WHO WE ARE - A BIT OF HISTORY
Notting Hill's jewel in the Crown. Some say we started the whole thing! Call us a "Brasserie", a "wine bar", a "damn good pub" or a "fine restaurant": we’ve been labelled all of them and more. Our eccentric nature effortlessly embraces any and all monikers as we seamlessly set the pace for Notting Hill trends, decade after decade. We attribute this ability to adapt and remain fresh, to our local community with its faithful, eclectic clientele as well as our bastion of more international followers, and our close relationship with both. Not to mention our stellar staff: The Portobello Gold is known far and wide as a haven for those who want award-winning food and wine served with passion and personality.
The Princess Alexandra, “the Alex”, as it was affectionately known, was laid to rest in January 1985 and the Portobello Gold was created. In 1986, the back garden was covered to create the conservatory that you see today. Some of the large palms are about 35 years old, having survived the catastrophic fire of October 2004.
In the beginning, wishing to distance ourselves from the Hell's Angel reputation of the Alex, we re-established the traditional Sunday roasts ... then introduced London to the oyster shooter and draught wheat beer. We have partied through 28 carnivals (not to be missed). We have knocked through here, demolished there, and during the Gulf War, when all pubs and restaurants were dead, our multi-talented chef, Peter, was gainfully employed building the balcony and the “hippy deck” in the restaurant – now one of two, and our most-requested tables.
In spring 1995, our cleaner Keith, an ex-US Navy programmer who never quite went home after his tour of duty here (until finally being deported in 1996), helped us to become one of the first Cybercafes in the world. In 1996, our upstairs bedrooms were also wired up, making us the first UK hotel with Internet access in the rooms - remember, this is back when we had to travel with modems. Today, wireless internet access is free to guests in the bar and hotel.
In December 2000, President Bill Clinton dropped in for lunch during a power cut.
We've seen our fair share of VIPs pass through, and in December 2000, President Bill Clinton, complete with his entourage of Men in Black, helicopters and full motorcade, dropped in for lunch with the US Ambassador, whose daughter was a regular ... during a power cut and, so overawed were they by the unique atmosphere and our ability to entertain them so well in the dark, they left without paying (not that we would have asked him to), thus creating an international incident!
We have live music every Sunday night ... host Gallery openings for local artists and photographers ... throw great parties ... offer our roof terrace as the perfect venue to hold a BBQ ... provide an upstairs private conference room for those deal-making moments ... are used as a regular filming site by local production companies ... and generally serve as a home away from home for all who enter here and join us for a drink.
For those of you whom are vinously-minded, my beautiful wife, Lauren Johnson-Bell, www.thewinelady.com, is an international, award-winning wine critic and author. You can buy her latest book here, Pairing Wine and Food. We offer 21 wines by the glass, and if you wish to try something else on the wine list, just ask.
Bananas growing in our restaurant ...climate change?
For anyone with a good palate, who is perhaps more of a wine drinker, try Freedom organic lager or Meantime Yakima Red (is it a lager, is it a real ale?). The bar menu runs throughout the day and the evening (more restaurant-style) menu, runs from 7pm.
- Michael Bell