As this Summer is the season of London, I thought I would re-edit some of my favourite London posts for your entertainment... Here is my Notting Hill one!
It may come as a surprise to many London visitors, but Notting Hill isn't just about Portobello Road. I actually try to avoid Portobello and its tourist traps in favour of the oh-so beautiful Westbourne Grove area. There, a couple of roads offer gorgeous shops, amazing food spots, and the most perfect spa experience I've ever had in a city. Whenever I wander there I usually come out extremely giddy and for some strange unexplainable reason, not as financially liquid as when I started...
I first discovered Westbourne Grove years back when I moved to London and was in desperate need of a facial after a couple of stressful months working for the Investment Banking equivalent of Miranda Priestly in the Devil Wears Prada. Enter Spa NK, where I discovered Eve Lom facials, Ultimate Detox body treatments and, most recently, the Natura Bissa Oxygen facials. I have never looked back. Not only is the place completely blissful, the treatments are extremely effective and not over-priced, and the therapists just know how to tranform a beaten-up me into a brand new version, all pampered and glowing (trust me, not a small feat). Although there are a few other Spa NK locations in London, I much prefer the Westbourne Grove one as it truly gives me a sense of escaping the city and totally relaxing. The shop upstairs stocks most products that are used in the treatment rooms and I usually come here to re-stock on the Eve Lom cleanser, Annick Goutal perfume and Esthederm suncare.
127-131 Wetsbourne Grove
0 207 727 8002
My preferred time for a spa appointment is Sunday afternoon, so as to relax at home afterwards with nowhere to run to, so I often try to do brunch and some shopping before heading for my treatment.
I love to go to 202 for brunch, it is a wonderful alternative to the over-crowded Electric on Portobello. Mind you, I love the Electric for its atmosphere and young vibe, and the food is really nice, however the 202 is more laidback and sometimes quieter. 202 is a light and airy space created as a two-floor concept by Nicole Farhi, with clothes and homeware displayed at the entrance and in the basement and a restaurant on the ground floor. There are some tables on the pavement outside and also out back in a cute patio garden. Although the restaurant doesn't take reservations and is very popular for week-end brunch, I usually find there is a quick turn-around in tables. The staff is very friendly and the food is to die for, I particular love the scrambled eggs, the goat cheese salad and the fruit crumbles. What is also nice is that unlike many spots in Notting Hill the food isn't crazily priced!
202 Westbourne Grove
0 207 727 2722
Another lovely and very popular spot in this area is Ottolenghi, where I go mainly for take-out: there is a tiny communal table for 10 at the back but usually it is packed. I prefer to come here when Hubby Dearest and I are in the neighbourhood and too lazy to cook lunch. The food here is always incredibly fresh, and they have flour-less cakes to damn a saint.
63 Ledbury Road
0 207 727 2422
Once I'm happily fed and caffeinated, I like to indulge in my favourite sport: shopping. I have to warn you, this area is dangerous. Most of the small gorgeous boutiques around here offer things which you are not going to find in the average high street, so if you're in the market for something different and special, come here, but be warned: it is extremely difficult to resist temptation.
Starting west and walking towards Spa NK, I cannot help but stop at Comptoir des Cotonniers: a French brand which originated in the Sentier years ago and only recently crossed the Channel, it offers a nice urban style with a strong theme around muted colours. I particularly love their dresses and the outerwear options. They also have a tiny lingerie collection which is made of soft yet sexy material and beautiful colours.
Comptoir des Cotonniers
235 Westbourne Grove
0 207 792 9580
Also around this end but across the road I love to check out the stationery at Smythson. I simply could not live without Smythson writing paper and cards. Though I am a huge fan of email, I love to revert to snail-mail when using my personalised cream sheets and the Smythson blue envelopes. It just transforms the whole experience for me! For those of you who dread writing cards, try it, it makes the whole thing so stylish and special, not to mention the gorgeous packaging it comes in, that alone is worth the trip!
Smythson of Bond Street
214 Westbourne Grove
0 207 243 3527
A few shops west there is one of London's Zadig & Voltaire boutiques. Zadig finds a way to constantly re-invent the layering concept around beautiful silk tops, cashmere knits, soft leather jackets, adding to it all a rebel rock-chick attitude which steers the whole thing well clear of anything mumsy. My addiction to Zadig, in particular the cashmere tops and wraps, has been on-going for many years. Hubby Dearest says this is very pricey Boho at its best, and it is, however there are ways to make it all a little less painful on your wallet. Eg: when in the shop, ask to be added to their mailing list, you will receive invitations for special discount days outside of their usual sales dates, also, if you happen to go to Paris, check out their outlet stores, there is one in the Marais (in London there is one on King's Road) which has a lot of inventory and great discounts. The boutique on Westbourne Grove is womenswear only, whilst the menswear is in the Ledbury Road shop a few metres away. Also check out the baby and children collections, they are absolutely fabulous.
Zadig & Voltaire
182 Westbourne Grove
0 207 792 8788
Soon enough one crosses Ledbury Road, where I usually go up to the Diane Von Furstenberg shop to browse the dresses. If you work in an office like I do, a DVF dress is a perfect way to get dressed quickly, look stylish, and have an easy to upgrade day-to-evening look that works everywhere. I think the quality is amazing, I have some dresses that I've owned for years and they still hang down beautifully. The wonderful thing about this shop versus the other places in London where one can find DVF is that they usually have a much broader selection, obviously. The only downside I find at shopping at DVF in London is the price. Basically the price for a dress is 1GBP for 1USD... Yet another good reason to go to NYC for a shopping week-end, I say.
Diane Von Furstenberg
83 Ledbury Road
0 207 221 1120
On Ledbury there is also a little gem called Aimé, where one goes to indulge in French clothes, accessories and homeware brands. I came across Aimé a while back and bought a blue-grey Isabelle Marant embroidered long-sleeved top and to this day I still get compliments everytime I wear it. Having lived for a while in Paris I often miss the St-Germain vibe and come here for my little dose of Rive Gauche happiness. Isabelle Marant, APC, Les Prairies de Paris... If you like french Boho style, come prepared, it will be difficult to get out of here without one of their pretty carrier bags filled with magical additions to your life!
32-34 Ledbury Road
0 207 221 7070
Back on Westbourne Grove, a couple more shops of interest. First Heidi Klein, by far the best resource in West London when it comes to bikinis, beachwear and any accessories one may need for a beach vacation (think more Denis Island, less Bournemouth seaside), all year round. The boutique stores its own brand collection but also hard to find designers such as Brazilian wonder Onda de Mar. If like me the beach vacation is more the exception and life in London is more the norm, check out their amazing candles, I use them in the summer to transport my house directly to Barbados.
174 Westbourne Grove
0 207 243 5665
Speaking of candles, only one final stop for me on the way to my facial: the Diptyque shop. This brand needs no introduction and has become quite mainstream however there is just no going around it: they make the best scented candles which not only last for ages, they also look amazing. I come here for Maquis, Feuille de Lavande and Figuier in the Summer, and come fall I stock up on Feu de Bois (who said I couldn't have a fireplace?). I think they also make fantastic gifts, instead of the customary flowers or wine bottle at a dinner party, these little babies go down really nicely.
195 Westbourne Grove
0 207 727 8673
By the time I'm out of the last boutique I am just on time for my treatment, my arms are filled with carrier bags and I'm delighted to have walked around and found so many treasures. My legs carry me to the changing room where I shower and change into the plushest robe before heading to my treatment room for a nap...(I mean facial)... Bliss!!!