Portobello Road in Notting hill is most renowned for it market on Saturdays and it’s a Saturday today so I will check that out – its impossible to miss. Today I’m going to get some breakfast in place a little of the tourist trail, and then I’ll take a walk through the market and then maybe get some lunch, and this afternoon I’m going to watch a movie at one of my favourite cinemas in town the electric cinema on Portobello road which is one of the the oldest working cinemas in the country having opened first in 1910.
There are fruit & veg stalls on Portobello road all week and the street is lined with shops either side and in the side streets which are also open all week long – and there are plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, pubs & bars. But the main market day is Saturday and it gets incredibly busy – it’s a huge draw for both locals & tourists.
There are a few tube stations near Portobello road & the market – Ladbroke Grove is the closest to where I want to start but due to engineering works the easiest to get to is Notting hill gate and if your coming here for the first time that’s probably the best station to approach the market from – it’s the most picturesque walk – so picturesque the streets are lined with people taking pictures of all the interesting coloured terrace houses along the way to the market. The Market is massive if you walk from Notting hill gate along Portobello road down to Golborne road the shops & stalls run for around a mile.
I was a market trader here many years ago with a good friend of mine. We stopped back in 2001 and it was a different time & a different world – its hard to believe but internet shopping existed but it was in its infancy – social media didn’t exist as it does today – if you wanted to start a business you hustled down the market – so that’s what we did – if we had hit the internet then instead of Portobello Road we would have been relatively early adopters & probably very successful but hind sights a wonderful thing.
The reason we stopped trading? The market is and always has been a draw for tourists – on the morning of September 11 2001 I was in the channel islands visiting customers for my day job at the time, and I had to fly the following day from jersey to Guernsey & then a couple days later back to London. Because of the time difference the attack on the world trade centre in NYC that day started to develop on the news around mid day here & then through the afternoon. I remember arriving for an appointment at a customers store, a jewellery store and they were watching TV on one of their small security screens which was sitting on top of their safe – the first thing they said was “have you seen this, have you seen this?”
It was the first time I saw the footage of one of the world trade centre on fire with a huge hole in it and then the 2nd plane hit the other tower in a huge ball of flames – I thought they were watching a movie – I said something like no I don’t think ive seen this one what is it? – they said it’s the news!
The events in NYC that day were far reaching – it took a while for the news to figure out it was airplanes – the who, the why and at first they were even asking if it were an accident. I was genuinely a little concerned to fly the next day & very concerned about flying back to London. Up until then airline & airport security in some instances it was like getting on and off a bus. But security changed, but at the time in quite improvised and panicked way, not necessarily a uniform way, they didn’t know what to do and it added an air of suspicion and fear its self even though it was in place for everyone’s safety.
Someone I knew had a trip planned to NYC for that Christmas which was months later and as soon as that happened they were trying to cancel the trip – the fear of travelling, especially flying that day provoked was immense and far reaching. So Why is 9/11 relevant to my market stall? most of out customers were tourists – American tourists & they disappeared they were not travelling in late 2001 or were not coming to London & the market – we also sold pieces often to the girls trading on the others stalls if they had a good days trading & they were effected too.
It wasn’t the only reason but it was a huge blow at the time & by the time I was ready to go again the internet was my market place not Portobello Road. Trading there – even though only briefly was an amazing experience – we met some amazing characters and me and my friend who I did it with are still the best of friends – we lost nothing by trying – we didn’t make any money but it was certainly an experience.
The place I’am going to for breakfast is just a couple of streets away from Portobello road but its well off the tourist trail – The Tabernacle.
It was built in 1887 as a church – it no longer used as a church it’s been a community arts centre for decades with a great bar & restaurant.
In summer it’s a great place to sit outside and enjoy a cold drink. The main part of the building is used as a theatre for concerts – there are a number of YouTube videos showing live music performances here of some very talented and well known popular artists – but its used for other purposes too – film screenings, corporate events, dinners, award ceremonies – all sorts. During the day its popular with families, breakfast time at the market is actually pretty quiet – the earlier you hit the market the less busy and crowded it is – the crowds don’t really peak until lunch time when this place is a relative oasis compared to the market
Portobello market is almost split into sections – almost there is no actual division for different types of goods and certainly not the shops. The fisrt section from the Notting hill gate end is primarily antiques, genuine & reproduction it then transitions into food, fruit & veg + street food- then clothing – the next section the Portobello green & west way section is quite a modern market – fashion, vintage clothing, some food & drink, music, some new designers then the final stretch from there to Golbourne road was primarily second hand – but its always been quite eclectic – its basically second hand, vintage & anything that doesn’t quite fit in the other areas. It’s the same with Golbourne road – there is lots of furniture – some architectural bits & pieces but it’s a real mixed bag.
You don’t often see Bentleys driving down other markets – Portobello is full of contrast – it’s a very expensive part of town to buy or rent property – I think at times it causes a little tension between traders & residents when any changes are made or planned. There are many of these little mews streets along and around Portobello road & the market they look cool. A few are gated – I do think it’s a shame they want the gates but I can honestly see why they do – they don’t add that much security there’s no guard, of coarse they add scarcity maybe prestige & financial value I guess. But the ones without gates they kind of get invaded every Saturday – its not just people taking photos – people sort of congregate in some of them & use the door steps to sit on & eat burgers & street food. I wouldn’t want to live there – the noise & the mess & the general inconvenience every Saturday would be frustrating I think – but I would love the budget required though.
As I said earlier this afternoon I going to the cinema here on Portobello road and its an amazing cinema. But Before that I’ve walked the length of the market twice which is around two miles so I’am feeling a little peckish so I’am going to get some lunch. Now on any visit I would normally try some of the amazing street food from the market stalls – and if they are good and prove popular the stalls and food trucks are often a stepping stone for businesses to a store once they’ve honed their concept.
But today I’am going to go somewhere I would normally only go during the week when the street foods not available or in the evening for a drink because its really also an intrinsic part of the cinema – to the extent I don’t think the cinema or members club above would be as good without it –and they may even not be viable without it. The electric diner – it is next to the cinema – it serves breakfast from 8am, lunch from 12 and drinks till late. It’s a dinner so it has a simple American diner style menu – it’s a great place to come for drinks they have loads of different beers
I’ve got a seat in the window – unfortunately there’s a huge lorry obscuring a full view of the market today – but its still a pretty good spot to watch the world go by.
I go to pick up my tickets for the cinema, which is very civilised, you get a drinks & snacks menu with your tickets – ticket I should say, I going on my own – my girlfriends out of town this weekend. But she wouldn’t come anyway – we have opposing taste in movies – its not even a genre thing, generally if I like a movie she doesn’t & vice versa. Its not a problem normally because most movies you have no ideas whether you will enjoy it before you watch it – but sometimes you just know what’s going to happen & you know exactly what to expect. And I’m going to see Jurassic world – I think it will be best on the big screen & super load.
The electric cinema here on Portobello road is one of my favourite cinemas in town – I don’t think it is the oldest but it is one of the oldest still working – it opened in 1910 – apparently during the World War 1 the German manager was accused of signalling Zeppelins from the roof. I think is had mixed fortunes in the past – but right now its amazing. I read a quote from the CEO of the company that operates it and he said “when you board a plane everyone wishes they could turn left instead of right – with the electric cinema we offer film goes that option” – I think that sums it up it’s a first class cinema.
Its not massive like the ones Leicester square but I like it. There are only 65 seats and each one is a comfy leather armchair with foot stalls, which by the way open and contain cashmere blankets for you to use – side tables for your drinks & snacks and there are some two seater sofas at the back and double beds at the front. there is a bar at the back serving wine, champagne, prosecco, spirits, tea, coffee & draft beer – yes that’s why I love it – pints of beer.
And this is where their dinner I went to earlier comes in – you can order food nachos, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, ice creams – its fantastic. My advice to any guys or girls watching or reading who are thinking about taking a date to the cinema – forget Leicester square and all the red carpet nonsense – the electric cinema doesn’t look much from the outside but inside its pretty special – book seats here, seats not a bed that might be bit presumptuous – a movie bottle of champagne & two glasses – what more could a girl want? Err probably dinner actually , well you’ve got the dinner next door so your onto a winner – if anyone actually takes my advice let me know how it pans out in the YouTube comments.