Founder and Creative Director of The Distillery
Jake Burger is a bit of a legend in the bar/cocktail world. He began bartending the day he turned 18 in the Northern English city of Leeds, and is attributed with helping to bring cocktail culture to life in the city.
Since then, he’s won several bartending awards/titles, opened Jake’s Bar and Grill in Leeds (2004) with his current business partner Ged Feltham, and later opened The Portobello Star in London’s Notting Hill – a self styled “Cocktail Tavern” in 2008.
In 2011, Jake and Ged with another industry friend, decided they wanted to have a public space for their large collection of spirits and memorabilia, which led them to then open The Ginstitute, a place dedicated to educating people about gin. The Ginstitute then went on to offer guests the unique opportunity to create their own unique gin recipe and is still one of the top rated drink activities in the country.
They now have diversified and offer other spirits education programmes, including both agave spirits and whiskey and their current home, The Distillery, opened at 186 Portobello Road in November 2016. It now includes The Ginstitute, two bars, a restaurant, a shop, a private dining room and three boutique hotel rooms.
Do you live in west London? If so, where?
I moved to London in 2009 and lived above the Portobello Star for a few years, before settling in Shepherd’s Bush where I have lived ever since.
Why did you choose Portobello for The Distillery/the brand?
Our company was founded in Leeds and we had a number of successful bars up there but had been keen to do something in London for some time. I had first visited Notting Hill maybe 10 years previous to that and loved Portobello Road from the very first time. During my frequent visits to London, I would quite often end up at Trailer Happiness, so when the Portobello Star became available in 2008 it seemed like a great opportunity.
In 2011 I vacated the flat upstairs and we built the original incarnation of our “Gin School”, The Ginstitute, bought ourselves a tiny 30-litre still and set about teaching ourselves how to make gin. And of course we were always going to call it Portobello Road Gin.
We eventually outgrew that original home, but fortuitously, 186 Portobello Road became available around that same time – so we moved there in 2016 and The Distillery became our new home.
What’s special to you about this area?
There’s always a magic in the air on Portobello Road, an indefinable quality; it just seems to draw people in – all kinds of people too. There’s a colourful cast of eccentrics and characters that have made the area their own over the years. There’s always something happening. I love to just gaze out of our windows and watch Portobello Road’s stories unwind through the day. Also, you can pretty much get anything you might need in the many great shops the area has to offer, or from the market.
It’s handy to access central London but I love that it has that degree of separation from the West End; it feels like its own little village sometimes.
What are some of your favourite restaurants in the area?
I really like Orasay – the food is just great there, and the vibe is so nice. My guilty pleasure was always Royal China on Queensway. I was gutted when they didn’t re-open after Covid. And y’know, there are days when a few pints of Guinness and a pint of prawns in The Cow are the only dinner you need! I’m a fairly frequent visitor to Mike’s Café for an English breakfast too.
If you are going to celebrate, where do you go?
I had my birthday at The Cow this year, which was marvelous, and when it’s a big celebration you can’t beat a long boozy lunch at The Ledbury of course. Bret’s food is some of the best in the world: the staff and the service are unbeatable. It’s pretty much perfect in my opinion. Or the short trip over to Chelsea for A. Wong is never less than spectacular.
We make gin for both The Ledbury and A. Wong so we have a great relationship with those restaurants.
Do you have a favourite weekend lunch spot?
I am always busy at The Distillery on a Saturday, and Sunday is usually mine or a friend’s house for lunch to be honest. I did escape from Notting Hill last weekend for the Sunday lunch at Fallow, though, which was spectacular.
Are there any other local businesses/suppliers/venues that you can’t live without?
The Spice Shop is ever so handy, and we buy all our fresh produce from Devlin’s on the market. Also love Jeroboams and Amatheus when you need a bottle of something special.
Do you have an insider local tip to tell us? Ie, a hidden market, late night haunt etc.
I mean, judging from the queues it’s not really a secret but the cinnamon buns from Buns at Home are irresistible…
What should we order when we visit Portobello Road Distillery?
My favourite of our products is the Special Reserve 101 Gin. You can’t get it many places but it’s always available directly from us, and if you’re a martini drinker, or you like your drinks with a bit of salinity and minerality it’s hard to top! I’d also urge anybody who hasn’t dropped by recently to head up to our first floor where the new food concept The Angel has just opened. Our new chef Peter is doing some really great dishes up there, and of course the cocktails are just as good as they’ve always been.
Do you have any news coming up that we should tell people about? How can people book in to make a bespoke gin?
The new food offering is our biggest news really; we did also just release our annual Asparagus Vodka, limited to just 1000 bottles a year: when it’s gone, it’s gone. We don’t pretend it is for everybody but I love it, and it’s great for the current savoury cocktail trend.
Guest can book their gin blending experience via our website:
Or just call in and enquire. 020 3034 2233
We also have our ever popular James Bond Dinner, and educational sessions on Whiskey, Agave Spirits and Classic Cocktails. And our latest experience, The Chronicles of the Martini, launched just a few weeks ago. You can read more about all our experiences on the website.