Kyoto Garden/Derek Winterburn - Flickr
Hattie Lloyd 08/02/23
Itinerary Location: Holland Park | Duration: 6 Hours
Want to discover the hidden gems of Kensington?
This itinerary’s a walk in the park.
Well, specifically, it’s a walk in the park with one of London’s most delicious baked goods in hand; a free dose of culture in two beautiful, design-led institutions; a lavish setting for a decadent lunch and a stroll down some of the city’s most picturesque streets.
Oh, and there’s peacocks.
We start at Notting Hill Gate tube, where you’ll weave through the crowds making their way to Portobello Market and instead duck off the main road at The Coronet Theatre onto Hillgate Street. On the next corner you’ll find Kuro Coffee, a tiny little whitewashed coffee shop from the same team as Kuro Eatery opposite, and an excellent place to fuel up for the walk ahead. Peckish? Stop by Kuro Bakery en route from the station (yes, they are slowly taking over this corner of London – and that’s definitely a good thing). If you’re there early enough, nab one of their impossibly flaky sākuro; perfectly circular croissants with a vanilla-flecked cream filling.
From this micro Kuro village, continue back along the tree-lined Notting Hill Gate until you find a path peeling off between two houses on your left (just after Aubrey Road). This leafy ‘passagiata’ will take you directly into Holland Park, the sprawling patch of greenery that once belonged to a 17th century manor house. And heading straight to the centre will take you to…
Yes, in the middle of Holland Park in London is a place called Kyoto Gardens. Go figure. This little pocket park-within-a-park was actually a gift from Kyoto itself, and celebrates the friendship between Japan and the UK through the medium of maple trees, stone lanterns, and a gently cascading waterfall. Cross the pond’s marble walkway and peer in to see the native Japanese koi carp (who are no longer native), or just take in the scenery – the garden is especially beautiful in April when the cherry blossom starts blooming. It’s an exceptionally peaceful spot to enjoy your croissant. Just make sure it’s not nicked by a passing peacock.
Once you’ve had your fill of peace and tranquillity, prepare your senses to be utterly bamboozled at the Design Museum. Heading south from Kyoto Garden you’ll soon see the building’s distinctive parabolic (or as the technical architectural terminology would have it, ‘big and dippy’) roof come into view.
This museum was founded by the late, great designer Sir Terence Conran, and moved from its humble abode in Shad Thames to this impressive, Grade II* listed 1960s building in 2016. The Design Museum is, unsurprisingly, concerned with design – but that doesn’t just mean clothing or furniture. Here you’ll discover the consideration that’s gone into designing everyday objects, from traffic lights to the tube map, as well as more iconic designs like the Anglepoise lamp or the Apple Mac. Their permanent exhibition, Designer Maker User, is totally free to visit, but there’s also a host of temporary exhibitions on throughout the year that dive into more particular subjects: right now, that includes a free display exploring the colourful work of Yinka Ilori, and a trippy auditory journey into the world of ASMR.
Eyes and ears boggled to unprecedented levels, leave the museum for High Street Kensington and indulge in a little window shopping until you reach:
Time to hop into a Jacuzzi. The latest opening from the Big Mamma Group (and their first in West London) is as bold and ostentatious as ever; a four-storey, 4000 sq ft palazzo crammed to the rafters with exuberantly garish Italian tropes including colourful majolica crockery, Murano glass chandeliers, garlands of greenery overhead and Sicilian teste di Moro (which will prompt an involuntary reflex to start singing the White Lotus theme tune).
It’s pretty hard to top their famously excessive dishes – after all, this is the restaurant group that brought you the mammoth lemon meringue pie; the ten-layer lasagne; and the carbonara made before your eyes inside a wheel of cheese – but Jacuzzi seems to have done the impossible and added even more to the menu. There’s the pizza topped with white sturgeon caviar; the 850g T-bone steak to share; and the chocolate mousse, spooned up table-side from an enormous silver tureen.
There’s just time to walk off this bountiful Italian banquet, so go easy on the martinis and cross the road to:
Revisit the calm of Kyoto Garden by popping into Japan House, a kind of unofficial cultural embassy celebrating Japanese art, food and design. On the ground floor is a shop showcasing jaw-dropping Japanese craftsmanship, from refined, minimalist homeware to intricate paper art, hand-thrown ceramics and high-tech toothbrushes; and throughout the year a varied events programme includes craft workshops, film screenings, talks and exhibitions. Have a wander, walk away with a new bamboo matcha whisk you’re definitely going to use every morning, and head to your final stop…
Heading back across the road, take another flagstone-paved alleyway into the secluded gardens of St. Mary Abbots Church. Follow the path past the mural of boutique shops – then a run of actual boutique shops – to emerge on Holland Street.
Gaze wistfully at the picturesque run of houses with their wrought-iron railings and wisteria-laden porches, and pop your head into the thicket of greenery lining Gordon Place, before holing up in The Elephant and Castle; a mellow, wood-panelled snug that offers all the comforts you could want from a good local: keg beers, cosy bench seating and tables out the front for when the weather’s good.
And if you feel re-energised post pint? You could always go for a stroll in Kensington Gardens or visit the Serpentine Galleries for free; see world-class performances at the Royal Albert Hall; walk down to South Kensington to drop into some of London’s best museums; go on a picturesque mews crawl around Notting Hill; enjoy a romantic dinner at Maggie Jones’s or sip cocktails at Amaro, the acclaimed solo debut from The Beaufort Bar‘s head ‘tender Elon Soddu.
It’s a great place to park yourself for the evening.
➊ Kuro Coffee | 3 Hillgate Street, London W8 7SP
➋ Kyoto Garden | Holland Park, W11 4UA
➌ The Design Museum | 224-238 Kensington High Street, W8 6AG
➍ Jacuzzi | 94 Kensington High Street, W8 4SJ
➎ Japan House | 101-111 Kensington High Street, W8 5SA
➏ The Elephant & Castle | 40 Holland Street, London W8 4JJ
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