Promising lots of style but delivering a lack of substance, the Builders Arms resembles the residents of its fashionable Kings Road location.
Despite fantastic decor, including roughed-up leather sofas, bookshelves and a conservatory dining area, the pub's impressive styling is let down by sloppy service and lacklustre cuisine.
Owner Geronimo Inns has successfully installed its "village local within a city" concept at the 75-cover Chelsea pub. The pub buzzes with the clamour of customers sharing a mid-week drink at the bar or settling down in the busy dining area to sample dishes from head chef Graham Moreton's modern British menu.
Dishes feature goat's cheese and marinated artichoke hearts on toasted foccacia (£6.75) and smoked salmon, crab and Avocado tian (£6) to start. Pan-fried lamb rump, parsnip puree, French beans and pancetta (£12.95) and handmade smoked haddock and salmon fish cakes on wilted spinach (£10) are a few of the mains.
There's also a selection of daily specials featuring moules marinière (£5.95) and wild boar sausages with parsnip mash (£10.50). But delivery is poor, with staff struggling to cope with the demands of a busy service. The staff were warm and friendly but we were left waiting for long periods of the meal. And after its final arrival the food is of mixed quality.
The moules marinière featured slightly chewy mussels and a bland crème fraiche sauce. Things improved with the hearty Builders Gruyere and sun-dried tomato beef burger. The tasty snack is nicely presented and suitably filling. However, numerous midges joined us for dinner, perhaps we received the attention of these unwanted guests due to our conservatory area seats .
The Builders Arms is an attractive, aesthetically pleasing pub. But, on this visit, the food was a disappointment particularly in light of the venue's strong reputation and listing in several leading pub guides.
PubChef Rating (out of 10)
Ambiance 9, Value for money 6, Flavour factor 6, Overall impression 6
BEERS: Fuller's London Pride, Adnams, Hoegaarden
MAIN COURSES: From £9 to £13.50
WINES: 15 whites, 14 reds, 2 rosés, 5 Champagnes. Selection includes Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (New Zealand) and Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir 2002 (France).
ANOTHER THING: The pub pays homage to its title with a sign advising diners "never trust a builder without a tattoo". The toilets are also labelled "builders" and "ballerinas".