I have to be honest, when the invitation came to visit Portobello House at 225 Ladbroke Grove in London’s Notting Hill, I was a bit sceptical. I have lived in the area for almost 10 years and in Portobello House’s place up until this summer used to be a dodgy pub with rooms where some guests had to share a common bathroom called the Earl Percy.
But one day the Earl Percy closed, it was boarded up and went through quite a few months of renovations. It reopened earlier this year as the Portobello House with a new bright look and lovely pots of plants placed outside strategically to protect smokers and alfresco diners from the fumes of Ladbroke Grove’s traffic. But I was still reluctant to try it out.
However, on a rainy Monday night craving warmth, comfort food and delicious drink (even though you aren’t supposed to after a busy weekend of going out), I invited my friend Malaika to share the dining experience at Portobello House. Malaika lives just across the street, but she also had no idea about the place and had never been inside.
The original layout of the Victorian inn has stayed more or less the same with the open plan bar, red wallpaper with white flowers, baroque mirrors, oak floors and beautiful chandeliers. It wasn’t too busy on that wet Monday night, but the smell of truffles and a screen in the corner playing Breakfast at Tiffany’s welcomed us inside.
The new bistro and hotel were launched this September with bright young Head Chef Jan Ostle at the helm of its kitchen. Jan has worked under Gordon Ramsay, Phillip Howard and Fernando De la Cruz (Santo on Portobello Road) and has created a modern British and European menu for the tastes of the fashionable W11 crowd and the less fashionable residents of W10.
We decided to cheer ourselves up with some cocktails and kicked off our dinner with a Negroni (me) and Aperol spritz (Malaika), at £8 each. A Negroni is one of my favourite cocktails and Malaika being Italian knows a good spritz from a bad one, and we can both report happily that we were delighted with our choices.
My guest had a lovely creamy artichoke soup to start and I went for a plate of house cured salmon with Clementine vinaigrette (£6). Malaika’s choice was absolutely excellent, but even though I liked my salmon, it was a bit boring, so I regretted I hadn’t chosen a heartier dish.
To compensate for the lack of calories in my starter, I ordered a corn fed chicken breast, mushroom purée, pinenut & truffle pesto and Malaika chose the whole grilled black bream with salsa verde (both at £ 14.50). Once again my friend ordered the best dish on the menu. The fish was fresh, full of flavours and absolutely gorgeous. I did get a couple of bites and have to say it was better than the fish in some more famous restaurants known for their seafood.
My chicken was excellent too, but I got a bit more than I bargained for with all those rich flavours of pinenuts, pesto and truffle. A couple of glasses of Catena Malbec wine (not cheap at £9.50 for a glass, so go for the bottle for £33) cut through the thickness of my second course and I even had some space for dessert. We ordered one portion of the chocolate mousse and salted honeycomb (£4.50). I liked the honeycomb more than the mousse, but Malaika preferred the latter, so it was a perfect dessert for us to share.
All 12 bedrooms on the 1st and 2nd floors of Portobello House were busy that night, so unfortunately we weren’t able to view any, but the receptionist assured us they all have ensuite luxury bathrooms.
The Concierge Tip: This is a great local gastropub – order the black bream with salsa verde if you like fish.
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