It’s easy to think of London as one big city, packed with fabulous architecture and wonderful places to eat drink and shop. But this big city is in fact a series of much smaller locations, many of them with a real village feel. This sense of local pride and very engaged residents is often built around a pretty green, a park, pedestrianised road, a Farmer’s Markets or independent delis, butchers and greengrocers. This is my Village London
Just west of Notting Hill Gate and before you hit the hype of Westfield is a tiny cross road of streets- Clarendon Cross. Anchored for many years by Julies Restaurant And Bar, a hang out for generations of ‘A’ list celebs. Even in the 70s when bordered by a very ordinary dairy, a greengrocer and a newspaper shop, Julies still held it’s own. Now these bastions of traditional food have gone. Sky high rents and the convenience revolution of the 80s saw much of the real food stores close and the sites turned into offices. These are now giving way to boutiques, delis, up market veg shops and some independent independents.
Start at Holland Park Avenue, turning right out of Holland Park tube station passing Daunt Books, a sister to the one in Marylebone High Street and pop into Jerabaoms. The fragrance of fabulous cheese hits you the minute you enter the store, a mixture of musty and milky with the unmistakeable hint of wine from the extensive selection on sale. Jeraboams is more than just cheese and wine; it’s a high end food emporium. Not a rarefied gift store but somewhere that locals come and shop regularly for the delights of the dinner table.
Continue past Jeraboams and turn immediately right into Clarendon Road, you almost fall over the crates stacked four high filled with fruit and vegetables at Michanicou Bros. This is where you can buy wild garlic in season, fresh sorrel and horseradish, frisee lettuce and fabulous funghi. If you’re really lucky the occasional truffle can be found too. A hang out of food stylists and chefs because they can get most things with a little notice and what they do have is wonderful quality.
Pick up a coffee, dark and rich from La Piccola Deli, almost next door and make your way up Clarendon Road. It’s a five minute straight walk to Clarendon Cross. Turn left and begin to explore. On the right hand side is a mecca for your canine, Clarendon Cross Canines. This is where you arrange to pamper your pooch, whether it’s a walk, daycare, grooming, toys or of course food.
On the left hand side is Summerhill And Bishop. A corner shop that beguiles you with fabulous fragrance the minute you go through the door. A French country house inspired range of handcrafted earthenware, delicate glassware and all the kitchen must haves you never knew you needed, but are beautifully designed and practical. Just around the corner is the School with resident chef Marcelo De Campos where Summerhill and Bishop have cooking and demonstration events.
On the opposite corner is The Cross, a favourite of the glossy magazines. It’s a delightful, eclectic mix of high fashion, kidswear, homeware and gifts. Opened in 1996 The Cross has long had a reputation for supporting up and coming labels as well as more established brands. Check it out for novel home items.
If you’re a fan of local history take a peek behind The Cross in Walmer Road. This is where you’ll find the only visible remains of the industry this area was infamous for in the mid 1800s. The Potteries as it was known, an area of appalling slum land, was where good quality clay was dug out of the ground and shaped into bricks and tiles which were fired in kilns like the one in Walmer Road.
Go back to The Cross and Julies Bar And Restaurant is on the next corner, sadly it has been closed for more than a year but according to the website will reopen next year. With tables out on the pavement in the summer and cosy intimate spaces inside, it will be great to see the refurbished Grande Dame next spring.
Myriad Antiques has been a part of Clarendon Cross since 1964. A mix of vintage, modern, specially commissioned pieces and genuine antiques for both the home and garden. it’s a great place to poke around for that special item.
Opposite the Clarendon Cross pedestrianised area is Cowshed Clarendon Cross. Enjoy a facial, mani pedi or massage but don’t miss out the café. Simple toast, fragrant muffins or a delicious lamb and couscous salad are all on offer in a relaxed atmosphere.
After a little light lunch, take off down Portland Road back towards Holland Park Avenue. On the left you’ll pass another Italian deli; Delicatessen. A small space stuffed with Italian and continental produce. Fragrant with smoked salamis and delicious speck, grab another coffee if you need one and turn left onto Holland Park Avenue.
This is the last stop before heading back to the tube station again. Lidgate Butchers, now run by the 5th generation of the Lidgate family. The beef is organic and grass fed, the lamb and pork from free range and organic farms and estates. In addition to first class meat Lidgate sells homemade pies, pasties and tarts. This is a quality traditional butchers well worth checking out for a special something for a dinner party or delicious picnic fare.
Turn left out of Lidgate and head straight to Holland Park Tube Station with all your goodies. Keep an eye out for the opening of Julies Restaurant and celebrate with the locals.
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