Gastronauts land on King's Road with tasty but predictable results

Timothy Barber
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THE CADOGAN ARMS <br />298 KING'S ROAD, SW3 5UG <br /><strong><br />Cost per person without wine: &pound;25</strong><br /><br />UNTIL it was closed for a grand refurbishment a few months ago, the Cadogan Arms, a roomy pub half way along the King&rsquo;s Road, was defined chiefly by a clientele consisting of teenagers and those on gap years. For years, the ageing scuzziness of its interior seemed to be matched in an equal and opposite way by the youth of its dissolute young patrons, so the news last year that it was finally being taken over and revamped was hardly unwelcome. <br /><br />Its new owners are Tom and Ed Martin, the gastropub specialists whose other operations include The Gun in Docklands and Sloane Square&rsquo;s Botanist, and they&rsquo;ve done an efficiently smart job with the makeover. The main bar has become an elegant space for a pint, now thankfully occupied by adults, of the unfeasibly good-looking Chelsea variety. As a place to eat though, it rather crystallises the gastropub conundrum &ndash; is it a pub with nice grub, or a casual restaurant with a good bar?<br /><br />Like so many places, the Cadogan Arms wants to have it both ways. It has a dining area that feels cordoned-off yet still in the pub, lurking beneath stairs that lead to an upstairs function room (and a couple of brand new pool tables). <br /><br />Overlooking the dining tables is a huge bison head, and it doesn&rsquo;t look very happy. It has got some fox heads for company, and there are a few sets of antlers pinned up around the room. It doesn&rsquo;t do much for atmosphere. Sitting at our workaday tables and chairs, we still have to raise our voices above the pub chatter and tinny background music, and I feel like I may as well be sitting in the main bar with my pint than pretending I&rsquo;m in a restaurant.<br /><br />You can order the same menu in there anyway, but while it has winks to bar food with fish and chips and beef burgers, it&rsquo;s not at bar food prices, with main courses ranging between &pound;11 and &pound;18.50. It&rsquo;s a simple, attractive enough menu with few surprises and occasional descriptive overload. <br /><br /><strong>RATHER SCRUMMY</strong><br />A starter consisting of pieces of smoked duck breast with green beans and toasted almonds is rather scrummy, however, and a wild mushroom tart is sweet and satisfying. For mains, the pan roasted veal chop is a thick hunk of meat but tender, and comes with a silky mash that just about steers on the right side of being potato puree. <br /><br />A rather sturdy trout fillet, meanwhile, sits on top of enough broad bean and pea risotto for two such dishes, and is all a little heavy and indelicate. We round off with a creamy chocolate mousse served, as is the irritating way, in a wine glass, and a brace of English cheeses served &ndash; as is also the way &ndash; on a piece of slate.<br /><br />Maybe it&rsquo;s not surprising given that the Cadogan Arms comes from a stable of seven other successful gastropubs, but it all feels a little formulaic and forced. The one differentiator was the attentive service, but as a dining destination, there are better places on the King&rsquo;s Road. It is, at least, a lovely place for a pint though, with barely a turned-up collar in sight. <br /><br /><strong>In a nutshell</strong><br />An above-average gastropub which ticks all the boxes but doesn&rsquo;t try to break the mould. Food is good, solid British fare and it works as a pub too. The bison&rsquo;s head on the wall is a bit off-putting, though.