Gin making, good food and a fashionable place to stay, Chris Bond visits London’s famous Notting Hill.
Gin has long been part of British social life – though it’s not always been a welcome one. Dubbed ‘mother’s ruin’ back in the 18th century, its image has at times left a lot to be desired. In recent years, though, it’s become the tipple of choice for many, with artisan producers popping up all over the country.
There are now more than double the number of gin distilleries in the UK that there was six years ago. Even so, there can’t be many places that house a distillery, bar and restaurant as well as somewhere to sleep. But The Distillery, home to the increasingly popular Portobello Road gin, offers all that.
Location: London has more famous streets than you can shake a stick at but there aren’t many with as much kudos as Portobello Road. Home to the famous market of the same name, it’s the beating heart of Notting Hill, one of the capital’s most iconic neighbourhoods. It was here where the Ginstitute, run by the Portobello Road Gin team, started out as London’s smallest museum. In 2016, they upped sticks and moved down the street, taking over a building that has been been a drinking den of one kind or another since 1867. Here they created The Distillery which as well being the nerve centre of its gin production also houses a cocktail bar (The Resting Room) and first floor tapas restaurant (GinTonica), as well as three bedrooms and the atmospheric Ginstitute in the basement.
Ambience: The Distillery taps into the building’s heritage and history as a pub cleverly blending both the old and new. The blending room and museum (The Ginstitute) does this especially well. The snug bar, complete with mahogany tables, plush stools, tiled walls and ornate signage harks back to another era.
Accommodation: There are four bedrooms (three doubles) which are a kind of minimalist meets retro, underpinned by a sense of unassuming luxury, with the smart wooden furniture carrying echoes of the best of 70s design. The rooms are aimed at couples rather than families. (You have to be over 18 to stay).
Food and drink: The first floor tapas restaurant takes its cue from Spain’s Basque country and includes calamares, chorizo and Iberico pork fillet.
What to do: If you like a bit of hustle and bustle then visit the famous market on Portobello Road at the weekend. Alternatively, if you want to get away from the crowds then head to Holland Park, a stroll that will take you past some rather impressive houses.
Worth writing home about: The Ginstitute’s Experience (£120 per person) is a three hour journey through the history of gin. The price includes four drinks (it’s best to eat beforehand) and a bottle of Portobello Road gin as well as your very own creation.
To book: The Distillery, 186 Portobello Road, London, W11 1LA (0203 034 2233, the-distillery.london). Doubles cost £150 per night and it’s £125 for the small room. They don’t serve breakfast but there are no shortage of good options close by.
Concierge tip: “Avoid the crowds of central London and head to Westbourne Grove for an afternoon of shopping. Home to wonderful boutiques and upmarket brands, as well Oxfam’s first second hand designer boutique which is perfect for picking up designer vintage pieces at purse friendly prices”. (Hayley Johnson, PR director).