A King’s Road pub, relaunched – and much tarted-up – by the Martin brothers (of Gun etc fame); the food can be pretty good, but we do wonder if – as an eating place – the formula quite ‘works’.
Since the launch of the Gun, on the Isle of Dogs, back in 2004, Tom and Ed Martin have become leading lights in London’s gastropub/English bistro scene. (It seems to us that this is a distinction that’s becoming pretty much irrelevant: many pubs are now really informal restaurants, and some restaurants are now adopting ‘gastropub’ style. What, apart from architecture, is the meaningful distinction between the two?)
Originally thought of as East End operators, the brothers are coming progressively West into what’s arguably their more natural – which is to say, affluent – heartland. After all, once you’ve turned a corner of Sloane Square into a money-making machine – how we wished we owned The Botanist – you really have sold out, haven’t you?
Well, now the brothers have ventured into Chelsea proper, opening the Cadogan Arms as their eighth establishment. Like all their old boozers, it’s been made a bit squeaky-clean in a way that isn’t necessarily totally congenial. That’s not to deny, however, that the overall effect is smart, and comfortable enough: as much like a spruced up gentleman’s club as a pub (and, indeed, there are some billiard tables upstairs). The service, however, is matey, in an Antipodean sort of way.
The menu is more in keeping with the décor than the service. Though shorter than the one at the frankly brasserie-like Botanist, just up the road, it’s not so different in style, which is to say it is not notably pubby at all. Our meal for one included some good and interesting bread, an elegant pea soup, a pretty good cheesecake and a decent espresso. The only dull moment was a rather salty chicken pie, with an unimpressive hat, which came with a slick of not especially appealing mash.
Despite food that’s – on balance – pretty good, however, we do have some questions whether, in a part of town which does not want for ‘proper’ restaurants, this non-pubby pub really quite works as a concept. The boys’ success to date, however, suggests it probably will.