Explore Caia: Notting Hill’s Hidden Gem for Food, Wine, and Ambiance.
London is bustling with loud restaurants. And by loud I don’t mean volume loud, but places that like to occupy their space with extravagant decor, pompous branding and social hype. Which is where Caia, a small restaurant-come-wine-bar in the heart of Notting Hill stands as the odd one out.
I read, not too long ago, Caia being described as a neighbourhood classic. Despite its novelty which inherently prevents it, in technicalities, from being called a classic, I see what they mean. Just a few streets down from the touristic hotspot of Portobello Road, you have to be looking for Caia to know where to find it. But if you look, the location is blatantly obvious – if nothing else because of the crowd that gathers around and the restaurant’s windows which open and overspill directly onto the street.
At a glance, it’s hard to tell what Caia actually is. Is it a restaurant with an innovative menu curated by chef Jessica Donovan‘s expertise? Sure. Is it also one of Notting Hill’s finest wine bars? Again, yes. A great place to listen to music? Yes to that too. And while one too many places excel at being jacks of all trades and masters of few, Caia has got their essence down to a fine art.
But let’s get down to the food, because that is what we were after. With a variety of dishes made to be shared, Caia excels in presentation and flavor – but not necessarily quantity. This, of course, is a given in most London restaurants, where ordering many smaller dishes and trialing different flavors becomes essential – but particularly at Caia. A specific highlight of our order was the ‘Tomato’, accompanied by gochujang (a sort of red chili paste) and peach, as well as the ‘Agnolotti’ with sweet potato, chicken wing butter and pecan.
As for the wine – that is where Caia excelled. Following our host’s recommendations, we settled on one of those avant-garde bottles where the design is so good you wonder if the wine will rise up to the occasion. Unsurprisingly, it did. We opted for a South African Angus Paul Mesas, a dry, bold and slightly tannic pinotage.
In an area saturated with expatriate hype and trend-chasers, Caia stands out for its thoughtful execution and neighborhood charm. It’s the sort of place that feels steeped in its own distinct character yet also quintessentially local. For a restaurant that defies easy categorisation, Caia has carved out an identity all its own in Notting Hill, and is becoming a favourite not just for the surrounding locals, but from Londoners all around.
More than a wine bar, eatery or music venue, it is quite simply a wonderful place to spend time.