Brook Green and Hammersmith
A resident shares her love of the Brook Green neighbourhood. Charlotte Metcalf argues that it’s the friendliest and happiest in London
Wrapped around by the great arteries that feed Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith lies one of London’s best-kept secrets – the neighbourhood called Brook Green. They say London is made up of villages but I have lived in many parts of the capital and never found this to be true - until I moved to Brook Green.
It’s easy to list the amenities and advantages of living in Brook Green yet the enclave is in possession of a special atmosphere that defies description. Certainly it looks delightful with its Victorian terraces, sunny, well-proportioned mansion flats and snug cottages with well-kept gardens. In spring, cherry blossom sprinkles the streets with pink and white confetti and narcissi and bluebells bloom round lampposts. Yet transcending the undoubted prettiness of the neighbourhood is an underlying friendliness that everyone who lives here notices immediately.
Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that for years Brook Green was home to a thriving Catholic community, described as long ago as the early nineteenth century as a ‘pleasant village’ by local historian Thomas Faulkner. Since then, houses and flats have been built as the area developed into with an eclectic mix from studio flats to family houses.
Whatever the case, a strong sense of community has survived and residents, from all walks of life and different nationalities, really do continue to greet each other in the street. People are friends with their neighbours and children play happily in and out of each other’s houses. People are happy to help – this is a neighbourhood in which you can happily ask the person next door to look after your child for an hour or two. It’s a vibrant, close-knit community made up of people of all ages and from all walks of life but in the heart of London with none of the curtain-twitching nosiness and tiresome gossip of a rural village and with all the amenities the city has to offer.
The sense of belonging to a secret village is also something to do with the fact the one-way systems discourage rat-run motorists so that most residential streets are quiet and fairly traffic-free. It’s relatively safe for children to bicycle and walk and police patrol here on foot and horseback. On Sunday mornings, the only sounds I can hear from my bedroom are church bells and birdsong and, even early on a weekday morning, it’s more common to hear footsteps along the street than cars. This also means it’s usually easy to park.
Utterly peaceful, the neighbourhood is still within striking distance of King Street, full of big name shops like TK Max, Primark and Mothercare, and of all Kensington High Street has to offer. Now you can also walk to Westfield, London’s biggest and most exciting shopping complex with its department stores, children’s play areas, supermarkets, designer shops, restaurants and cinemas. There is also Olympia, bordering Blythe Road, a major exhibition centre and also a Sotheby’s auction house where locals in the know have picked up many a superb bargain.
On Blythe Road, the heart of the village, there are plenty of friendly neighbourhood restaurants, including Indian, Chinese and the popular Pope’s Eye that specialises in quality steaks and chips.There’s also a choice of cafes, most of which you can sit outside, Betty Blythe is an exquisitely pretty tea room that sells organic food and delectable cakes and serves tea and coffee in elegant vintage china. The neighbourhood is well known for its gastro pubs and the Havelock Tavern on Masbro Road, (all wooden floor boards, scrubbed pine tables and fresh flowers) is renowned throughout London for its spectacular food and loved by locals for its hidden, walled garden.
This is the sort of neighbourhood in which quirky local shops thrive. Bliss Fields sells everything from flowers and hand-made cards to funky children’s clothes and scented candles. Honeybunch, a tiny treasure trove, sells unusual gifts and the owner Kay Price embroiders exquisite bespoke cushions that can be made from anything precious, like an old dress of your daughter’s that you’re loath to part with.
For a resident who has tried living in other parts of London, there is no nicer part of London to live in. It’s a tranquil oasis that remains plugged into everything the metropolis has to offer. It’s a perfect balance. I have never enjoyed coming home so much. Few people who find a home here move again. I, for one, am here to stay.
Brook Green, from another angle
"London’s buzzing community of young professionals is a demanding breed with high expectations from their chosen habitat. West London’s hidden gem, Brook Green, offers an idyllic retreat with enough pubs, restaurants and shops to keep even the most nocturnal young Londoners satisfied.
Encased in a leafy suburbia Brook Green offers fabulous access to the West End with the Central, Piccadilly, District and Circle lines all within walking distance. Conveniently situated on the Central Line, Shepherds Bush provides excellent transport links across London. Armed with obligatory morning coffee and copy of the Metro tucked under their arm creative types benefit from a 12 minute direct tube ride to Oxford Circus whilst the city-slickers’ morning pilgrimage to Liverpool Street is brief and direct.
Life for London’s 20-30 somethings is certainly not all work and no play. In recent years Brook Green has achieved gastro-pub greatness; with a plethora of local gems to choose from London socialites are spoiled for choice. Look to the much-loved Havelock for awesome cuisine with the added bonus of frequent celeb-spotting, the cosy Bird in Hand for superb Sunday lunches followed by board-game marathons with friends or while away long summer evenings in the huge beer garden at The Queens Head, located on leafy Brook Green.
The addition of Westfield to the area has provided a shopping mecca on young London’s doorstep. From H&M to Hérmes Saturday afternoons are no longer spent following the crowds jostling down overcrowded Oxford Street but in this contemporary, all-weather retail heaven. With a superb selection of restaurants, bars, and a spanking-new cinema that hosts regular blockbuster premiers, Westfield has proved itself as much more than a typical mall.
Brook Green is a corner of London that is still largely undiscovered despite being moments away from the chic Notting Hill and a short hop from the country-retreat of the Thames Path. Cosmopolitan cool with a classic London vibe Brook Green provides the perfect base to experience the best of what West London has to offer."
So it’s easy to understand why Brook Green and Hammersmith are such attractive areas to look for a house or flat for sale. If you prefer lettings, there is a wonderful selection of homes, houses or flats to choose from. Finlay Brewer are the local estate agent and property specialist.