Kensal on the rise

Never mind Notting Hill, Kensal Rise is where it's at these days, says Cayte Williams

IF YOU think Notting Hill's still hip then you probably wear Tommy Hilfiger dungarees, cKbe perfume, and believe everything Tony Blair says. Now, only American tourists, the gullible and people with too much money settle in W11. The streetwise and sussed have found a new home in NW10.

Kensal Rise, once described as the wrong side of Portobello, is the favoured home of super-hip model Iris Palmer, avant-garde dancer Bunty Matthias and a new breed of fashion, media and music people. While well-established celebs like Will Self and Mariella Frostrup drink the night away at The Cobden Club, a nearby bar keen to be associated with Kensal Rise, the cutting-edge crowd gathers in The Paradise, Kensal Rise's latest watering hole.

A bar and restaurant well away from the bright lights of Portobello, it opened five years ago and has steadily attracted a crowd sick of London's favourite haunt. Every week, the cool and creative descend on The Sunday Club at The Paradise, a DJ night hosted by Howie B (the man behind the hip new mix of U2's Pop album) and Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl. Regulars include Neneh Cherry and Leftfield.

As the fashion and music crowd move in, The Paradise is playing a pivotal role. Virgin's headquarters is in Kensal Road and the aptly named Beethoven Street is home to three recording studios, Beethoven Street Studios, Roll Over Studios and Fume Studios, where Dread Zone, Leftfield and Arkarna lay down tracks.

"The Paradise is the real centre of everything here," says Roll Over Studios' Seamus Morley. "We use it for business meetings and social occasions. There's always someone you know in there. The Paradise is like our village pub." You'll also find the New Cool crammed into agreeable eateries such as May's and Boy's, two tiny cafes in the Harrow Road which serve superb Thai food at night, and the local Indian restaurant The Khas.

Caroline Titcumb, fashion assistant at Vogue, recently moved to Kensal Green and shares a house with fashion writer Nancy Rohde and designer Kenneth MacKenzie, whose label, 68-76, is worn by any fashion editor worth their salt. "More and more fashion people have moved here and it's definitely getting groovier," she says. "Everyone's sick of Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill because of the crime and the house prices."

Low property prices are helping to give the area a new lease of life. Diana Hall of fashion PR firm Modus, says: "A five-bedroomed house here would cost you the same as a tiny, one-bedroom flat in Notting Hill. You can tell house-buyers are changing because all the plastic, double-glazed windows are being replaced by Victorian-style ones. I like the mix of people and feel very safe. It's like Portobello was 10 years ago."

See and be seen at:

Paradise by Way of Kensal Green, 19 Kilburn Lane (tel: 0181 969 0098)

Boy's Cafe, 615 Harrow Road (tel: 0181 969 9132)

May's Cafe, 1030 Harrow Road (tel: 0181 960 8268)

The Khas Restaurant, 39 Chamberlayne Road (tel: 0181 969 2537)

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