Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Saturday on Portobello Road

This Saturday, I went to the incredibly famous,and ridiculously crowded Portobello Road market in Notting Hill. Luckily, I chose to go on a warm sunny day, yes those happen here. As soon as I got off the tube at Notting Hill Gate, I knew I was nearby by the crowds of people slowly meandering in a general direction. We followed the masses towards Portobello road where I spent the day exploring  the market and area. The first block of the market is on a part of the road filled with colorful houses and street vendors selling a variety of antiques and obscure "collectibles" (an incredibly random assortment of just as random items). The next few blocks had antiques, obscurities, tourist gear stalls, and a store-lined street. I was surprised to see many of the permanent store were actually upscale clothing vendors, which seemed a little contrasting to the market and the street flooded by tourists. The next section was obviously my favorite though: food. There were many fruit and veggie stands on both sides of street and several stands selling street food. Among the food stalls, there were cheese vendors offering samples of sharp local cheese and other stands with 15 different types of oils to try. By time I reached the food stalls I was insanely hungry but luckily, that didn't cloud my judgment on where to get a snack from. I chose to stop at a stand selling fresh homemade bruschetta. The line was tedious but the worst part was the final preparations. I felt like I was living the scene from Love Actually where Alan Rickman is trying to buy a gift surreptitiously and fast, while the sales clerk is bent on the painstakingly slow and perfect presentation. As my stomach growled and rumbled, the vendor carefully sliced the bread from a fresh baguette, hand grated the cheese, toasted it, covered it with the tomato and goodness mixture the other man was stirring, and then with the precision of someone performing surgery, topped it was a few pieces of fresh basil. Despite taking FOREVER and my extreme hunger, the bruschetta was definitely worth the wait! The bread was crunchy, the cheese gooey and melted, the tomato mixture was fresh and flavorful, without overpowering the taste of the tomatoes. The basil on top was a nice touch as well.

After satisfying my urgent hunger, I meandered the market some more before settling on a lunch locale. By this point, the market was a mix of veggies and stuff, while the street itself was home to lots of restaurants. After stopping by the travel bookshop, from the movie Notting Hill, we decided to eat at a small Italian restaurant down a side street. Made in Italy is decorated like a neighborhood eatery in Italy, and we were shocked to learn it's part of a group of restaurants with several locations around the city. Italian music is streaming from the speakers and the windows all around face the backs of old brick buildings and window plants complete the ambiance. The pizzas were served on a long wooden board, further adding to the atmosphere, and they were delicious! The crust was crunchy around the edges and soft under the pizza. The red sauce tasted homemade and the spicy sausage had a great kick and flavor. The mushrooms and cheese were a nice complement for the garlic of the sauce and spice of the sausage, all in all making a truly successful pizza. My table was very into sharing so I also got to try the spaghetti alla carbonara napolenta. The pasta was really good and the smoked pancetta was a nice touch. The sauce was not overly creamy or oily, but oily enough it was delicious to dip my bread into after!

After a delicious meal, I wandered back along the stalls when a churro and chocolate stand caught my eye, hear, and stomach all at the same time! I received a cup full of delicious homemade churros they were molding and frying right there, sprinkled (doused) with sugar and served with a smaller cup of rich chocolate for dipping. I was in heaven. They were perfectly cooked and the chocolate was warm and runny. It was the perfect end to a great day!
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