Q: What is it? A: A relatively hidden gem on a side street just one block away from Portobello Road. It has charm, personality, amazing staff and… the exceptional room they call #16!
Room #16 is what the hotel calls an ”Exceptional Room” in their category index (also containing ‘Great’ and ‘Better’ rooms). I have to give them right. This is an exceptional room. With a view over the garden. And a bed that refuses to be square.
Of course the hotel would not confirm it, but this is the bathtub that Johnny Depp and Kate Moss first filled with Champagne and then took a swim in together. Cost for filling said tub: £750 (rate at the time of writing: 1,152 USD or 9,531 SEK).
These knobs on the Victorian bathing machine can make water rain down from the ceiling – if you’re out of Champagne, that is. Had Moss/Depp poured water into the bath, we would have been in search of something else to gossip about.
Tiny compartment. Smallest in this room. Kate or Johnny most likely shat here. See the glass door on the left hand side? That’s another shower if you don’t want to use the more glorious tub-alternative.
Now, we’re on the ground floor. What can we do for you? A nice cup of tea? Breakfast? A drink from the honesty bar? Here is where you get all of it. And it should be noted that the staff is genuinely friendly and charming.
Not exactly screaming hotel, is it? The very discreet exterior on the tiny street known as Stanley Gardens. Two converted neo-classical mansions are now housing 21 rooms. The cover for Carly Simon’s breakthrough album ”No Secrets” (including the hit ”You’re So Vain”) was shot at the wrought iron spires outside this hotel. The cover is notorious for Ms. Simon not wearing a bra underneath her blouse on a chilly day.
How lovely can a hotel be?
Lovely as in a lovely cup of tea… or lovely as in the charming, very loveable staff… An all’n’all lovely place tucked away on that side street, near the St. Peter’s Church in Notting Hill. Little did I know that this may be the world’s first boutique hotel. Blakes Hotel popularized the concept but at the Portobello, they are actually claiming to be the first*, and I am not trying to prove them wrong.
Now, what about that Champagne rumor?
This is what I’ve been able to get from the intraweb: Johnny Depp filled the Victorian bathing machine in room 16 with champagne for Kate Moss, only to have a maid inadvertently drain it. Poor him! There you have one of the stories feeding the mythology of this hotel. Another goodie from the gossip vaults: Alice Cooper used to keep his pet snake in the same bathtub. Zoinks! If that bathtub could speak, it would end up chatting with Conan or Parkinson!
The level of service is exactly where it should be.
I’m calling from a taxi to find out whether they could accommodate an early check-in. Two minutes later, I get the confirmation that I have access to my room well before noon. The anonymous Mr. Nyberg from Sweden is treated like royalty. Upgrades (to room #16) glasses of wine and other goodies coming my way – and not in a showy way but in a comfortable/competent/confident way.
Some say the design-quirks may be too much…
Sure, if you are unable to appreciate a Victorian bathing machine in your room, then #16 may not be the place for you. But if that is the case, I don’t know what treatment that could help you. The main reason to come to the Portobello Hotel is the service, but I’m the first to admit that features like a round bed and a free-standing bathtub will never be in the way. Why should they? Highly recommended – one of my best hotel experiences in London ever!
22 Stanley Gardens
London W11 2NG
*The Portobello Hotel was founded in 1971 by Tim and Cathy Herring. It was designed by Julie Hodgess and run by managing partner Johnny Ekperigin. Today they belong to the same hotel group as Amsterdam’s Canal House.