For the film Notting Hill, in which humble bookseller William Thacker, played by Hugh Grant, meets, falls in love with and marries Hollywood star Anna Scott, played by Julia Roberts, Grant famously walks down Portobello Road against a background of the changing seasons.
The smash hit movie of 1999 was responsible for propelling this west London neighbourhood to global “superstardom”, says estate agent Arthur Lintell, from the Westbourne Grove branch of Knight Frank.
Lintell, who grew up in Notting Hill, says the area has long had a bohemian buzz.
Over 50 years it has transformed from an edgy area with densely packed social housing into a sought-after hotspot, its tall, stucco terraces now returned to family homes with front doors in Farrow & Ball colours — and price tags in the millions.
However, the trail of tourists rummaging among Portobello Road Market’s stalls has remained a constant.
Notting Hill’s renowned garden squares, almost uniquely, offer residents direct access without having to cross a road.
“There is something special about being able to open a door on to a private garden and let your children out to play,” says Lintell.
These days people are happy to pay prime central London prices for the privilege.
The recent death of black rights activist Darcus Howe was a reminder that Notting Hill has a more turbulent past than is suggested by the designer shops that now line Westbourne Grove.
Howe and others were charged in the Seventies with riot, affray and assault but after his acquittal he became a leading light in the development of the Notting Hill Carnival, helping build it into Europe’s largest street party.
An annual celebration of British West Indian culture, with two days of parades, dancing and drinking, the carnival splits opinion.
“Some residents lock up their homes and leave town while others join in,” says Arthur Lintell.
Notting Hill is four miles west of central London with North Kensington to the north; Bayswater to the east; Kensington to the south and Holland Park to the west. It’s popular with well-heeled buyers including many entrepreneurs, from the US and Europe as well as from the UK.
The Property Scene
Notting Hill is remarkable for its large stucco terraces facing garden squares. The entry price for a whole house in one of the garden squares is now about £5.5 million.
Many of the larger houses have been converted into flats, with one-bedroom garden square flats starting at about £900,000 and two-bedroom flats in the region of £1.5 million.
Portobello Square is the redevelopment of the Wornington Green estate by housing association Catalyst at the Golborne Road, or northern, end of Portobello Road. Starting out in 2011, two out of three phases have now been built and only one three-bedroom mews house remains. In Bonchurch Road, it is on the market at £1.85 million, contact Hamptons on 020 3451 1544.
Alchemi Group’s 7-12 Leinster Square scheme is the conversion of six large terrace houses into six lateral flats and five townhouses. One three-bedroom, three-bathroom flat remains, priced £3.95 million. Call Hamptons on 020 3451 1544. Visit leinstersquarew2.com.
Boutique scheme 27 Linden Gardens is the development of a Victorian townhouse into four two- and three-bedroom flats, priced from £2.5 million. Call Fruition Properties on 020 3828 0116.
Another Fruition Properties scheme, 94 Westbourne Park Villas is the conversion of a former Buddhist centre into two spacious two- and three-bedroom duplex apartments, with prices starting at £2,275,000 (as before).
Elizabeth Holder, lettings manager at Knight Frank, says that anything with access to one of the communal gardens rents at a premium. “Around a quarter of our tenants work in finance and we are now entering our busy period with families looking for homes near the schools they have chosen for their children,” she adds.
“Most of our landlords are accidental, either because they are working abroad or, more recently, because they haven’t been able to sell their homes.”
Knight Frank estate agent Arthur Lintell says there are many longstanding Notting Hill families and they’re always reluctant to move away from the area they love. “A lot of our sellers are downsizing.”
W11 is the desirable Notting Hill postcode but the area spills into W10, the North Kensington postcode north of Westway, and on its eastern boundary it runs into W2, the Paddington postcode.
Any of the communal gardens and in particular Ladbroke Square, Kensington Park Road, Lansdowne Road; Clarendon Road, Elgin Crescent, Stanley Crescent and Blenheim Crescent.
Up and coming
Arthur Lintell tips the Golborne Road area of North Kensington which has new shops and cafés opening to add to the mix of long-established Portuguese and Moroccan cafés. Portobello Court is a Fifties council development on the corner of Westbourne Grove and Portobello Road where “right-to-buy” flats become available from time-to-time.
Sitting west of central London, Notting Hill offers easy access to Heathrow airport and the M4 and M40 motorways. It is also well-served by the Tube network — Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park stations are on the Central line, with trains to Bank. Latimer Road, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park are on the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines with trains to Moorgate.
All stations are in Zone 2, except Notting Hill Gate which is in Zone 1. An annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,296.
Useful commuter buses are the No 7 to Oxford Circus; the No 23 to Liverpool Street via Oxford Street; the No 52 to Victoria and the No 452 to Vauxhall via Sloane Square.
Shops and restaurants
Notting Hill is a shopping mecca with a slew of upmarket boutiques in and around the stretch of Westbourne Grove between Chepstow Road and Kensington Park Road, including branches of Matches Fashion, Maje, Anya Hindmarch, The Kooples and 7 For All Mankind. New York interiors star Jonathan Adler is here, along with Themes & Variations which sells unique ranges of post-war and contemporary furniture.
This is the place to hang out with friends for lunch. Healthy eaters will appreciate Daylesford Organic, newcomer Pomona’s and vegetarian restaurant Farmacy. Ottolenghi and Australian brunch specialist Granger & Co are also here.
The Saturday antiques market along Portobello Road is still going strong and the section around Colville Terrace with its fruit and vegetable stalls still has the feel of a traditional London market.
Off Portobello Road, Mr Christian’s and The Grocer on Elgin are two delis in Elgin Crescent, where there’s also interiors specialist Graham and Green. Books for Cooks in Blenheim Crescent specialises in cookbooks and has a small café.
A wander down Portland Road to the little shopping enclave known as Clarendon Cross reveals long-established Summerill & Bishop, for interiors with a French provincial favour, and The Cross boutique. Iconic wine bar Julie’s has been closed for refurbishment for over a year but new restaurant Six Portland Road got a thumbs-up from Evening Standard food critic Fay Maschler.
Chef Brett Graham’s The Ledbury, in a former pub in Ledbury Road, is Notting Hill’s top fine dining experience. The restaurant has two Michelin stars and tables are booked months in advance.
The more fortunate residents have access to one of the private garden squares. Others can take the air — and take their dogs for a walk — in nearby Holland Park and Hyde Park.
Leisure and the arts
Gate Theatre in Pembridge Road is a leading fringe venue; the Print Room fringe theatre, founded in a former printworks off Westbourne Grove, is now at The Coronet in Notting Hill Gate. The two local cinemas are the Gate Picturehouse in Notting Hill Gate and the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, owned by Soho House.
Notting Hill has more private than state schools, and its increasingly international residents have bilingual schools to cater for their needs.
With one exception, all of Notting Hill’s state primary schools are rated “good” or better by Ofsted. Rated “outstanding” are: Thomas Jones in St Marks Road; Fox in Kensington Place, and Bevington in Bevington Road.
There are four “outstanding” state comprehensive schools: Holland Park (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Airlie Gardens; Westminster Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Harrow Road; Cardinal Vaughan Memorial RC (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Addison Road, and Paddington Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Marylands Road. St Charles RC Sixth Form (co-ed, ages 16-plus) in St Charles Square is an FE college, also rated “outstanding”. Kensington Aldridge Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Silchester Road opened in 2014 with a sixth form added last year and has not yet been inspected by Ofsted.
The two most fashionable private prep schools are Wetherby (boys, ages three to eight) in Pembridge Square (the school for boys from eight to 13 is in Bryanston Square in Marylebone) and Pembridge Hall (girls, ages four to 11) also in Pembridge Square.
The other private pre-preparatory, primary and prep schools are: Southbank International School Kensington (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Kensington Park Road (the senior school is in the West End); Notting Hill Preparatory (co-ed, ages four to 13) in Lancaster Road; Chepstow House (co-ed, ages two to 11) in Lancaster Road; Hawkesdown House (boys, ages three to eight) in Edge Street; La Petite École Bilingue (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Oxford Gardens; La Scuola Italiana a Londra (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Holland Park Avenue; Norland Place (co-ed, ages four to 11) also in Holland Park Avenue; Bassett House (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Bassett Road; Lloyd Williamson (co-ed, ages one to 14) in Telford Road, and La Petite École Française (co-ed, ages three to 11) in St Charles Square.
Instituto Español Vicente Cañada Blanch (co-ed, ages five to 18) in Portobello Road is an independent Spanish government all-through school; David Game College (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Notting Hill Gate and Lansdowne College (co-ed, ages 14 to 18) in Bark Place are both private GCSE and A-level colleges.