Romance and luxury abound at this special gem in Notting Hill
Address: 191 Portobello Road, London W11 2ED
Phone: 0207 908 9696
Ticket information: Member prices range from £17.50 – £40.00 for a sofa (cost for two people)
Non member prices range from £20.00 – £45.00 for a sofa (cost for two people)
The Electric Cinema. No not the one in Birmingham. Or the one in Shoreditch, Harwich or Bridport. Today we are looking at the namesake of the oldest cinema in the UK. Located in the middle of Notting Hill and firmly part of the Portobello market landscape, the Electric Cinema Portobello is a venue straight out of a rom-com movie.
Opened in 1910, and one of the oldest purpose built cinemas in the UK, the Electric Cinema has been entertaining audiences in London for over 100 years. However the cinema experience you get today is the polar opposite of what you would have received in the 30’s, 40’s or later.Now owned by the famous Soho House Group, renowned for it’s luxury properties and exclusive memberships, The Electric Cinema truly sets the bar for luxury cinema experiences. Yet it doesn’t come at a cost to it’s history or the quirky features seen throughout the building.
Most will approach the cinema, with it’s architecturally pleasing facade and retro neon signage, having negotiated thousands of tourists, all manner of smells and vibrant colours from the buzzing market on Portobello Road. Yet the environment you are engulfed in, as you open the double doors into the small Edwardian foyer, can only be described as indulgent and relaxed.
You pick up your ticket stubs from the old-fashioned ticket booth on the left before being allowed into the one-screened theatre ten minutes before the film starts. The Electric sticks to this time and admittance rule quite rigidly. The foyer is small and compact so expect there to be a queue to enter the screen if you arrive a lot earlier. A mistake made frequently by first-timers.
Once the screen is open for customers, you immediately appreciate both the historic value placed on the building and the stunning renovation that has been undertaken at this venue. Everything is adorned in either leather or velvet like classic movie theatres but with antique brass light fittings and cashmere blankets to boot. Standard tickets cost £20 and for this you can enjoy one of sixty five large leather armchairs, complete with footstool and side table (for your homemade chocolate brownies) for your screening. However for those who fancy a more intimate seating arrangement, you can choose from either a front row bed (yes a bed!) or a back row sofa for two.
We recommend pushing the boat out here – choose one of the six beds or three sofas as the cost is completely justified in our opinion. As you lay back on your pillows and cashmere blankets with your loved one comfortably situated next to you, it is more akin to watching a film in a luxury hotel suite than a cinema!
Food and drink options are equally as indulgent and spoiling as the seating – a menu of savoury food, delicious homemade baked goods and ice-cream are all available for you to enjoy from the bar at the back of the screen. Enjoy the old fashioned uniform of the bar staff and ushers as you order your food – it adds a real feeling of nostalgia to your experience.
The drinks menu is decent and offers a range of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options for you to order throughout the duration of the film thanks to the in-screen waiter service. We recommend the chocolate brownies alongside a glass of Prosecco for your visit. But be prepared for the bill – it is a luxury experience, with luxury bar prices.
The film programme offered at the Electric, is mainstream with the majority of films shown, found at most multiplex venues. However it does periodically offer some independent film alternatives which plays nicely in this individual cinema. There are options for parent and babies, kids and accessible screening should this cater more for your personal requirements.The screen is deceptively large at the venue – having kept the original arch, at first sight the screen looks to be only slightly bigger than some home cinemas. However size is no issue here as the screen maxes out to Cinemascope for the start of the showing. In fact, this was the most important area of focus for Soho House CEO Nick Jones when renovating the building. To keep the historic features but with all the hi-tech additions of a luxury venue.
Overall, the experience you get at the Electric is decadent, lavish and memorable. It is a luxury cinema that easily outshines all other luxury cinemas in London. The service is warm, the surroundings scream comfort (quite literally as an alarm will off if you even try to think about “borrowing” a cashmere blanket from inside the screen) and the audiences that come here are respectful and friendly. That said there are a number of challenges that are associated with this venue that are worth mentioning:
- It’s small and intimate environment means that it can be incredibly difficult to get tickets for showings. Don’t even bother trying to get tickets on the day, set a reminder in your phone and book two weeks in advance. People book ahead for this venue the same way they book ahead for posh restaurants.
- The foyer is very small with room for only ten or so people if you are waiting for the screen to open. Turning up early is in actual fact unhelpful here. So go next door to the diner and get yourself a cocktail whilst you wait.
- The Electric Diner, situated next to the screen is great at providing an outlet for killing time before you watch your film however can also be a real drag. The bathrooms for both venues are shared and accessed through adjoining doors. Which means you will unfortunately get the odd person coming from the diner and opening a door into the cinema screen, mid film trying to find the door to the bathroom. For some this can be amusing, for others this distraction can be a little trying.
However, none of the above detract from the overall enjoyment you get from watching a film in this fantastic cinema. It is the perfect place for a romantic date, a change from your local multiplex venue or if you just want to indulge in a little luxury. Which we think everyone should try, at least once. Or twice.
- Nearest tube is Notting Hill and as such, the whole area can get quite busy and congested with the market. If you do arrive early and before the screen opens, go next door to the diner for a cocktail. Don’t bother waiting in the compact foyer.
- Best seats are the sofas or front row beds – cheaper per person and more comfortable for two, these really are optimum seats. And don’t worry about craning your neck if you’re on a bed – the screen is an ideal height for kicking back and relaxing
- DO NOT “BORROW” THE CASHMERE BLANKETS. ENOUGH SAID.
- You need to book as soon as you can after the listings are released – these are updated every fortnight on a Thursday.
- Book online – don’t wait to purchase tickets on the day. This is the most important point for this cinema.
- There is no popcorn allowed here – but there are a lot of other refreshments available. We LOVED the old fashioned sweets and gooey brownies. The nachos – not so much.
- Make an effort to visit for special events as well as the newly released films – this cinema offers amazing foodie events to accompany films.