Doing London like New York
Finding a suitable place with small children in Notting Hill is no easy feat. When we found ourselves with three small children holed up in rural Hampshire but missing our London fix, we knew we needed to get creative with our budget.
Our ‘Bolthole on Arundel’ nailed a fairly heft number of requirements on the list. Having to make the choice between a three-bedroom property or prime Notting Hill we opted for prime Notting Hill and a two bedroom flat with a second room large enough to fit three single beds. Our justification was that we needed to approach visiting London like we might visit New York. All we needed was comfy beds, a decent bathroom and easy access to parks, shops, transport and attractions. We would be outside with our rosy- cheeked children scooting between museums and cafes and jumping into a black taxi whenever we felt the whim. Satisfyingly, for once, this vision has very much proved to be the case. Our kids love London and the dinky flat.
We wanted something that was relatively chic yet not too stressful with three kids under five. It needed plenty of storage for all the things that you need with kids (high chair, travel cot and scooters – we have four plus four helmets). The Arundel flat was a blank canvas with access to the holy grail – a private garden just like in the film Notting Hill (in fact the Hugh Grant film featured Arundel Gardens as a street view). The downside was that it was built in the one bombed building in Arundel Gardens not repairable, which is an otherwise stunningly pretty street with stuccoed buildings. However, the big upside is that as a result, this 1960s specimen comes with an elevator, unlike many of the flats in Notting Hill in our price range, which is a godsend when marshaling little ones whilst managing luggage.
The kids love the breakfast table and banquette seating we had made to contain the kitchen mess which is inevitable with kids, and adore snuggling up on the sofa after a day out scooting watching something on Virgin Media via our whopping 50meg broadband – a novelty when you come from rural England.
A bonus of its location is a key to the fabulous sprawling .49 hectare private Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens. The gardens are home to original 19th century plane trees, turkey oaks and horse chestnuts, some as high as the six story buildings enclosing them. It has a fort, swings, slide, plenty of bench seats tucked away, pebble paths to take exercise on even in England’s muddy winters and a designated area for ball games for kids. The best part is, as it is private, with a locked gate at either end, your kids are pretty safe to roam and let off steam without the worry you get if you momentarily lose sight of one at the bigger parks. On a hot summer’s day, you can’t beat a picnic on a blanket under one of the trees with a gentle breeze swirling past. It is amazing to think you are in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities yet basking in a green peaceful oasis.
Located one block from Portobello Rd, there is no shortage of black cabs, free bicycles points to get round London and the choice of three tube stations Notting Hill, Holland Park and Ladbroke Grove, giving you access to Central Line, District Line, Circle Line and the Hammersmith and City Line. We are also close to Holland Park, Kensington Park, Avondale Park and Hyde Park – all easily scootable destinations for kids, all with cafes, playgrounds, loos and things to do.
I put food into three categories when we come to London. (Cooking, other than toast, is not one of them, however the kitchen is set up for it.)
1. Deliverance. One of the most awesomely executed food concepts I have come across. One firm delivers food from a menu as diverse as Italian and sushi to burgers and skinny salads. Vegetarian? No problem. Share a bottle of wine after putting the kids to bed? Also possible. You can choose whatever you like and they’ll ring the doorbell with the goods. You can also book an early delivery slot for kids’ supper at 6.15pm. Payment by cash or card.
2. Delis and supermarkets. We are a stone’s throw from Elgin Crescent (Portobello end) which is home to McChristians (sells all your breakfast foods including spreads, cereals and so forth as well as deli foods) and Grocer on Elgin – another deli with lovely salads and soups as well as more substantial foods. Elgin Crescent also has a pharmacy, a florist, a wine shop, a magazine shop/convenience store, the awesomely eclectic Grahame and Green homewares store and a pub. Is it actually possible to design a better village street? Portobello Rd, aside from its market produce, is home to many artisan food shops, Gails Bakery and of course Hummingbird Bakery and a Tesco supermarket (I include Tesco, as fancy cheese and unpronounceable bread varieties are irrelevant when you need size four Huggies in a rush). The Pantry, a lime green beacon of cooked breakfasts, coffee and skinny juices, is visible from the end of our road (less than 500m door to door). A slightly longer walk will lead you to the bastion of Britishness, Marks and Spencers, which is the mother ship of picnic catering.
3. Eating out. We are very close to the two Michelin star restaurant The Ledbury (stunning, absolutely worth trying to get a booking before your stay) and E&O, a pan Asian hot spot that wouldn’t have been out of place in Sex and the City. Stylish people sipping cocktails accompanied by dim sum before dining on sustainably caught black miso cod and duck water melon salad and wagu beef and sticky rice. Both places have amazing service. Between the two you’ll find Soho House’s Electric Brasserie and the Electric Cinema and Electric Diner. The Cinema and Diner are open to anyone and make a great night out (bottle of red wine in a leather armchair with footstool accompanied by tapas as you take in a new release?). The Brasserie however, usually guaranteed to be entertaining at least one or two internationally recognized faces (George Clooney, Taylor Swift..), requires membership. For brunch or lunch we recommend 202, Beach Blanket Babylon and Bill Grainger.
Bolthole on Arundel is available to rent for from £240 per night, with a minimum three-night stay. Super King, Twin singles and one on a single bed/chair mattress or travel cot.