Peter Morrell and his wife enjoy the food, the atmosphere and the service in this charming gastro pub
Tucked away on a quiet residential street just off the King’s Road, The Builders Arms was built by an enterprising builder in 1841. Its main function was to accommodate the large thirst of workmen who were constructing the nearby St Luke’s church.
Fast forward more than 150 years and the pub is now owned by Hippo Inns and has recently been totally refurbished inside and out. The re-modelling has cleverly retained the eccentric Victorian style and introduced brand-new elements like pineapple lights and zesty orange patterned wallpaper, as well as original striking artwork from award-winning artist Paul Karslake.
The Builder’s Arms is described as the ‘Beating Heart of Chelsea’ and it’s easy to see how it earned this epithet. When we arrived the bar was buzzing with both visitors and a smart local crowd making the most of the drinks list which featured craft ales, cocktails, wines and spirits. Off the bar is an elegant dining space where the full impact of the refurbishment can be fully appreciated.
Settling into the comfortable seats we took a look at the menu, which has also had a complete refresh. If you are not very hungry then a selection of substantial bar snacks like rose petal hummus with pistachio, pomegranate and pitta or chorizo croquettes would fill a large gap.
There were a number of highly inventive dishes in the starter section including crispy pig’s head with piccalilli, pickled mackerel fillet, fried bread, horseradish and sharing boards catering for both vegetarians and carnivores. My wife’s choice of starter was from the bar snacks section, crispy squid with a smoked chilli and lime dip while I had the fish soup with croutons, rouille and grated cheese.
The squid was excellent, it was very tender and encased in a light crunchy batter with the smoked chilli dip adding another dimension. My soup was equally good, offering strong fish flavours enhanced by the very garlicky croutons, rouille and grated cheese.
The mains were very appealing and difficult to choose, the beer-battered wild halibut with chips and tartare sauce was a strong contender as was the Hereford onglet steak with girolles and watercress. We eventually selected the marinated flat iron chicken breast with spinach, parmesan salad and tomato vinaigrette and the South Coast chilli crab linguini.
Chicken can be a difficult dish to prepare and can be dry and stringy but the flat iron had been cooked beautifully. The meat had lots of flavour and was moist and juicy. The chips with this were fresh and crispy with a yielding floury centre. My linguini had good sea fresh flavours with the chilli adding a piquant, taste bud tingling character. Both very satisfying dishes.
The wine list has been curated by Master of Wine, John Clevely and features a good selection of both red and white wines. As our pairing for the evening we chose a white from the Chilean La Playa Vineyards, it was the house sauvignon blanc. The bouquet had strong aromatic aromas of citrus fruits mixed with herbal and floral notes. These were joined on the palate with lemon and lime tastes together with green summer fruits and flowers. The well-balanced acidity made it the ideal match with our fish and white meat dishes. The finish was crisp, bright and persistent.
Desserts were beyond us but there were temptations like frozen dark chocolate and blueberries with anise and smoked crème fraiche, and poached aperol peaches with tonka cream and an almond & rosemary crumble. If you haven’t got a sweet tooth then there was a British cheese board served with crisp bread and chutney.
A word about the service team, they who were friendly and helpful throughout the meal
This was a very good meal, the food was innovatory and the dining space relaxed and comfortable. There was an overriding quality about the food, its straight from the pan freshness, which we both appreciated. The meal was also good value for money, expect to pay about £40 per person including wine.
The Builders Arms Chelsea
13 Britten Street, Chelsea, London, SW3 3TY
0207 349 9040