Where are all the pubs in Chelsea?

30/10/2017 at 14:14 | Posted in Articles, pub reviews | Leave a comment
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There has been an alarming trend over the last 20 years which has left some “wealthy” communities without a local pub.  Not every pub in Chelsea that has been lost gets a mention here but there have been enough recently to be a cause for concern.

The frontage of The Markham Arms – now a bank struggling for business was once a thriving pub on the King’s Road.  It’s one of many pub sites that have claimed in the Chelsea past to have had celebrity drinkers – The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton etc.

Continue Reading Where are all the pubs in Chelsea?…


09/10/2017 at 19:56 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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At the end of September 2017, Phil took us on a walk around Chelsea.

We met up at the Fox & Hounds close to Sloane Square, a surprisingly small traditional corner local which feels a long way from zone 1. It’s a Young’s pub, and was selling just Young’s Bitter and a guest on the evening we visited, but given how cramped the bar area is, they don’t have the capacity of a large specialist bar, but what it had in spades was character and a friendly welcome from the staff. Very nice start, and we were grateful that it was still warm enough (just about!) to stand outside, as it would probably have been rather cosy had everyone been indoors.

Fox and HoundsAround the corner next to another surprising find, the Rose & Crown. This was larger than the Fox & Hounds and was also traditional in its own way, but with more of a 1980s feel, being a friendly neighbourhood pub, probably one of the last unmodernised pubs in Chelsea, with a couple of real ales on offer including London Pride.

We walked to the King’s Road now, where Phil gave us a potted history of the street, and particularly its lost pubs and its trendy heyday of the 60s and 70s, including the famous Chelsea Drugstore (Now a McDonalds) which featured in a Rolling Stones song, and The Pheasantry with its chequered history, including a narrow escape from the law for Eric Clapton and where a new band Queen played one of it’s first gigs in 1972.  After a few stops we arrived, appropriately enough, at the Chelsea Potter. We’d visited here once before, a few years ago now, but then it was the last call of the evening, and my memory is fairly hazy, so it was good to see it in all its glory! It was a pretty large and modern pub, with a few interesting ales on, and space to bag a table even on a Friday night.

Just behind the King’s Road we came to the Builders Arms, a self-proclaimed ‘trendy gastro pub’, but one which has revived a very pleasant drinking bar on one side, with a good range of beers as you’d expect from Geronimo.

After pausing to admire one of London’s smallest houses across the street, which sold recently for over £700k, we went into the Sydney Arms, at the end of the street. This was pleasantly lively, and we were lucky to bag a table under a TV showing the Friday night football.  On Sydney Street we walked past the incredibly large St Luke’s church with it’s flying buttresses and neo-gothic exterior.  When it was built in the 1820s it marked the expansion of Chelsea; away from its origin on the sunny Thames bank; to the north of the King’s Road, which was opened to the public at around that time.

Phil gave us a rundown of the sad tale of the many lost pubs of Chelsea we passed on the walk to the next pub, until we arrived at one of the few surviving hostelries, the Admiral Codrington, where apparently Fergie was amongst the famous faces that used to be spotted here. We didn’t clock any celebrities, but had an enjoyable pint in pleasant surroundings, and they even stocked our favourite crisps (OK I can’t speak for everyone on that point, but at least some of us!), though it was surprising that it wasn’t busier, especially given the number of closures nearby.

Our next target had already closed its doors by this time, so we ended up at the Hoop & Toy, a busy Taylor Walker branded pub in South Kensington, still busy with a mix of tourists and locals enjoying the ales (such as Sambrook’s, which we went for) and some other craft beers. The pub has roots going back to 1760, and its name relates to the clobber associated with stabling customers’ horses on site, but sadly the area was badly bombed during the last war, and the current building feels somewhat lacking in character to me.

And so to the Pub of the Crawl. After some debate, the Sydney Arms was voted pub of the crawl, helped I’m sure by the warm feelings that seeing Fulham’s win engendered amongst certain voters… Congratulations!

Earls Court & Chelsea

12/04/2015 at 20:28 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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For March 2015, Phil took us back to the Earls Court area, our first visit since 2011, taking us on a circular walk through Chelsea and back to Earls Court.

We met up at The Bolton, a large corner pub where Earls Court Road meets Old Brompton Road, and until recently branded as an O’Neil’s. No longer however, it’s now a rather smart airy pub with a few ales on offer, though surprisingly empty for a Friday evening. We mainly went for one from the Channel Islands, Liberation Blonde, although it turned out to be rather bland.

We soon moved on, just across the Old Brompton Road to the Pembroke Arms. Another corner pub, this one was much busier, certainly around the bar – some of the ground floor was reserved for dining – though there is more room upstairs. The beers were reasonable, most going for an Essex Blonde, but more interesting was the pub’s history. Before turning into the Pembroke gastropub, it was the Coleherne, a gay pub since at least the 1950s which counted Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett, Rudolf Nureyev, and Ian McKellen amongst its regulars.

finboroughAfter a short* walk past the flat from An American Werewolf in London we arrived at the Finborough Arms. Recently subject of a feature in CAMRA‘s Beer magazine, this attractive wedge-shaped Victorian pub only recently emerged newly refurbished after years of closure, and has done so with an excellent range of beers; I had a lovely Portobello VPA, others generally had the same or UBU. We learnt that one of the pub’s previous regulars was one Thomas Crapper, of flushing toilet fame, who used to drink champagne in the Finborough before going to work! Sadly there were not many customers when we were in, though the pub is somewhat out of the way; however it has a theatre upstairs so can probably be quite variable depending whether or not there is a play on. Indeed by the time we moved on it was already getting busier.

*Well it should have been a short walk, and that’s how it’s shown on the map above; no-one need know the route Phil actually took! 

On now to the smallest pub of the night, the Fox and Pheasant, tucked down into a very small side road near the Chelsea FC ground. It’s so small, in fact, that Phil thought we might not be welcome if about eight of us arrived together, so decided we should split into two groups so as not to be too overbearing. This turned out not only to be unnecessary but only seemed to make the landlord and customers at the bar suspicious of our motives, as they clearly twigged that we knew each other. Anyway the landlord was very chatty about football – evidently this is a major matchday pub when Chelsea are at home with up to 300 fans crammed in and out in the street, so big groups are clearly not a problem. The pub is very traditional and hasn’t been changed in years, with two simple bars either side of a central servery, a great survivor in an area somewhat overrun by chain or gastropubs, though for ale drinkers there’s only Greene King IPA and Abbott on draught.

clockWe doubled back towards Chelsea now and passed the famous World’s End without pausing for a drink – it looked busy and we were behind schedule – but we did stop at 484 King’s Road to hear how the building used to house Led Zepellin’s Swan Song record label, and at 430 King’s Road, famous as Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s SEX boutique in the 1970s, pioneer of punk fashion, and former employer of shop assistants Glen Matlock, Chrissie Hynde and Sid Vicious. Still owned by Vivienne Westwood, it’s been called the World’s End since 1980, with its iconic backwards-running clock.

The next stop was just around the corner, the Sporting Page on Camera Place. This was a bright, modern and busy pub, but with efficient service of some good ales, including Hopfest, Truman’s Swift and Blindside, Doom Bar and Wandle. The atmosphere was fun and lively though we were able to find a table.

Next, to the Fulham Road, and Geronimo’s King’s Arms. This is an upmarket single bar pub in the shabby chic style, with a decent selection of ales and tables available on a Friday night. They could though usefully add Gents/Ladies signs or pictograms to the toilet signs, which would have saved one of our number from “accidentally” using the ladies.

boltonschurchFrom here we walked back through the beautiful Boltons, home of some of the most expensive property in London, to Earls Court. The crawl officially ended here as the last tube trains east were to run shortly so most of us headed off, though a hardy few stayed for a final one in the Blackbird.

All in all a very fun crawl. A wide range of views were aired on the Pub of the Crawl, but the winner was the Sporting Page. Congratulations!


23/06/2012 at 12:40 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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Elvis Costello may not want to go to Chelsea, but Phil took a few of us for a crawl around it in June 2012 and we found some lovely pubs.

We met up at the Phoenix on Smith Street, just off the King’s Road. It’s a small corner pub, but being Chelsea this is no old fashioned neighbourhood local but a smart revamped pub run by Geronimo Inns. It’s got a lovely interior, only spoilt somewhat by the fact that half the tables were empty and reserved. It’s a pub on Friday evening, first come first served surely? Anyway there was room to sit outside and luckily it was warm enough to do so. There were two good ales on, including Sharp’s very Cornish Atlantic IPA, which was so nice we stayed for a couple of pints before setting out.

From here we took a slightly roundabout walk to take in the Royal Hospital, built by Sir Christopher Wren and world famous for its Chelsea Pensioner residents and the Chelsea Flower Show, as well as the National Army Museum and Tite Street, home of many artistic types over the years including Oscar Wilde.

The next pub can be found tucked away down a very quiet street and was something of a surprise, being called The Surprise – that’s a new name on me, and I suspect quite unique! This is another modern-flavoured Geronimo pub,and until we arrived and lowered the tone was wall to wall with the beautiful people of Chelsea! This is a bit larger than the Phoenix, with two bar areas and a central servery, with a couple of ales on. They did have a TV though and we caught the start of the Germany v Greece Euro 2012 match here.

A short stroll from the Surprise is the Coopers Arms on Flood Street, a Young’s pub which is probably bigger than the previous two pubs combined despite its relatively modest corner location, and also has a small garden. It’s similar in decor, in the modern pub fashion – lots of wood, and very bright with large windows making the most of the midsummer evening. The Young’s and Sambrooks Wandle slipped down nicely.  The football was on but again was very unobtrusive, and the first goalscorer sweepstake cash changed hands as Germany took the lead.

Another short stroll through some gorgeous Chelsea streets brought us to the famous Phene. When it was a more traditional pub George Best was one of its regular patrons, but he probably wouldn’t recognise it today, it’s been thoroughly modernised and the beer garden has to be seen to be believed; it feels more a bar than a pub.

There’s a doorman now, so it’s a good job we were a small group this month or we may not have passed muster. On the bar was a large range of bar drinks but no handpumps, so we had to forego real ale for this round; a keg version of London Pride was as close as we could get! The football was on again, but not dominating the place, and we enjoyed sitting next to the bevy of young German ladies on the next table who were there to see Germany progress to the next round! All in all while it wasn’t as traditional as our usual places and there’s no real ale, they’ve done a good job with it and it’s certainly pulling in the punters.

We headed past a few pieces of old Chelsea next, with Phil pointing out delights including the old courthouse and Chelsea Old Church, once the parish church for the village of Chelsea and home church of Sir Thomas More, who planned to be buried here but ended up instead with his head on a spike on London Bridge. It’s also where my wife did a reading at her cousin’s marriage, so I have nice memories of the church, which retains its traditional interior following its 1950s reconstruction (it was destroyed by bombing in WW2).

Our next port of call was the venue of our pre-wedding drinks a couple of years previously, the Pig’s Ear. I’m pleased to say it’s not as foodie as it looks on the website, it is a proper pub and they too were serving Sambrooks ales, brewed not far away across the Thames in Battersea.

Heading away from the Thames now, we called next at the Cadogan Arms on the King’s Road. This is yet another pub decorated in the modern upmarket way with a bit of a food focus, as well as a posh pool room. They did decent ales, and the place was nice and lively without being boisterous.

Heading north again we called at the Anglesea Arms but found that we had missed last orders, so continued on towards South Ken tube station and went for our final beer in the Zetland Arms. The last pub of the evening was the first to be decorated in the more normal unmodernised late Victorian style, under the Taylor Walker branding. We were pleased to find them serving the Marstons Single Hop seasonal beers, with this month’s offering being Maryinka, brewed with Polish hops.

Greece were knocked out of Euro 2012 but we gave a little salute to their valiant but unsuccessful efforts with our delicious anglo-polish beers. Cheers!

Belgravia – Chelsea

04/06/2011 at 18:00 | Posted in Crawls, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Rich led us for this Friday evening walk, starting at the famous Grenadier, once apparently a country pub and now tucked away in a Belgravia mews close to Hyde Park Corner.  From here to Kinnerton Street for the Wilton Arms and the rather special Nag’s Head, occasional haunt of local celebrities and, on our visit, a very friendly dog with a penchant for crisps.

The Star followed next, another cracking mews pub with a line in pork scratchings, and then the Antelope, yet another great pub. This brings us into Chelsea at Sloane Square, where we stopped at the Queens Head, a somewhat unusual choice for us lot… Finally we ended with a couple in the Chelsea Potter on the King’s Road.

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