Thursday, October 15, 2009

Portobello Market

To prepare for a long weekend in London, I asked a friend who has lived in the city two questions:

1. Where can I get the best fish and chips in town?


2. What weekend market do you recommend I visit?

Portobello Market was the enthusiastic answer to the latter. Trusting his seasoned advice I did some pre-tip research on the Internet and discovered that Portobello Market is known mainly for its antiques, its hordes of tourists, and the fact that Notting Hill was partially shot along its namesake road. I love antiquing, I’m neutral about Notting Hill, and I generally try to avoid hordes of anything (except maybe French pastries) if at all possible. So, I did the only thing someone in my position could do: I mapped my route, and planned to arrive early to beat the crowds.

Portobello Market is big. Really big. According to what I read, it’s the largest antiques market in the world. And you know what? I believe it. If you start at the end of the road closest to Notting Hill Gate Underground station, walk the length of the market, and take in the side street off-shoots, you’ll have spent the better part of the day at Portobello. First you see the antiques: stall after stall of old tennis raquets, cameras, printing blocks, maps, electronics, children’s toys, jewelry and furniture. Then there are the fruit, vegetable, and street food stands. I drooled over barrels of fresh olives and ethnic plates from Thailand and Gabon. Next, you’ll see stands for new clothing, old clothing, house wares, and arts and crafts. I bought six bags of homemade tea and a blue frosting cupcake from a lovely woman who rightly sold both. Lastly, there are the permanent shops and boutiques that line Portobello Road, a few of which I managed to squeeze in. I could have shopped Portobello Market all day long, but my stomach had other ideas.

I started to retrace my steps back through the market in search of my friend’s fish and chips receommendatio when I was suddenly faced with the aforementioned hordes of tourists. Getting to the market early (8 a.m.) had clearly been the smart thing to do. While I was able to peacefully wander the stands, chat with the antiques dealers, and navigate the narrow arcades with ease, these new arrivals would find nothing but crowded tables and obscured vision. When I finally emerged from the crush of humanity, I was relieved to find the fish and chips place tucked away in a quiet corner of the neighborhood. The battered cod was amazing.

If you go to London, go to Portobello Market. Get there early, leave by noon, and enjoy lunch at Geales while thanking your lucky stars you’re no longer at Portobello Market.


Greg Wesson said...

I'm gutted - you came to London and didn't even drop me a line?

London has tons of great markets. My personal favourite is Borough Market. Great spot for lunch.

By the way, where do you get the best fish and chips? My local chippy went under a few months ago - a victim of the recession. I'm left with nothing but halal chicken places and kabab shops...

Cancemini4 said...

Cupcakes!!! :)

Tanya said...

@Greg, I know! It was a whirlwind weekend, there were so many people I would have liked to have seen but couldn't. Next time, or if you're ever in Brussels with some free time.

Try Geales for some really good fancy fish and chips. Watch your wallet, though. Not cheap. I didn't find a good down and dirty-type place for everyday fish and chips. Would like to, let me know if you do.

@Cancemini4, I ate a ton of cupcakes in London. They had them everywhere.