Last weekend I was in London to catch up with friends and top of our to-do-list was the recently opened Design Museum in Kensington. On arriving in London, instead of taking the tube from Paddington to High Street Kensington, I strolled down to the station via Kensington Gardens. I’d forgotten how lovely Kensington Gardens can be as I walked past the Italian Gardens, the lake and Kensington Palace. It was late morning so the park was busy with lots of people milling around and admiring the grand palace, but it was nevertheless a pleasant way to start the day.
After meeting my friends, we headed up Kensington High Street to the Design Museum. The museum, which reopened last November, is situated in the old Commonwealth Institute at the bottom of Holland Park. The first thing that struck me on going inside was the architecture. It’s suitably modern and innovative for a design museum, a mixture of wood, concrete and glass manipulated into eye-catching shapes and forms.
The first exhibition we visited was Designer, Maker, User on the second floor, which looks at the role each one plays in the design experience. The exhibition was really well curated and there were lots of interesting things to look at – from models of towers designed by Zaha Hadid to road signs and a kitchen made entirely from wood. Among the every day and iconic objects on display were wellies, Game Boys and Philippe Starck’s famous lemon squeezer. I especially enjoyed the display of posters by the Italian manufacturer Olivetti and the technology, which brought back lots of memories.
We squealed and gasped as we reminisced over the seemingly ancient pieces of technology we used to own, such as the Walkman, Sega Mega Drive, Nokia mobile and old Apple Mac computers. The only downside to the exhibition was it was teeming with people and there was so much to look at, it was a sensory overload and hard to know where to look. But it was a fun trip down memory lane and it’s crazy to think that so many items from my childhood are now museum pieces!
We then stopped by another exhibition about how technology could be used to support an ageing population. I’m not sure how feasible some of the designs were in practice, but it was intriguing to see the innovative ideas and I’d be interested to see whether any of them take off. All in all, the Design Museum was fun, but if you’re not going to the paid-for exhibitions, it doesn’t take long to get round it all.
After our tour of the museum, we made our way up through Holland Park and had lunch at the café there. I love Holland Park, I always think it’s underrated, and I’d love it if they did more to restore the area around old Holland House as it was looking rather sad and forlorn. It’s such a pretty park, and if you get away from some of the more popular areas (the beautiful Kyoto Garden, above, and the café), it’s quite peaceful. We stopped by the Kyoto Garden on our way through the park to see the water feature and meet the peacocks and fish who call it home.
We then carried on walking all the way up to Notting Hill and Portobello Road. We all used to work around Portobello Road, so we had a great time revisiting some of our old haunts –magazine emporium Rococo; Mr Christian’s deli (home to London’s best sandwiches); quirky interiors shop Graham & Green: and Pedlars, an eclectic gift shop and café. But our final destination was the Lisboa Patisserie on Goldborne Road (above). The teeny Portuguese café sells the best pastel de nata in London and when we arrived the queue was out the door. But the creamy custard tarts were, as always, well worth the wait! A perfect end to a great nostalgia-fest in West London.
The Design Museum
224-238 Kensington High Street, London W8 6AG
Open 10am-6pm, daily
57 Goldborne Road, London W10 5NR
Pastel de nata £1.25 each