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Notting Hill is a strange part of London. The houses are some of the most beautiful in their white-washed and pastel-coloured rows, there are wonderful shops and restaurants, Portobello Market, the chaos of Carnival in August, and yet, the neighbourhood feels a bit too polished, a bit too serene. Almost to the point of feeling like a film set. Perhaps that’s more revealing of some inner anxieties than it is of the place, but I’m sure lots of people reading this will know what I mean: Notting Hill isn’t the most surprising of places.
However, The Portobello Hotel is actually quite surprising. For starters, it’s unashamedly old fashioned and unpretentious. It’s a very small hotel, a true boutique, tucked on a quiet residential street that backs onto a stunning private garden (known as Stanley Gardens), big enough almost to be a park, and extremely well tended with a mown lawn, benches and trimmed bushes.
When we arrive it’s far too cold to make the most of the garden but we do stand staring down at it from our lovely little balcony. We’re in one of the top floor rooms, categorised as Splendid Rooms (the top category being Signature Rooms), which is very spacious with pale green walls, antique wooden furnishings, lots of warm lamps and a large bathroom with a ring top bath, shower and well-chosen artwork hanging on the walls.
All of the rooms are uniquely decorated and the artwork especially is worth admiring, more hotels than would care to admit slap-up pictures without much proper consideration, but The Portobello Hotel’s collection is carefully curated as are all the other little homely touches, such as the books laid on coffee tables and the bars of dark chocolate that await us on arrival.
There’s no restaurant, but through from the lobby is the sitting room; an exceptionally relaxing space with a log fire, sofas and a well-stocked honesty bar complete with Hendricks gin, fever tree tonic, and crystal tumblers. Breakfast is served here, or in bed with the option of continental or cooked at an extra charge. There is also a small all-day dining room service menu, or the hotel is happy for guests to order in their own food (a new trend in the luxury hospitality industry that has evolved to fit with contemporary city living).
The service at The Portobello is some of the best we’ve experienced at a boutique London hotel. It’s hands-off in that guests are handed their keys on arrival and encouraged to make their own way to their bedrooms – we’re grateful not to have an anxious member of staff show us how to turn on and off the lights and the television – but at the same time, the staff are incredibly warm and accommodating. When we order food, it’s delivered to our room with cutlery and crockery, and similarly when we realise we’ve forgotten almost everything you need for an overnight stay, dental and shaving kits promptly arrive.
It’s the kind of hotel that’s easy to settle into, and unlike most London hotels which can feel quite dark even on rare Summery days – mainly due to a general lack of space – The Portobello benefits from lots of natural light from the windows, French doors and balconies, and is decorated so as to feel cosy and bright at the same time. It’s a real treat to stay at a hotel that’s so authentically elegant.
For more information on The Portobello Hotel.