Hello! I am a US Expat residing in West London. When I arrived in the UK, I made it my mission to see and experience everything this city has to offer. I am actively exploring a never ending list of restaurants, markets, shows, sights and experiences, and have decided to share my adventures here with you! After having tons of visitors from the states, I sort of became an expert on itineraries, and had friends and friends of friends asking me to plan their guest's trips. So, please enjoy the suggestions I have offered here, like I have done for the important people in my life, with that same goal of providing new, exciting experiences for the Londoner, new or old! My opinions are based on my personal experiences only, so please do not take my thoughts as offensive. This is meant to be helpful, not hurtful. Thanks.
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After yesterday’s disappointing pub experience at The Mitre, let me tell you about a better pub/restaurant in the West London area.
The Prince Bonaparte is a spacious corner pub, perfect for a lively Happy Hour, a weeknight meal, or a Sunday roast. The place has a classic charm with nice large windows and a sharp blue exterior. The smart Art Deco font labeling the restaurant completes the perfect entrance to this fun gastropub.
The menu, like the easy location and spacious venue, is also accommodating to all. The place is comfortable and there’s something for everyone. I’ve never had a bad meal when dining on their simple classics like a cheeseburger or fish and chips. And their toffee pudding is amazing. Second in the neighborhood to the Ladbroke Arms, but pretty amazing.
My only complaint from my last visit was the bathroom. It was very dirty and smelled horrible. A few of us girls took trips there throughout the night and it never got better. No one from the staff ever checked on the situation, which (you would think) would be part of their regular duties.
That’s just a small strike, though. Overall, The Prince Bonaparte is a lovely pub worth a visit with your partner, folks, colleagues, friends…
The Prince Bonaparte
80 Chepstow Road
London W2 5BE
This one is an absolute DON’T, which is such a shame. The Mitre is in an easy location, large enough to accommodate big groups, and even has outside space. It would be a fantastic go-to if it had redeeming qualities beyond the building.
Everyone knows The Mitre is horrible. I was warned not to try it by four different people in completely separate social circles. I still had to, of course. What kind of restaurant reviewer would I be if I didn’t aim to check every London spot off my own blog-purposed checklist?
So, on a weekend night we went, and just as all the hopefuls before me, I gave it a fair shot, but it turned out to be a true disappointment.
Ah, where to start. I guess we didn’t get off on the right foot from the beginning. We had a reservation, but it took almost twenty minutes to seat us. One of our friends had a baby with them, so you would think they would try to speed things along for the sake of the child. Nope. We had to remind the staff we were waiting multiple times.
Once seated, we were faced with an extremely high-priced menu for English pub fare. This restaurant was not nice enough for prices like these. A £30 steak at a basic pub had to be fantastic (right?), so three of us took the challenge to find out. The rest of the dishes also sounded appealing, so we opted for an assortment of apps and entrees, including some oysters to start.
Let me start with the oysters. One of them was bad. Not just bad. Rancid. The smell coming of the plate was putrid. For the cook or server not to notice this is downright criminal. The worst part, when we let the server know, he just took the single, bad oyster off the plate, with his bare hands and carried it away. So tacky. Again, prices too high for tacky service and spoiled food.
After that we actually enjoyed some ox cheek mac n’ cheese before being thoroughly disappointed in our meals.
Our six entrees came to us ICE-COLD. And we waited a longggg time for those entrees. They must have been sitting on the line, far from a heat lamp for way too long. It was disgusting. This was a roast, three steaks, and a couple of fish & chips. So disappointing. And, since we try to be good people, and the idea of wasting all that food seemed horrible (and waiting forever to remake it sounded just as bad) we sucked it up and ate our cold, dry, sad meals.
The management did take our complaints seriously, I have to say. Well, they weren’t all that apologetic, but they did heavily discount the bill and offer us dessert. They made it right, but, unfortunately, nothing was good enough to warrant a return visit.
After the meal, the incompetent server had us reviewing an outdated dessert menu, so when we ordered, everything was from the previous week and we had to then do the whole song and dance over again. When the desserts finally came, I had to get up myself to get silverware for the table, and then again to find someone to give us or check.
If I had to pick one word to describe the experience, it would be painful. Horrible service, rookie mistakes, cold and overpriced meals. It pains me just to think back on it all. And, to top it all off, I was recounting this experience to a friend and she told me a SHOCKING Mitre story. This place never ceases to amaze and disappoint. My friend was given £100.00 gift certificate as a gift (from an out-of-towner that had no idea being sentenced to The Mitre was no gift at all). When she tried to use a portion, The Mitre DEMANDED it was to be used all in one go. How in the world is a girl supposed to spend £100.00 in one sitting by herself? Is she forced to use her gift on other people. Their prices are high but not £100.00 per person high unless you order the shitty steak, an appetizer, sides, dessert and drink a lot. Still, I’ve never heard of a restaurant doing this to a patron. PATHETIC!
In conclusion, I went to The Mitre after hearing horrible reviews, but I had to see (and review) for myself. Do not make the same mistake I did. Trust pretty much everyone in West London and avoid this horrible place.
40 Holland Park Avenue
London W11 3QY
Looking for a summer activity for an inevitable rainy London day? Head to The Science Museum before September 3rd and check out the Robots exhibit. The entire museum is an absolute must-do, but the latest exhibition that covers the last 500 years of robot evolution, is truly impressive and fascinating for both children and adults.
The Science Museum, located in Kensington, is generally free, like all London museums, with charges only for the IMAX theater and some special exhibits. The place is jam-packed with everything science, so (especially if you’re bringing kids) you’ll do just fine popping in on a limited, free visit. The exhibitions run about £15 for adults, but still free for children under 11. If you choose this season’s feature, you’ll learn all about robots!
The evolution of the robot has moved fast and furious in the past hundred years. From basic factory arms, to full on robot companions that were originally just concepts in movies, it’s all at The Science Museum. You can even check out the current robots on the market to purchase yourself an at home buddy. There are logical partners for mental stimulation, robots that respond to touch, and ones suited to entertain your toddler! The future is here, everyone!
So, if you want to get a sneak peak at the future friends that may someday be in every household, or just learn about the history and science behind robots, head to The Science Museum this month. And, remember, all year long, The Science Museum is home to amazing, visually stunning exhibitions. Check it out!
The Science Museum
London SW7 2DD
If you ever find yourself hungry in Fulham, there’s a delightful little eatery right on Fulham Road. Fulham is not always an ideal dinner choice from Notting Hill if you plan on taking the tube, but by car it makes for an easy night out in a different neighborhood. To park, I drive through the bustling center until it gets a little more residential. There, I can easily find free parking down one of the side streets.
Once parked and headed back to Fulham Road on foot, you come upon Manuka Kitchen–a cozy little eatery with minimalist, bistro decor. The name plays on the world’s obsession with the Down Under Manuka honey, which makes many appearances on the Manuka Kitchen menu.
We dined on a quiet weekday night, but I hear the place can get pretty slammed during weekend brunch hours. I didn’t mind the chill atmosphere, as it made for a relaxing catch-up with my girlfriends and allowed me to really observe the staff and open kitchen.
The chef seemed to be Canadian, and was really the only person on point in the establishment. While the food was delicious, and the price was right, the servers seemed a little oblivious. It entertained me to watch the chef from the kitchen constantly reminding the young waitresses to check the tables and refill water glasses. He must have reminded them 6 times while we were sitting there. At one point, he realized that one girl didn’t even know what “check the tables” meant, haha. Every time he said that, she just cluelessly looked at the computer screen. Some real winners on that staff. Hopefully by now they are more properly trained.
That’s something I do not understand about bad servers. Okay, so this is your first waitressing job, whatever, but SURELY you have dined at a restaurant before. Can’t you think about how you would want to be treated while dining? Don’t you know that people get thirsty while eating? It just seems like common sense to me. But, I digress.
The highlight of the experience, as it typically should be, was the food. The bread was delicious and eliminated my need for a starter. I skipped right to an entree and had the Wagyu Beef Bolognese which was rich, nicely seasoned, flavorful, and portioned just right. My friends enjoyed their steaks and mussels. And we all had room for dessert. After all, we had to see how Manuka honey was incorporated into the menu.
We shared the Salted Caramel Panna Cotta and had teas served with nice little honey presentations. The dessert was just as tasty as our previous course and all four of us unanimously gave Manuka Kitchen a London Checklist “Do.” I would consider this restaurant appropriate for all occasions–a first date, a place to bring the folks, a night out with the girlfriends, an easy weeknight dinner, etc. If you’re looking for a place to go for just about any reason, and don’t mind the trek to Fulham, head right over to Manuka Kitchen! Enjoy!
The Ladbroke Arms is a perfect little neighborhood pub positioned between Ladbroke Grove and Portobello Road. Notting Hill has all types of pubs–posh pubs, corner pubs, boutique hotel pubs, trendy pubs–but none tick as many boxes as The Ladbroke Arms.
Anyone can feel comfortable at The Ladbroke Arms, it’s a pub for the people, but pretty enough to go from a casual pint pub to a special occasion pub. It’s worthy of being a place to take your folks, and English enough to show out-of-town American guests what pub life is all about. It just fits the bill. All the bills.
Beyond its versatility, The Ladbroke Arms is also delicious with friendly, competent table service. Therefore, reservations are highly recommended. This establishment is no secret.
The restaurant is warm and charming. Like an English grandmother’s home. Nice art, mirrors and frames, inviting colors, older tables, tailored seating. It’s perfect.
Once seated, you get the seasonal menu that offers a little bit of everything you would expect on an English pub menu, but done nicer, higher on the culinary scale.
I opted for the goat cheese mousse and beets which was colorful and artistic. The mix of colors and textures gave the delicious dish the presentation it deserved.
After that, I had the crab which was basic, but fresh. I would have liked to cut the intense, salty crab flavor with something mild and cool, perhaps avocado, but it wasn’t bad by any means.
What really stole the show, though, was the sticky toffee pudding. Perhaps THE best in the neighborhood. It was incredible moist and the sauce had the most amazing flavor. It was the right size and temperature. So close to perfect. Unfortunately, it was still slightly off. A dish so sweet and rich needs to be cut with something light and cool. (This was their same issue with the crab…I’m sensing a pattern.) Instead of a heavy clotted cream, this should have been topped with an airy whipped cream or even ice cream. Anything but what tasted like some cold, mushy butter. Way too much.
But, overall, The Ladbroke Arms is a do, do, DO! Check it out, see for yourself why there are happy people spilling out onto the sidewalks of this West London gem. A perfect destination for a refreshing pint during this London heat wave. Enjoy!
Okay, it’s a Sunday afternoon, but you’ve been neglecting some errands because life got in the way, and now you find yourself on Oxford Street buying unglamorous items on one of the nicest days of the year. What do you do for a quick escape from reality? You head to the John Lewis rooftop for their summer Gardening Society pop up!
The Gardening Society pop up will make you absolutely forget you’re in a department store on one of London’s busiest streets. From the fifth floor you take a separate elevator to the rooftop with the help of friendly staff guiding the way. You emerge from what may as well have been a great glass elevator with how different the scene is at the top. The manicured terrace pays tribute to the Wimbledon gardens with classic logos and clean lettering, beautiful plants, and grassy walkways. All along this transformed space are walkways, garden seats, small tables, private little sheds, a bar, and a restaurant. The experience is complete with a skyline view and, of course, sunshine!
We snagged a table within the pop up restaurant, Morty & Bob’s Cafe, where we relaxed in comfortable leather chairs at a breezy covered table. The helpful servers brought us a gooey grilled cheese, healthy avocado and crab on sourdough, and perfectly crisp truffle fries. The temporary eatery offers table service as well as the opportunity to walk up to the bar and kitchen counter and order food and drinks to take back to any garden seat.
The low-key atmosphere was an absolute perfect break from the stresses of shopping…especially for my husband. I actually had visions of leaving the restaurant and stepping onto an island sidewalk because the Gardening Society really is such a nice escape. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and I was immediately assaulted by the Oxford Street crowds and the smell of diesel once I left my little oasis. The good news, however, is that the John Lewis rooftop garden will still be there the next time I have to head to the join the masses for a day of shopping. If you too need a break, take my word for it and check out The Gardening Society. Enjoy!
The Gardening Society
John Lewis Roof Top Garden
300 Oxford Street
London W1C 1DX
In honor of Memorial Day Weekend, I have to give a must-do to the closest thing to an American pastime I could find in Notting Hill–an almost ice cream parlor.
Sure, it’s a bank holiday weekend here in London, but that basically means everyone gets out of dodge and a lot of restaurants are closed. In the US, however, there’s a true spirit to the weekend. There are parades, picnics, BBQs, uniforms of red, white and blue, and, of course, the must-have foods to celebrate the summer kick-off weekend. These foods include watermelon, hot dogs, burgers, pasta salads, American flag sheet cakes, and ice cream cones!
If you are like me, and feeling a little homesick missing out on all that good stuff above, head to the brand new Gelateria 3Bis to fill the Notting Hill ice cream cone void!
Gelateria 3Bis just opened on May 25th, and smartly offered free gelato to everyone for their grand opening afternoon. I went at the perfect time and only had to wait a few minutes to get my hands on a hazelnut gelato cone. It was absolutely delicious. Very sweet, so the small portion suited me just fine. But amazing how it took me right back to having my feet in the grass in New England and trying to catch the drips from the melting treat sliding down my cone.
Gelato and ice cream are close enough to me to make this a true place to visit when I need to be taken back to my roots. I’m sure connoisseurs would be happy to argue the differences, but if you’re like me, looking for a sweet treat, head to Gelateria 3Bis! And, oh yeah, if someone could tell me how to pronounce their name, that’d be cool too. Enjoy and happy MDW/bank holiday!
The Elgin seems to be a popular name in West London. At first, I thought The Elgin over in Maida Vale was under the same umbrella as The Elgin pub in Notting Hill, so when a friend suggested the Maida Vale location for a coffee, I was very confused. Pubs don’t scream good coffee to me. Once I arrived at the Maida Vale Elgin, however, I realized the two corner spots are very different from one another. The name, which apparently means “white” (strange), is about all these locations have in common. The Notting Hill pub is just that. A pub that serves your typical pints to all types of neighborhood folk. (Though I have yet to pop in since it’s latest renovation.) But, the focus of the post today, is a young cafe by day and a cool gastropub by night.
When I first walked in for my coffee date, I found the cafe’s open space refreshing. It was filled with subway tiles, exposed brick walls, metal stools, and bistro chairs. It had the feeling of an airy, NYC loft. Most tables were occupied by well-dressed singletons that were focusing on some version of an Apple device. MacBook Pros, Airs, iPads–seriously every last person was staring into the digital world in front of them. I liked it. I followed suit and took my iPhone out while I waited for the rest of my party.
While waiting, the friendliest server ever came over and took my order for a cappuccino. He told me about the place, explained that it had no relation to the Notting Hill Elgin, which was super obvious at that point, and told me what pastries he had that day. I settled nicely into a corner of the restaurant and sipped my coffee.
While people-watching freelance workers and sales folk in between meetings, and maybe a college guy’s study session, my group arrived and joined me in the front corner. Though we did feel like we were intruding on all the other tables’ quiet time by all our catch-up time cackling during, we still felt comfortable at The Elgin.
While I can’t speak for those other patrons that may have hated us, I can say the venue was a good choice for us and we look forward to heading back next month for our standing group date. Our numbers vary, so a place like The Elgin is an easy spot for just a few of us, or sometimes more, for girl talk over coffees, teas, and pain au chocolats. So, whether you’re in a little group, or someone looking for a spot to chill (with or without a Mac) walk right past the Maida Vale Starbucks and head to The Elgin on the corner. Enjoy!
255 Elgin Avenue
London W9 1NJ
Another West London must-do! I know the east has been neglected for awhile, but with so many new restaurants popping up in the west, it’s hard to venture elsewhere.
Take 108 Garage, for example. The new kid on the block is not your typical family-friendly, low-key, Notting Hill eatery, instead, its bringing art and creativity with its fine culinary cuisine. That’s right, the neighborhood is growing up, so put on your big girl shoes and head to the sexy scene that is 108 Garage.
Outfitted like a mechanic’s garage-turned restaurant, the unusual theme actually works. The mixed metals found in the ceiling piping, caged liquor cabinets, and hanging lights gave a little sparkle and warmth to the industrial space. The seating is close together, keeping the small restaurant cozy, and then taking the intimacy even further with an open kitchen. It’s always amazing to watch an executive chef in action–tidying and putting the finishing touches on dishes, while summoning servers to whisk them away. The environment gets an A+, but the new 108 Garage is not without its growing pains.
Booking a table seems more difficult than it should be. We had to book a table for two very far in advance and eat pretty early to secure a Saturday night spot. This seemed completely unnecessary since there were only a few people in the place during our reservation spot. This, while frustrating would not have been a big deal if the servers did not make us feel like we were the only people in the place. Overbearing is an understatement when describing the waitstaff. We must have had five different servers constantly checking on us. Usually, in London, I’m continuously disappointed in the lack of attention from servers, but this other side of the spectrum was too much to handle. It got to the point that if I turned my head to look at the decor, someone would immediately come over and asked what I needed. I wished for a neck brace to control my neck so I could be left alone.
Aside from not giving us breathing room, I have a few small grievances with the actual level of service. First, the food came WAY too fast. We were given our bread and within one bite our appetizer had arrived. The appetizer had a completely unnecessary bit of frozen basil which required immediate consumption, so it wasn’t even like we could push the dishes aside and enjoy our bread and a sip of our cocktails first. The actual dish I’ll get into in a little bit. So, whenever we were done with one of our rushed courses, the server (a different one each time) would clear the area by STACKING PLATES. One of my biggest pet peeves. The restaurant is not a diner, do not smush dirty dishes on top of each other in front of my face. This seems like a no-brainer for a high-end establishment but it’s amazing how many restaurants miss the mark on this one.
After the plates are removed, one of the servers brings a new silverware setting. Both fork and knife are placed to my right each time. That bothers me too, but I guess by now you know I’m a little nitpicky.
Lastly, in true London fashion, the 8 million servers disappeared once we were ready to go. We already made it clear we wanted the bill, and at that time our drinks and waters were empty. At that same time, the hostess told us our time was up and she needed the table. If the hostess had communicated with the server that knew we were ready to vacate (perhaps she was too busy on her cell phone, yup, in the dining room), we could have been swiftly removed before we could find out we were being evicted. Lack of communication and poor planning right there.
Now onto the actual food. It’s fantastic. It truly is. The price is right, the cocktails are inventive and refreshing, and the bread is fresh. Once you get on to the actual courses, you’re presented with pretty arrangements and bold flavors. I started with the burrata that was topped with dainty fresh strawberries. This was the dish that turned into a production when paired with the frozen basil. The server actually comes to your table, freezes the herb in liquid nitrogen and tells you to eat it really quickly before it gets soggy. This part is so contrived and seems like nothing more than justification for a impulse buy at the kitchenware depot. After that little hiccup, I had an AMAZING slow-cooked Iberico ham dish and followed that with the best little chocolate pudding for dessert. Literal pudding. Not England’s generic term for “dessert.”
They have a tasting menu and an a la carte menu which I do not understand, either. There are literally no differences between the items on the two, and since both parties would have to get the full tasting, it really doesn’t make sense. If something different and desirable was on the tasting menu, we may have gone for it, but for us it seemed truly pointless. I suggest putting some coveted meals on there if it’s the menu they really want to push.
So, aside from some minor details, 108 Garage ticks all the major boxes. Friendly staff, nice decor, reasonable prices, and OUTSTANDING food. I will definitely be back to the Golborne Road hot spot. But first, it’s your turn. Enjoy!
Now, this one falls under that little invisible category called “Do, with a Disclaimer.” While I love Crazy Homies, it’s not the best Mexican in the area, and definitely could use a few improvements. But, I will be back because it’s tasty, eclectic, and in my neighborhood.
Another part of the Tom Conran’s restaurant group, Crazy Homies resides on Westbourne Park Road with its siblings Lucky Seven and The Cow. Tom’s little stake on that road feels a bit like his own section of a Monopoly board. You’re bound to land on one of his spaces for an easy dinner, a quick drink, or for a post-drinking cheesy feast, perhaps.
Conran’s restaurants do a couple things really well. The restaurants all have unique themes and the decor stylishly and accurately goes along with all of them. That and all of the food is pretty tasty. This is why they are all must-dos on the London Checklist. What happens, though, when you have success in major restaurant categories, is that other issues might fall through the cracks. This, in my opinion, is what has happened to Crazy Homies.
I go there to sit upstairs. It’s a quirky bar/restaurant that reminds me of NYC and has Dia de Muertos vibes. I do not go there to sit downstairs. Downstairs it is dark, dingy, and smells bad. For this reason, reservations are a must. Even if seated at a colorful upstairs table, you may find yourself venturing down to use the restroom. That would be at your own risk. It is in major need of a face lift (and more space.) If memory serves me correctly, it barely has a working hand dryer and is carpeted(!). So, stick with upstairs and, hopefully, by the time you need the bathroom, you’re already too drunk on the Margaritas Calientes to care.
Ah, the margaritas. My fav. That, some nachos and quesadilla action, and I’m a happy girl. Everything is pretty good. Definitely on the spicy side, so beware if that is not your thing. I have to point out that they charge wayyyy too much for a side of sour cream. Sour cream is a standard accompaniment to any Mexican dish in America, so it’s hard to wrap my head around being served the littlest portion or none at all. Especially for as spicy as Crazy Homies makes their food. So be prepared to shell out a couple pounds for something that should be a given. Lastly, in regards to the actual food, skip the churros. They’re the worst I’ve ever had. Always way too overcooked and greasy. You forget that they are actually made of dough. They don’t have much more in the way of desserts, but if you’re still feeling calorie-deficient, you can load up with another margarita.
Okay, here is my biggest gripe with Crazy Homies. The service. Despite being a Mexican place, which is usually the cheapest cuisine in town (in America, anyway) Crazy Homies is like any other restaurant in Notting Hill. You’re not getting out of there for less than £30-40 per person, so you should be able to expect some reasonable service. I have been in there countless times where I’ve had to beg for attention from a server for literally everything–the inevitable sides of sour cream, water, drink refills, even silverware once! But what really aggravates me is when the food comes too quickly. They’re better about this on slow nights, but, when they’re busy, they have zero control over their kitchen. There is no flow. Just food haphazardly flying out and about. Once, I dined at Crazy Homies with three other people. We made it very clear that the nachos and quesadillas were to start, and then each ordered an entree. The food came out in a reckless manner. Two entrees came, then the starters, then the rest of the entrees twenty minutes later. This was also another one of those times when we had no drinks and water. We were just stuck with half of our spicy food. Restaurants also lose money this way. I remember my cousin trying to find the waitress for another cocktail, but by the time she came around, it was basically time to go. That would have been an additional £10 for the restaurant and a higher tip for the waitress if everyone got their heads around the bigger picture.
I will say, it usually comes down to this one specific waitress. She never seems to recognize if a table is dissatisfied. Maybe its partially the language barrier, but I have to blame some of it on skills and training. When we tried to explain the rough go we were having with the empty drinks and the plates coming out in the wrong order, she was not apologetic. She stared at us blankly and said “We don’t do that here.” She was referring to giving you a starter as a starter and not just bringing everything out as its ready. This policy works for tapas places. Beyond that, let people have a pleasant, leisurely dining experience.
So, that’s how I feel about all that. Not to put a damper on a neighborhood “Do,” but I’m hopeful that if small adjustments are made, Crazy Homies will truly live up to its full restaurant potential. Head there and decide for yourself!
125 Westbourne Park Road
London W2 5QL