The Tastemakers

Poppy Delevingne and Charlotte Mensah

In conversation
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For actress, entrepreneur and model Poppy Delevingne and her friend, award-winning hair stylist and founder of Manketti, Charlotte Mensah, there’s nowhere quite like West London, the place they both call home. The pair has come together for a lively chat about all things local.

Poppy Delevingne (top) and Charlotte Mensah

Poppy: There has always been such a vibrancy and energy in West London, which is something that attracted me to the area. I always knew I wanted to come further west to live having grown up in Wandsworth. I love how cultural West London is: you meet people from every walk of life, which feels quite magnetic, something you can’t ignore. There’s something quite magical here that you don’t necessarily feel in other parts of London. It’s a hub with so much going on.

Charlotte: That’s so true. Having my salon here, Hairlounge on Portobello Road, I’ve found that clients will come and say, ‘it’s so special, there’s nowhere in the world like it,’ and they’re right. It’s such an amazing mix of all sorts of people and everyone has their own unique thing about them. When I first moved here 28 years ago I used to think that everyone was quite eccentric, there are so many great characters, everyone doing their thing, mixing so nicely, but what I realised was that it was all about personality and energy, which really sums up the neighbourhood.

Poppy: Exactly. I feel like the whole world is in one area here, with people from all over the place; all these different cultures mixing together, whether it be art, music, food or fashion and beauty – it doesn’t matter what it is, you get it all in West London. It feels like it’s all coming together and is wonderfully diverse too.

Charlotte: Definitely, and there’s also this entrepreneurial spirit, lots of creative people setting up businesses and just going for it. I remember discovering the fashion brand Preen as a tiny store in the arcade at Portobello Market years ago. Now look at them – they’re a global luxury brand. Most of the clothes I have now were made by people I discovered in the market who were probably students back then just trying to put something together. It was a really thrilling, experimental period. I remember discovering the fashion designer Duro Olowo, who had the tiniest store on Artisian Road. We’ve now become good friends – he’s super talented and successful.

Poppy: Yes and for me that was the designer Alice Temperley and her beautiful studio close to Westbourne Grove. There are so many talented people around here. Another thing about West London that I love is how green it is compared to perhaps some other parts of the city. I’ll go to Ravenscourt Park or maybe Holland Park – I’m sort of sandwiched between the two. I love to experience and enjoy those green spaces that we’re so lucky to have.

Charlotte: We are, you’re right. I love going to the market to get all of my fresh produce and there are a few coffee shops where the owners are my friends, so I pop in to say hi and see how they are. There’s a great sense of community around here.

Poppy: In a normal year I travel quite a bit for work. The first thing I do when I get back is go straight to my local for a pizza. I live really close to a place called The Oak – there’s another one in Westbourne Grove. I’m a real foodie, so that’s the first thing I think of. One of the things I love most about my part of West London is that practically every day there’s something new and interesting that appears. As a teenager I’d come to Notting Hill to go to pop-up parties called ETA. Do you remember them? They were at the Allsop Contemporary Gallery, but as I remember it they’d move about a bit. We wouldn’t leave until the sun came up.

Charlotte: Oh yes, I remember. My formative years were spent in Accra, Ghana, but when I came to London at 11 Portobello was a place I really wanted to visit. One of my aunts moved to the area when I was about 16, so I’d visit her. I knew this was where I wanted to live someday; everything about it was just so cool, so exciting. I thought the houses were big and colourful, the streets seemed wider - and then my dream came true and moved to where I am now.

Poppy: Whiteleys is an amazing building, isn’t it? I have lovely memories of going to the cinema with my school friends; a fun place to hang out. Do you remember that amazing glass rotunda at the top? It’s great that it’s coming back!

Charlotte: Yes! Especially those amazing staircases. There’s lots happening in the Bayswater area and it’s a nice little walk from where I live, along Westbourne Grove. I also remember when Space NK opened up at the corner of Chepstow Place. I recall thinking that if I ever had a brand I’d want it to be in that store, and now my products are there.

Poppy: That’s destiny for you! I remember going ice-skating at Queen’s. Also there’s a brilliant vegan restaurant called Farmacy. I’m a bit of a carnivore, but I happily go there, as it’s delicious food. I also love Casa Cruz in Holland Park and Laylow on Golborne Road; that’s a fun place. Oh goodness, I feel hungry just talking about it. I also love Jeroboams – they serve the best taramasalata with really thin crisps. And they’re now stocking my prosecco, which is very exciting.

Charlotte: Do you know Khan’s on Westbourne Grove? That’s a wonderful Indian restaurant that’s been there forever, a bit of a local institution. And Babajani, which is opposite my shop and serves Iranian Jamaican food. They make the best jerk chicken.

Poppy: I’m writing all of this down. I’m a fan of Lali, which is a tiny gift shop on Golborne Road. They do things like lights, ceramics and trainers. And if I’m going to treat myself I’ll go to Café Lisboa, which is close by. Also, Rellick is one of the most incredible vintage clothing stores in the world where I’ve found some extraordinary gems.

Charlotte: It’s amazing there. Obviously I like my own shop, but there’s also nice place on Westbourne Grove called The Store that has a good selection of jumpers and candles and things like that. And somewhere that’s very, very special is Peoples Sound, run by Daddy Vgo on All Saints Road. It’s such a cool store selling great vintage vinyl. He’s been there for a very long time and is really part of the local fabric.

Poppy: My husband used to live on All Saints Road, so I know it well. The Jacksons is such a charming place to find nice bits and pieces. In terms of pubs I really like The Cow on Westbourne Park Road and The Windsor Castle, although I always manage to hit my head on the low doorways. Did you ever go to The Globe on Talbot Road? That’s a great late night place. I used to go there a lot.

Charlotte: Yes, that’s still there. We used to go to a little place called Babushka after going to a club called Subterania back in the day. The Friday nights were called Rotation, because lots of different big American DJs and acts would come and play sets, everyone hanging out until 4am and then walking home happy.

Poppy: I really love taking my nieces to the skate park under The Westway. On a Saturday my sister-in-law will drop off the kids and we’ll head there – that’s a special place with special memories of my time with them.

Charlotte: There’s so much to see in the area too. There’s the Meanwhile Gardens and during the first lockdown I’d wander up to the Bayswater end of Hyde Park, which is so beautiful and peaceful. I’d also recommend The Japanese Gardens at Holland Park for someone visiting the area for the first time. That’s a must.

Poppy: I’d tell them to get a mani-pedi at Julie’s Nails in Notting Hill for sure. Also, I’d say go to Golborne Road for those incredible furniture shops. I feel like you unearth extraordinary treasures every time you go look. Most of my house has been furnished from those shops.

Charlotte: Yes, I would definitely suggest going to Golborne Road because it retains the essence of what Portobello was like in the 90s – it has a lovely authenticity.

Poppy: Totally, and there’s a strong sense of supporting local businesses. You definitely feel that call of community and coming together in this neighbourhood. I love living here.