“ Address: 269a Portobello Road / Notting Hill / London / W11 1LR „
The Grain Shop is a vegetarian take-away on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, London. It is situated at the northern end of the road just before the flyover. It is a small and unassuming place with a hand painted sign and windowed frontage with little on display. The place itself inside is very small and consists of one long counter containing trays of food set up like a canteen. There are no tables or chairs as it's purely for take-away and the waiting area is far from spacious. The interior is fairly rudimentary and there's a handmade, crafty feel about it.
The premise is simple - It works like a canteen. You queue up and wait to be served. You choose a box size from large or small. Boxes are your standard foil take-away container and you can choose to either have it open or closed. Then you point at food items you would like and they are all piled into the same box. In addition they have a number of pastries, cakes and a salad bar you can also choose from. Everything is vegetarian and the cakes and pastries are gluten free.
Value for money here is great. A small box is £4.30 and large £5.35 and if you get it open, they really fill it up. A large can keep you going all day without need for a substantial dinner.
There are probably about 14-16 different dishes to choose from and these don't vary, ever. I think they've probably been serving the same thing since they started business adopting an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' attitude. Here would be one of my first criticisms of the place. It's fine if your visit is a one off but if you, like me, work in the area repeat visiting can get a bit tedious. Conversely, the reliability can also be comforting, as you always know what you're going to get.
The quality of the food is very good but can begin to taste a bit samey. Choices include amongst others: cauliflower cheese (very cheesy), moussaka (tofu), chilli (tofu and with a bit of a kick), dhal (spicy enough but could go a bit further), lentils (bland), roast vegetables (simply roasted) and stewed green beans. Given that all of these are lumped into a container together the concern might be that the different flavours might overwhelm? Well, not so. Given that mostly things are mild and taste similar this very rarely happens. It's kind of to the Grain Shops detriment but also what makes it work.
The service has always been very friendly. There are usually 4 or 5 people serving during busy periods and they are very efficient and happy to help. Less so is perhaps the case with the hurried chef who gets screamed at when supplies run low and he has to race out with a new batch but the spectacle adds some entertainment.
Lunchtimes can get very busy and as the place itself is so small, the queue can snake out of the door. On a sunny day, no problem, when drizzly and wet, you may want to look elsewhere. That said, it doesn't take long to shift unless you get someone incredibly indecisive or wanting to know exactly what everything is. Even then, they tend to have enough staff to move things along swiftly.
I personally love going to The Grain Shop as there is something comforting about the food and that the quality is always the same. There's nothing outstanding about it, and if you go too often it can get dull, but it's healthy, wholesome and excellent for a winter day. If you are taking a stroll along Portobello Road and fancy a spot of lunch on the move or on a bench somewhere, you could do a lot worse.
Portobello Road and fancy a spot of lunch on the move or on a bench somewhere, you could do alot worse.