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faces

The faces of Notting Hill It may have changed over the years, but Notting Hill remains one of London’s most eclectic and interesting areas as these six local business owners and residents explain

tom Conran

feels somewhat overshadowed by his

The proprietor of a colourful array

father and there are obvious choices

of Notting Hill eateries, Tom Conran

that he has made based on his father’s

reveals why he loves being part of the

values. “In my early twenties I travelled a

area’s history – and how that surname

bit and then my dad being my dad was

can be a double-edged sword

like, ‘What are you doing with your life? You have to have a career.’ My dad is very

Step into Tom’s Deli on Westbourne

career-minded and he discouraged me

Grove and your senses are instantly hit

from going to university because he felt

with a multitude of smells, sights and

you could learn everything you needed to

sounds. From the array of colourful retro

know through experience. I slightly regret

sweets and homely cakes on display in

not going,” he notes. “I think I would have

the entrance to the bric-a-brac-filled

quite liked to have gone to art school.”

diner and deli, it offers the perfect, laid-

He is clearly proud of his father and his

back setting for anything from a casual

family name and agrees that the association

business meeting to a boozy brunch.

isn’t a bad thing: “People always seem to

For Tom Conran, who is as casual and

be interested in what we are doing and so

laidback as his deli’s vibe, the concept has

when I launch any new business it helps

been working well for the past 20 years.

with publicity as people will come and have

“Back when we started you had to go to

a look. However, you have to prove your

Soho to get Italian produce and Pimlico

worth or they won’t come back.”

was France, so if you wanted duck fat or

No problems for Conran there. Even in

French vegetables then you had to go

the face of the wave of coffee shops and

there,” he explains. Inspired by similar

deli’s that have popped up all over Notting

ventures he had visited in New York, he

Hill in recent years, Tom’s Deli remains a

“felt there were enough people around the

local institution. “I have always liked how

Notting Hill area that were gastronomically

we have engaged with the community

inclined” to make such a venture work.

and that we are a neighbourhood place,”

For Conran, passion and business nous

he says with a warm smile. “We bridge a

go hand in hand. Professionally trained

gap from the old school Notting Hill, when

in cookery school in Paris, over the years

things were more boho, to now, when it’s

his Notting Hill restaurant empire has

quite chi-chi. I am proud of the fact that

expanded to include The Cow, Crazy

we represent the old side of Portobello

Homies and Lucky 7. As the son of British

because I think one of the most attractive

design legend Sir Terence Conran, he

things about the area is its history.”

is open about the influences his father

Certainly in 1989, when Conran opened

had on his career choices. “I wanted to

his deli, Westbourne Grove looked rather

do something that my father wasn’t so

different to how it does now, with a post

involved in at that time,” he reflects. “I

office and a newsagent’s next door to

wasn’t to know that his business would

Tom’s and a car garage across the road.

unfold into such a gastronomic empire.”

Today, the crowd is not as mixed as it

Some might question whether Conran

used to be and Tom explains that largely

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Domus Nova Spring Summer 2011  

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