Shopping can be a very tiring activity, and finding somewhere to take the weight off your feet on Kensington High Street can be a bit of a stress. But if you go slightly off the beaten track to a beautiful establishment called The Builders Arms, your weary body may just thank you for it.
It’s not immediately obvious where The Builders Arms resides, as it is in a small residential area just behind Whole Foods, but once you navigate through the quiet streets, you’ll be pleased you did. A large glass front welcomes you and when you enter the accommodating feeling continues inside.
It is a traditional-looking pub with worn-in wooden fixtures. You can tell that it used to be a right old boozer, but they have spruced it up with quirky lamps and 70s-style lamp shades in order to make it feel more homely. The downstairs has more of pub feel to it, with two screens so that you can watch sports, whereas upstairs is essentially a lounge bar with comfy leather fixtures and exposed brick walls. It even has its own bar and this is where comedy nights, on Mondays, are held.
The vibe at The Builders Arms is one of chilled relaxation. People come here to read their weekend papers with big groups of friends or family. When there is sport on, the ambience changes slightly, but it still maintains a calm air. It’s a rugby pub so expect rugby to take precedence over the footie. Also, at the weekend, it becomes very busy with locals of all ages in attendance.
Pubs serving Thai food might have been unheard of ten years ago but, nowadays, it’s a common sight. The Builders Arms, however, sticks to proper English grub. You’ll find Cornish sardines (£5) and a pair of mini pies (£3.95) for starters, and the mains hark back to some of Britain’s favourite dishes. With delectable dishes like braised lamb shoulder (£12), fish pie (£9) and the much-loved sausage and mash (£8.25), this is how British food is supposed to be.
No traditional English pub could go without the classic Sunday roast and The Builders Arms does this exceedingly well. Choose from loin of pork (£9.50), roast beef (£10), chicken (£10) and nut roast (£10), with all the trimmings. The food is served quickly, which is exactly what you want from your roast, and the portions are more than generous. The roast chicken is succulent, with golden crisp skin and a hearty amount of really thick, meaty gravy. Gravy is an important component to any roast and The Builders Arms has just the right amount. The only slight problem is that it makes the gorgeously crisp roasties a tad soggy, so perhaps a small gravy boat on the side would be prudent.
You are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing your drink. There is an extensive beer and cider list, both bottled and draught, with Aspall Perronelle's Blush cider at £4.05 a pint. For those who yearn for the good times at Glastonbury, they have Brothers Festival pear cider, which is an impressive 7% for £4 a bottle. Pints aren’t too pricy, with the cheapest at £3.10 for a Fosters.
There’s also a very good wine list on offer with the most excellent Torres Vina Esmeralda for £16 a bottle and the house Juanita Malbec for £15 a bottle. On Tuesdays, if you want to save a few pennies, they host a wine club, so any bottle that is normally £20 or below is available for £11.95. Bargain.
The Last Word
Traditional English boozers are a dying breed in London, so it is refreshing to see a pub that has tried to maintain its history, with a few modern touches. The food is great and the company is even better. So next time you’re on Kensington High Street, pop in for a drink and it will soon become your new favourite hang out, guaranteed.