Tom revels in the glam makeover and sparkling gastronomic credentials of an old haunt.
It’s been a while since I was last in The Cadogan Arms; 29 years to be precise, a time when the King’s Road in Southwest London still had some charm. And ‘cruising the KR’, a sort of public school passeggiata, was a worthy way to spend one’s day. You’d start at Sloane Square and shuffle, floppy fringed and smoking furiously, past R Soles (cowboy boots) and Soldier Blue (jeans), ending up at The Garage (hoodies et al) before being refused service at The Goat in Boots on Fulham Road.
You’d never get served at The Cadogan Arms either, although not for want to trying. But after a few years of sinking slowly into beer-stained obscurity, a fine old pub is reborn. And it’s very grand indeed. There’s a handsome hand-carved bar, wrought-iron staircase, endless cornices, glittering chandeliers and the most ornate of ceilings. You half expect to see Lillie Langtry smouldering in the corner, while Rossetti and Turner sink stout in the snug. It’s one hell of a pub.
Its gastronomic credentials are sparkling too, with the very talented James Knappett as culinary director and Alex Harper, late of The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms, as executive chef. Lunch starts well. Summer vegetables, crisp leaves and crunchy radishes wear the most becoming of light pickles, and are dipped into cold bagna cauda (more like anchovy mayonnaise), with just the right amount of fishy kick. There’s peerless buttermilk fried chicken, all burnished batter and gloriously succulent meat, with a buffalo sauce so good it lingers on the table for the rest of lunch.
Chicken liver parfait, rich as the first Earl Cadogan, and lasciviously creamy, is exactly what you’d expect from a chef of Harper’s level; while boneless lamb ribs are inspired, a mix of the tender and crunchy, with a cumin kick. My main course of turbot, roasted on the bone, is beautifully cooked, bathed in brown butter and shrimps, heavy on the capers. So far, so good.
But my old friends Jonathan and Jeanine Sothcott are less impressed. A toasted cheese sandwich has too much bread, too little cheese, and is a little burnt. Jonathan says his chicken Kiev is no better than Sainsbury’s, while Jeanine is equally unimpressed by her mussels in cider: ‘Distinctly average’. So a good time was not had by all but there’s promise here. Give it time. And the pub’s a beauty reborn.
About £35 per head. The Cadogan Arms, King’s Road, London, thecadoganarms.london.
DRINKS: Olly’s Spanish stars
Spanish wine is a bit like Netflix, with every genre poised to grab new fans with similarly epic value for money. Take Rioja Gran Reserva, an indisputable world-class red, and Cava, a mind-blowing party fizz, both of which will wow guests without blowing the budget. Add laser-fresh whites, sunny rosados, fortified gems and every style of red and you’ll find Spanish wine is taking the lead role in Europe.
WINE OF THE WEEK THE BEST MARQUES DE LOS RIOS VINTAGE CAVA 2019 BRUT (12%), £7.50, Morrisons. Slam-dunk brilliant bubbly; this is alive with excellence.
MONTE LAGARES RIOJA BLANCO 2020 (12.5%), £7, Marks & Spencer. Bright and fresh as ice-cold melon, this is peachy magnificence.
LA PERGOLA SPANISH ROSÉ 2020 (13%), £7.99, Aldi. Bold fruity rosé that’s the perfect foodie match from paprika to paella.
ALTOLANDON BOBAL MANCHUELA 2019 (14%), £9.25, The Wine Society. A peppery frame around picture-perfect fruit. Dark yet deeply exuberant red.
FINEST VIÑA DEL CURA RIOJA GRAN RESERVA 2014 (14%), £11.50, Tesco. Bargain fine wine. Spot-on for a roast with its epic appeal – rich, savoury and splendid.