Breakfast is my most sacred morning ritual: deprive me of it, and you’ll have to deal with a sluggish, sullen grump for the rest of the day. In my routine of packed meals eaten at my desk from plastic food containers, breakfasts at home are coveted rarities, confined to fleeting Saturdays and Sundays, and all the more precious for that. Little beats the joy of eating from a proper bowl, filled with heaps of yoghurt, cereal and dried fruit, and sipping a cup of espresso made with my own machine. The only setup that can possibly make me happier is a hearty breakfast out, preluding a relaxing walk in my neighbourhood.
While Notting Hill Gate is mostly home to upmarket eateries and tourist traps, the Ladbroke Grove end of Portobello Market offers much more by way of independent cafes and restaurants. Think Lisboa Patisserie, Golborne Deli, or the less celebrated 4 + 1 Cafe (once a real gem, now offering a disappointingly narrower menu, but still nicer than the usual chain coffee shop). Every time I head to Golborne Road, I end up adding a new spot to my list of favourites. The latest one, tried just yesterday, is Bluebelles of Portobello: a quirky little cafe-cum-bakery, ideal for relaxed breakfasts, brunches and light lunches.
The bait that lured me in was the spectacular cake counter, beckoning me from the street-facing window. Everything on display looked beautiful and inviting; I had a hard time resisting the white chocolate, raspberry and cardamom cake, and the carrot cake with ricotta icing. Even the treats I wasn’t drawn to had a charm I couldn’t help but notice. I may never convert to the sickly sweetness of cupcakes, but their cuteness will always amaze me – and there’s no question that rocky road bars will make the the day of children and marshmallow-loving adults alike.
There’s more to Bluebelles’s menu than just cakes. An array of morning pastries lies on the counter, offering lighter treats to those who can’t bear the thought of having dessert for breakfast (do me a favour, and try the almond croissants. You won’t regret it). Savoury food lovers will find plenty of brunch fares, including the evergreen eggs benedict. Healthy eaters will salute the presence of fresh fruit juices and tall glasses full of granola and Greek yoghurt, topped with helpings of honey or berry coulis, and coming in generous portions worth their £4. The selection of sandwiches at the counter hints that Bluebelles is a fine lunch spot for those lucky enough to work in the area, or pass by when the midday munchies start kicking in.
The decor matches the food display’s air of quirky cuteness. Bluebelles’s floor is a cosy little space where shabby chic meets hip: picture mismatched vintage tables and chairs, wooden crates turned table displays, and a few more random but perfectly fitting items, such as a tree glistening with blinking lights, and a blackboard showing the cute quote of the day. If you’re visiting on a sunny day, you can choose to sit outside: you don’t even have to fear the cold, as plenty of blankets are available to shield you from the occasional gust of wind.
Despite all this, Bluebelles is no East London Hipsterland. The clientele is varied to say the least: on an average day, you’re just as likely to meet the odd indie youth, as you are to spot well-off families worthy of lifestyle magazine covers, or middle-aged friends on morning catch-up duty. On the downside, the cafe is not spacious enough to warrant the privacy you’d need when said families with exuberant kids are in; on the upside, the taste and quality of the food make up for the high-pitched squeals and parental scoldings you may sometimes have to put up with.
Over to you, now. What’s the morning ritual you simply can’t do without, and what’s your favourite weekend treat? If “food” answers at least one of these questions, make sure you try Bluebelles’s breakfasts the next time you’re in Notting Hill. Don’t forget to give me a shout, too: I’ll gladly be your breakfast date, and treat myself to one of those indulgent almond croissants.
Bluebelles of Portobello
320 Portobello Road
London, W10 5RU
(nearest tube station: Ladbroke Grove)
Open 9am – 5pm Tuesday to Friday, 8am – 5pm Saturday, 10.30am – 5.30pm Sunday
Find Bluebelles of Portobello’s menu on Zomato.