Road courtesy of the Pachamama Group, until now exclusively Peruvian, which means an affinity for raw fish and veg such as lemon-soaked seabass carpaccio and oil-drenched tomato salad, but perhaps a less sure touch with the likes of fried courgette flowers, though the soutzoukakia, all warmly-spiced minced beef and cumin, is a surfire hit. The design is just so — green-stemmed glasses, bistro chairs, tastefully lit art — but perhaps a little too much so: Zephyr is as a beautiful as a marble statue (and filled with the beautiful people) but lacks the warmth and fun of London’s family-owned Greeks which run on ouzo and retsina. Still, any qualms can be soothed over cocktails in the swish downstairs bar.

100 Portobello Road, W11 2QD, zephyr.london