16 January 2020
When interior designer Julie Hodgess, hot off the back of designing wallpaper for Biba, opened her namesake restaurant in 1969, it was at the heart of swinging Notting Hill. Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Madonna all dined at this louche, vividly furnished restaurant with a labyrinthine layout, while Captain Mark Phillips had his stag do here, before marrying Princess Anne in 1973. Prince Charles was scheduled to do the same, until he was forced to switch venue after the press caught wind of the location.
As the decades wore on, Julie’s brought the Cool Britannia crowd of the nineties, including the Gallagher brothers and Kate Moss, who celebrated her 17th birthday at the restaurant with Johnny Depp by her side. A curtained-off alcove was christened the 'G-spot' for its racy shenanigans.
The restaurant closed its doors in 2015 for a six-month refurb, which ended up taking four years, reopening just in time for its 50th birthday at the tail end of 2019. Tim and Cathy Herring, who bought the restaurant in 1971, enlisted Hodgess to oversee the revamp, which still includes many of its original features including gothic wood carvings and stained glass windows. The honeycomb layout of intimate booths and private hidden corners also remains intact, while the space is furnished with Moroccan-style textiles, multicoloured cushions and jazzy dining chairs.
This smart and now brightly lit new Julie’s has shed its rebellious edge but remains wonderfully quirky, while a playlist that veers from Stevie Wonder to 90s throwbacks feels almost deliberately uncool.
The kitchen is led by Michelin Star-awarded chef Shay Cooper, previously of The Goring and The Bingham, and hovers on fine dining. A dainty dish of kale risotto, crowned with sweet white crab meat is an unexpected star, while sticky ox cheek is served with a generous swirl of cauliflower puree and crispy cauliflowerets, which resemble little vegan bullets of flavour.
The champagne bar on the ground floor is also new and meets the demand for those seeking something more upmarket than the local pub.
The crowd is definitely more Holland Park heiress than rock ‘n’ roll star, but this is also reflective of the neighbourhood. The area has dramatically transformed since 1969 and the restaurant is now positioned between a Cowshed spa and London's prestigious Skin Matters studio, while houses on Portland Road sell for millions. It quite rightly caters to a swanky, ladies-who-lunch set. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were previously regulars, and will no doubt return.
Julie has grown up, gone upmarket and is no longer pulling all-nighters, but she is still charming and unique, with one of the prettiest al fresco terraces in W1.
135 Portland Road, Notting Hill, London W11 4LW, juliesrestaurant.com