The day after his swift departure from No 10 Downing Street, David Cameron was spotted in North Kensington with former Chancellor George Osborne having coffee with their families outside the Lisboa Pattisserie in Golborne Road in the shadow of architect Ernö Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower, the listed concrete brutalist apartment block now much favoured by the design crowd.
As the former prime minister contemplates his future outside politics from his home in one of North Kensington’s nicest streets, perhaps he will be spotted — along with all the other freelances —with his laptop in one of Golborne Road’s wifi cafés.
This is a part of London where the wealthy occupants of the large local Victorian and Georgian houses rub shoulders with residents from the gritty post-war council estates.
This W10 neighbourhood is one of the capital’s most cosmopolitan, its high street a mix of Moroccan and Portuguese cafés — reflecting the population — antiques shops, the renowned, bustling Portobello and Golborne Market, plus fashionable newcomers such as handbag maker Ally Capellino, Australian beauty brand Aesop and Soho House’s Pizza East. It all seems to work by catering for everyone, from the area’s long-standing residents to wealthy home owners and weekend tourists.
North Kensington is undergoing significant regeneration. Housing association Catalyst is redeveloping the Wornington Green Estate to the north of Golborne Road, reinstating the old street pattern and replacing 538 council properties with 1,000 new homes with a mixture of tenures, and rebranding it Portobello Square.
Estate agent Amy Odell, from the local branch of John D Wood, says families move from a flat in Notting Hill to a house with a good-size garden in North Kensington, and buyers come from a variety of backgrounds in the arts, media, fashion and the City.
You’ll find the neighbourhood four miles north-west of central London with Kensal Rise to the north, Paddington to the east, Notting Hill to the south and White City and Shepherd’s Bush to the west.
Roads of magnificent double-fronted Victorian houses can be found in North Kensington, where one such property, in Oxford Gardens, covers 5,500sq ft and is currently for sale at £9.7 million.
Most of these grand mansions have been converted into spacious flats which can sell for over £1.5 million, even over just a single floor. According to Amy Odell of John D Wood, homes on the scale of the Oxford Gardens property will remain rare as the council resists attempts to return those that have been converted into flats back into family homes.
There are also smaller, two-storey red-brick Edwardian terrace houses in the roads around Highlever Road, Wallingford Avenue and Finstock Road.
At Portobello Square there are a few private sale homes still available in phase one. One-bedroom flats start at £695,000, with two-bedroom flats from £765,000 and three-bedroom townhouses at £2 million.
Construction starts on phase two next year, when there will be one- and two-bedroom flats in Bond Mansions available for sale off-plan. Visit portobellosquare.co.uk or call 020 7758 8478 for more.
Chantelle Springer-Daniels, rental manager at John D Wood, says the two French schools and the Spanish school have brought French and Spanish renters into the area. “North Kensington has a good mix of flats and family houses, so we get young professional singles and couples, along with sharers and families.”
The two most popular local state primary schools that families want to be near are Barlby in Barlby Road and Thomas Jones in St Mark’s Road, both of which are judged “outstanding” by Ofsted.
“Trellick Tower is popular with architects and designers,” says Springer-Daniels. “We recently rented a three-bedroom flat there decorated in Seventies style.” She adds: “Young sharers who could never afford Notting Hill can rent a two-bedroom ex-council flat in North Kensington.”
Ladbroke Grove Tube is on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines, as are the two other London Underground stations serving the area — Latimer Road and Westbourne Park. All stations are in Zone 2 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,296.
The western edge of North Kensington can feel remote but buses serve these more isolated streets, with the No 7 to Oxford Circus, the No 70 to South Kensington and the No 295 to Clapham Junction.
Estate agent Amy Odell from the local branch of John D Wood says there is a healthy local property market in North Kensington. “There is a strong demand for houses from local families. For example, there is a wide variety of house types along St Quintin Avenue and we see a lot of families move within the road.”
W10 is the North Kensington postcode; it stretches north to include Kensal Green and parts of Queen’s Park.
Oxford Gardens, Bassett Road, St Quintin Avenue and Highlever Road are all green and leafy.
Up and coming
In the Twenties the local council built a cottage estate of flats around Oakworth Road that remains undiscovered. Also the houses fronting Ladbroke Grove still retain that “bedsitter land” feel and prices of converted flats here are cheaper than in the quieter streets.
Kensington & Chelsea council is Conservative controlled. Band D council tax for 2016/2017 is £1,047.80.
Shops and restaurants
North Kensington starts at Westway where at the junction with Portobello Road, the Portobello Green Market is buzzing on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday with stalls selling antiques and vintage clothing. The nearby Portobello Green Designers Arcade is a good place to look for an unusual gift or something original for the home. Nushka sells fashionable Berber rugs and What Katie Did sells vintage-inspired lingerie.
Nearby under Westway are the stalls of Acklam Village Street Food Market. This section of the Portobello Road has interesting independent shops and restaurants. The Cloth Shop, in particular, is a favourite with dressmakers and curtain makers. Last year the Portobello and Golborne Markets celebrated their 150th anniversary. The market along Golborne Road is open on Fridays and Saturdays selling everything from bric-a-brac to vintage items to fruit and vegetables.
Some of the edgier top-end brands have opened in and around Golborne Road recently. Bag maker Ally Capellino, launching her third London shop; Australian beauty brand Aesop; fashion brand J&M Davidson, and top jeweller Lara Bohinc seem to happily rub shoulders with longer-standing Portuguese and Moroccan cafés, a pie and mash shop; quirky antiques shop Les Couilles du Chien and fabric shop Warris Vianni & Co.
New independent shops and cafés are opening too. Pearl & Groove is a gluten-free bakery; Lowry & Baker is a daytime restaurant and coffee shop; Snaps + Rye describes itself as London’s only Danish restaurant, and Viennese Kipferl coffee shop is a companion to the branch in Islington. Designer Tom Dixon reigns at the northern end of Ladbroke Grove with a converted water tower and his design store sharing premises with chef Stevie Parle’s Dock Kitchen. Sofa and bed maker Loaf has opened a large new showroom in Lancaster Road.
North Kensington’s streets may be green and leafy but there is not much open green space for the many flat dwellers — which explains the popularity of Kensington Memorial Park in St Mark’s Road, with a children’s playground, summer water play facilities and sports pitches. Little Wormwood Scrubs, a Site of Nature Conservation Importance with grassland, scattered trees and woodland, has an adventure playground and a toddlers playground. Along with Wormwood Scrubs itself, it is popular with dog walkers.
Leisure and the arts
Gate Theatre, a leading fringe venue in Pembridge Road, Notting Hill, is the nearest theatre. The Electric Cinema in Portobello Road is a short stroll away. The nearest council-owned pool is the newly rebuilt Kensington Leisure Centre in Silchester Road which has a main pool, a teaching pool and a leisure pool.
North Kensington has an unusually high proportion of state primary schools rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. They are: Bevington in Bevington Road; St Thomas CofE in Appleford Road; Barlby in Barlby Road; Thomas Jones in St Mark’s Road and Ark Brunel in Middle Row, which opened in 2013 in a new school building, having replaced Middle Row School.
The local girls’ comprehensive school Sion-Manning RC (ages 11 to 16) in St Charles Square is judge “good”, as is the nearby St Charles Sixth Form (co-ed, ages 16 to 18) also in St Charles Square. Kensington Aldridge (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Silchester Road is newly opened and has yet to be inspected by Ofsted.
Nearby comprehensive schools judged “outstanding” are: Westminster Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in The Naim Dangoor Centre in Harrow Road; Paddington Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Marylands Road; The Cardinal Vaughan RC (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Addison Road; Holland Park (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Airlie Gardens, and St George’s RC (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Lanark Road. Ark Burlington Danes Academy (co-ed, ages three to 18 — the primary school opened a year ago — in Wood Lane is also judged “outstanding”.
Local private schools include two French schools and a Spanish Government school: La Petite École Bilingue (co-ed, ages 18 months to 11) in Oxford Gardens; La Petite École Française (co-ed, ages three to 11) in St Charles Square; and Instituto Español Vicente Cañada Blanch (ages five to 18) in Portobello Road.
The private primary and preparatory schools are: Lloyd Williamson School (co-ed, ages one to 13) in Telford Road; Chepstow House (co-ed, ages two to 11) in Lancaster Road; Notting Hill Preparatory (co-ed, ages four to 13) also in Lancaster Road; Bassett House (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Bassett Road; Wetherby (boys, ages three to eight — the senior school to age 13 is in Marylebone) in Pembridge Square, and Pembridge Hall (girls, ages four to 11) also in Pembridge Square.