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What is it?
Compared to the rest of this beer-soaked city, west London – and especially the enclaves around Kensington and Chelsea – is seriously lacking in decent boozers. Sure, you’ve got the occasional mews drinking-den and few gastro-leaning pubs of regard, but it's otherwise a zone of homogenous spots populated by local hoorays and tourists who simply don't know any better.
Some amends have been made by the folks at JKS – the hospitality group that includes Bao, Hoppers, Kitchen Table, Flor, Sabor, Trishna and Gymkhana among its stacked portfolio of restaurants. They’ve snapped up an estimable King’s Road institution in The Cadogan Arms, given it a natty facelift and reopened it with Dominic Jacobs of Mayfair’s Running Horse pub (one of the few exceptions to the above rule), chef Alex Harper of Fulham’s brilliant Harwood Arms (ditto), and James Knappett of Fitzrovia’s two-Michelin-starred Kitchen Table at the collective helm.
Given the prestige names, it could have been a zhuzh too far. But no: the Cadogan Arms is a quiet triumph. For a start, it’s superficially lovely; the pub’s cavernous enclaves a hot mess of warm wooden panelling and hefty drawing-room furniture, pastel pink walls jam-packed with paintings, a gargantuan fireplace – this one’s a winter no-brainer – and a beatific, backlit stained-glass bar.
So far, so comely – but the real kicker is what’s coming out of the kitchen. Despite the CVs of its team, the Cadogan’s is traditional pub grub at its rarefied best. Nods to the JKS fam abound (Flor sourdough; the Bubbledogs hot sauce that comes with a plate of fried chicken) but it’s all refreshingly unprepossessing. Daily pasties, a prawn cocktail, ham-egg-&-chips, fish and chips, a token paneer and vegetable makhani curry, and a boozed strawberry trifle all feature; while cheffier inflections come in the form of a Welsh mangalitsa chop with spiced jowl and greengage, or crispy boneless lamb ribs with anchovy and sorrel.
The drinks, too are stellar: an enormous, UK-heavy list of keg beers (we’d hit the house pilsner for the novelty of its arriving in a clay tankard) nicely offset by the selection of jazzed-up classic cocktails (blackcurrent negronis; ‘Rah Rah’ martinis with caviar; lemon verbena palomas; et al).
In short, the Cadogan is a sterling food-leaning boozer that’d be a keeper in any part of London. Round these parts, it’s a bona fide gem. Chin chin to that.
What should I order?
There may be no greater bar snack currently lurking in London than the Cadogan’s honking cheese toastie. Adding kimchi and ham hock would be smart, but it’s already served with Oxford Sauce – the little known but superior regional alternative to HP, and an excellent sharp/spicy foil to the oozing dairy.
We’ve been thinking it for eons, but 2022 might really be the year of the great chicken Kiev renaissance. If so, you’ll be off to a rollicking start with this one, served with – what else – mash, garlic butter and a cool shaved fennel salad to offset the allium hum.
Sometimes, four ales down, you just want to fill your face with a superlative cheeseburger. That’s just what you’ll find here: half a pound of beef, festooned with remoulade sauce, pickles and Cheddar, with skinny fries for a chaser. It’s not pushing any envelopes, but it is very good indeed.
Why should I go?
For great beer, winningly unpretentious food and one of the best old/new-school mash-up pub experience in SW3.
298 King's Road, SW3 5UG