I’ve walked past The Cadogan Arms on the King’s Road many times. I’ve briefly peered through the windows, but never stepped inside. Little did I know that the interior is a shrine to taxidermy and that the gastropub was nominated for Restaurant magazine’s R200 Pub Company of the Year Award. Those two facts alone should make you want to walk through the doors.
So when I finally did, I immediately liked what I saw. A hunting lodge interior with antlers adorning the walls might be too much if you’re a vegetarian, but since we’re not, we didn’t mind. Rather, it gave off a snug feeling that you would desire come cold winter evenings.
I figured I should go for something robust as I suspected this is The Cadogan Arms’ forte, so I went all out. “Bring on the 35-day aged rib eye steak with hand cut chips and bone marrow jus,” I said like a caveman to the accommodating waitress who, I might add, was chirpy and keen to assist throughout the meal.
My dining partner, who for a second considered ordering a whole guinea fowl, settled with the pork belly, which came with white and black pudding, glazed carrots and hand cut chips. To start with I ordered almond crusted veal sweetbread with turnip and chicory jus, and my company went for the caramelised onion and spinach tart with poached duck egg and hollandaise sauce.
The menu pays homage to the quintessentially English, and does it really well. You could take a tourist to The Cadogan Arms, divert them from Piccadilly Circus, and have them sample anything on the menu to get a real taste of Lizzie’s land. Instead of the Eros statue they could take a photo of the stuffed bison that looks out majestically over the tables.
The restaurant, which sits adjacent to the pub, doesn’t feel like part of a boozer. We went on a quiet Wednesday, but there was still activity in the pub and we weren’t bothered the slightest. You don’t want your 35-day aged rib eye steak to be spoiled by someone who has had too many jars of London Pride.
The food was all very good and nicely presented. It wasn’t a memorable meal, but as a neighbourhood gastropub it works splendidly. The earthy tones of the turnips complemented the sweetness of the sweetbread, making a pleasant starter. The poached duck egg was the highlight of the spinach tart – cooked to perfection.
The steak came next and, although it had some fatty and sinewy parts (which I with ladylike manners tried to avoid), it went down well with the hand cut chips. The chips were exquisite, as only perfect chips can be, and particularly moreish. My companion gave his food the thumbs up, too, and there was nothing left on the plate as we steered on to the pudding menu.
Although we had had quite a heavy meal, it felt appropriate to finish such a decent dinner with a decent dessert. The specials menu blasted out Valrhona brownie with hot chocolate sauce and my companion could not focus on anything else; I, on the other hand, wanted too many things and weighed the pros and cons of poached pear with frangipane tart or Eton mess. In the end I opted for the vanilla, strawberry and nougat ice cream, homemade.
The Valrhona brownie barely got eaten, but not because it was not delectable. Au contraire, it was so rich, so over-the-top and so choco-tastic that three spoonfuls would have been enough.
Although there are plenty of gastropubs in Chelsea, The Cadogan Arms manages to make its mark with the hunting lodge theme and non-fussy fare. It’s a relaxed operation with little to complain about. The food might not be of other fine dining establishments that are scattered around the area, but then it doesn’t want to be either, which is a relief. Pricewise, you can rest assured that you won’t cry when you get the bill – and that’s the biggest reassurance of them all.
The Cadogan Arms, 298 King’s Road, London, SW3 5UG. Tel. 020 7352 6500. Website.