The Lowdown: Portal Way

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Plans approved for Portal Way building in west London featuring hundreds of dark kitchens and community food hall

Related tags Portal Way dark kitchen Delivery & takeaway Cga London Food Hall Street food

Plans have been approved to build a monolithic, cubed structure in west London that will be home to hundreds of dark kitchens as well as a huge community food hall.

It looks and sounds like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel
There’s certainly something very futuristic about the design, with its cubic form clad in metal mesh. Some have even likened it to the Death Star. But the space-age look does feel very apt, as this may well be the future of food halls.

I’m intrigued, what can you tell us about it?
Portal Way is a new 28,000sq m structure that’s set to be built in North Acton, London. The design consists of 12 storeys, 10 of which will be dedicated to commercial kitchen space. In total, the building will hold a whopping 260 dark kitchens available to lease by local shops and restaurants. That’s not all, though. The ground floor of the building is set to contain a vast public food hall housing between 50 to 100 cafés, street vendors, and restaurants. It’s estimated that 1,200 new jobs will be created by the project.

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That’s a lot of operators in one space. Will it be able to draw in enough demand to sustain them all?
Time will tell. Dowen Farmer, the architecture firm behind Portal Way, has previously said that the aim of the food hall is to draw people to the site and create a sense of community. Visitors are expected to be able to order food not only from the vendors, but also the resident kitchens across the 10 storeys of the building via an app. The food would then be shuttled to the food hall via ‘smart food lifts’. Dowen Farmer claims it looked to Sikh communities when designing the public space – specifically the way in which sharing food is a central point around relationships and community. “This new industrial typology enables the reintegration of making space back into the heart of the city, providing employment in suburban locations of outer London,” it told Dezeen​. “We are excited about an architecture that can start to question this status quo and plug into the renaissance of craft, industry, and making which are slowly returning to cities.”

How will the delivery element work?
Details at this point are thin on the ground but London already has several prominent dark kitchen spaces for use by operators. Karma Kitchen, which launched back in 2018, trebled its number of kitchen units in operation in 2023 through the completion of new sites in Bermondsey and Sydenham, with further growth planned this year. Portal Way is a colossal venture in terms of the number of kitchens available but the demand for delivery is certainly there: Britain’s leading managed restaurant groups achieved year-on-year sales growth of 8% in delivery sales in February 2024 – the ninth month of sustained growth in at-home sales - CGA by NIQ’s latest Hospitality at Home Tracker shows.

Plans for huge new developments crop up all the time in London, will this one definitely be going ahead?
It looks like it will. Dowen Farmer had its proposal unanimously approved last month by the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC)'s planning committee.

Related topics Trends & Reports QSR & Street Food