The great old British pub has experienced quite the revolutionary, tinselled facelift in its evolution from the humble no frills local, to the shipshape, haute cuisine aperitif den.
Garnering a somewhat, unwelcome reputation as a haven for the disorderly drunkards in the more recent years, the classic taverns took matters into their hands to strip off their unkempt image. This can be traced back to the 1990s with the 1991 birth of The Eagle in London’s Farringdon. The revamped deluxe adaptation under the alias of the quintessential gastropub, saw musty carpets, stale ale and pork scratchings traded in for polished wooden floors, ritzy wine and craft keg collections, and a posh nosh affair of marinated rump steak sandwiches with golden, crisp chunky chips.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and our beloved public houses are soaring culinary harbours complete with resplendent gin libraries and vintage tipples, worthy of holding a candle to the nations starry-eyed, Michelin eateries, and not a fruit slot machine in sight.
Bewitching the top drawer residents and courtly clientele in the lustrous SW3 postcode of London’s Kings Road, is Chelsea’s rebooted beautiful boozer, The Cadogan Arms. Boasting a golden legacy spanning 200 years, this historic establishment sealed their doors in 2019 in a momentous restoration project, designed to pay adulation to the public houses’ modest origin, whilst breathing in a fresh lease of plush, contemporary life complete with a delectably, curated gourmet menu fit for its Sloanie citizens.
Behind the unveiling of The Cadogan Arms lavish relaunch are Dominic Jacobs and the mighty JKS restaurants in a formidably Herculean courtship. This union has provided a glittering showcase of Dominic Jacobs’ impeccably honed, gastro background in the boisterous base of Mayfair’s The Running Horse, and JKS’s restaurant mastery conquered in the likes of Hoppers, Gymkhana and the two-Michelin-starred Kitchen Table.
Sitting gracefully in close proximity to Sloane Square and South Kensington, the stunning carved wood exterior façade greets you bedecked in a radiant, colour fuelled abundance of full bloom floret garlands which left me pining for a golden hour photo shoot episode. The interior backdrop was no less an aesthetically enthralling vision, with further intricate chocolate timber features, mosaic flooring, and sparkling crystal chandeliers oozing decadent Manor House grandeur, not neglecting the mahogany belle of the bustling backlit bar laden with gleaming antique polished taps, and enveloped by illuminating, stained glass windows.
The Cadogan Arms also hosts an equally gratifying basement area, equipped with a miniature version of the main bar and a wide screen TV to keep their football punters content.
Holding off an evening aperitif at the bar in favour of an after dinner nightcap, I headed straight to the sweeping confinements of the beautiful dining room where I was welcomed to a dressing of plush velvet seating, art adorned walls, and striking dried flower displays perched above a marble candlelit fireplace all of which echoed comforting, modest opulence.
The keg beer portfolio promises a thirst quenching selection of pure Hertfordshire ciders, Camden pale ales, and a malty Irish Guinness all accompanied by, should you wish, a miniature frozen Gibson Martini or maybe a gin based Hanky Panky, whilst the cocktail contents keeps to an uncomplicated and refreshing classic selection, lightyears away from their caviar infused and edible flower counterparts. With a reputation as an Old Fashioned amateur favouring all things fruity and feminine, I bravely unleashed my sophisticated side to embrace this smoky, bittersweet concoction.
The mellow, oaky caramel notes from the bourbon proved easy on the palette, with a spiced up citrus mingle from the angostura bitters and fresh aromatic orange peel. The all important ice cube added a pinch of theatrics to the drinking occasion, cut to a pristine calibre with the mould centred perfectly, whilst brandishing the Cadogan Arms logo in deeply set, neat bold letters.
The food offering inside this pub is more than worth skipping a previous meal for, with generous yet elegantly clean portions celebrating the best of quintessentially, seasonal British produce.
Discontent with their already zestful collaboration, the duo of Dominic Jacobs and JKS ventured into an indomitable dalliance by roping in Kitchen Table’s connoisseur maestro, James Knappet to head up the culinary directorship, whilst executive chef Alex Harper weaved his pub magic in the kitchen, already cast in the rural sanctum of Fulham’s Michelin Harwood Arms.
Hitting the nail on the head was the Cadogan cheese toastie, hearty with the crisp crunch ringing like music to my ears as I cut through the hot buttered slices. The lashings of piping hot, mature melted cheddar mingled beautifully with the sweet rich serving of Oxford sauce, rounded off with a selection of lightly marinated pickles.
Indulging my recent bout of cravings for delicious fresh seafood, I found myself gravitating towards the main of mussels. A silk, lightly creamed sauce enriched with garlic enveloped the sweet, ocean scented seafood morsels, finished with a refreshing splash of cider Fowey. Whilst the provisions of warm fresh bread were a welcome addition to mop up the last of the sauce, it proved futile to resist the side of triple cooked crispy chips loaded with fluffy potato.
In the mood for something delicately dry and quintessentially sparkling, a chilled bottle of Sussex’s Wiston Estate was the order of the evening loaded with a fine crisp fruitiness, and aromatic orchard notes.
Dessert here is no small trifle, as discovered with the strawberry and sherry starlett. No synthetic supermarket traitor dare invade this dining table, as an intricately cut, ridged glass revealed several artistic layerings of smooth vanilla custard, alcohol soaked sponge and ruby red strawberry jelly, not forgetting the mountainous dollop of whipped Chantilly cream piled on a helping of fresh cut strawberries. Trifle will never be the same again.
With the evening descending into a dusky, high octane mode, the night was concluded at the hustle and bustle of the bar with a round of spiced hot buttered rums, plus an obligatory session of darts and a Sunday lunch booking in hand, before finally making my exit five hours post my grand arrival.
In a nutshell
As it nears its half year milestone, the Cadogan Arms are seeing their booking lines off the hook, with each nook and corner bustling filled to the brim; you’ll be lucky to grab a space come 7pm!
This plush pedigree neighbourhood falls anything but short of glamour soaked cocktail bars and ritzy restaurants however, it is unarguable a mere fraction are in the playing field to match not only this establishment’s radiant settings and epic feasting delights, but the stellar hosting team whom thrive on home style welcomes. From the witty bartenders to the animated maître d’, each member echoes the essence of poise and etiquette, minus the pretentious stigma of a vicious vetting process and inspection for a worthy Birkin bag, or sizeable flawless solitaire.
For those looking a slice of SW3 high life glitz, topped with cosy comforts and a serving of grand pub grub, Chelsea has a new local queen bee in town.
Address: 298 Kings Road, Chelsea, SW3 5UG