The crew behind Portobello Star and Portobello Road Gin have an impressive track record, not just on that iconic road in west London, but with venues like the venerable Jake's Bar in Leeds, not to mention Oporto, Neon Cactus and more. But their next project is their most ambitious to date.
On the site of a former pub on Portobello Road, Leelex Ltd is opening a four-storey venue, with something different on each floor. Arguably the most exciting is the basement, where a 400 litre still will help bring production of Portobello Road Gin back in house, and back to the street where it was born. Thames Distillers have helped the brand fulfil demand in the interim.
If that basement distillery isn't enough to pique your interest, maybe the ground floor will. Here you'll find a number of hand-built barrels suspended over the bar, filled with a variety of spirits – Herradura Tequila, Don Q Rum and more. Drinks will be poured directly from the barrel, with the spirits changing slowly over time.
It's a return to all things gin on the first floor, but this time with a Spanish theme. Gintonica, a bar and kitchen, will feature big copa-style G&T serves, with garnishes, tinctures and bitters to add to the experience.
Above this will not only be a private dining room, but three guest rooms, where you can collapse after all the excitement of the three floors below.
'We never thought a first floor ground floor pub on Portobello Road would become available,' founder Ged Feltham told Imbibe. 'They had 100 offers. We did the pitch as a training exercise. It was a shock when we got it.'
It's been almost a year since that day, with the venue set to open on 16 December. While there will no doubt be a queue of bartenders wanting to visit the basement distillery, Feltham suggested that there will be an opportunity to get more involved in the future. 'Gong forwards, if people have an idea for a distillate or different way of ageing, we could give it a go.'
He added: 'I hope people in the trade will come and try out some really unique drinks. We think it'll be a pretty unique experience. I mean, it's not every day that you can try tequila straight from a barrel.'
Unlike some gin brands produced by contract distillers, Portobello Road has been open about its involvement with Thames Distillers. 'We developed the concept and recipe alongside one of the finest gin makers in the world,' says Feltham of Thames' Charles Maxwell. 'Charles is as excited about [the new distillery] as we are. He's going to help us setting up there.'
As is traditional, the still was recently christened. It's been named King Henry, says Feltham, 'after the late, great Henry Besant.'