Is Sunday even Sunday without a roast? The answer to that my friend, is no: no it is not. That’s why I travelled 80 minutes on several forms of public transport (before the start of a Chelsea game) to The Imperial Arms. Revealing its new look after some intensive renovations, here's how the polished pub ranked on one of the nation's favourite meals.
The Imperial Arms is one of the oldest and last standing Victorian pubs in Chelsea, and the recent refurbishment really is something to be proud of. From the industrial globe-shaped light fixtures to the smart white-tiled bar, we all know first impressions are key, and the immediate space at this stalwart comes across both homely and welcoming. Led past the football-heavy crowd outfront to a more dining-friendly space, the area we were seated in was lavished with potted plants, hanging chalk boards with hand-drawn specials and set mahogany tables for two.
Like I said in my intro, the Sunday we visited The Imperial Arms, Chelsea were playing Southampton. Being a pub along King’s Road, this inevitably drew in a football-heavy crowd. So between the testosterone vibrating the walls and the deafening chatter from the cluster of blue scarfed men outfront, the flow of our conversation was disturbed from our starters until we were halfway through our mains. But despite the jostling crowd in the bar area, The Imperial Arms is a bloody great place. They even have a secret beer garden, I know - plot twist. Lined with deep blue velvet armchairs and low slung tables, you’ll be glad to know it’s weatherproof and open all year long.
The Food and Drink
Resembling chunky chips, the gherkin polenta ‘fries’ with chipotle mayo £6.75 are what kick-started my Sunday meal. They came deep-fried and presented in a neat stack, and had plenty of bite - especially after being dunked into the smoky mayo. My company ordered the veal carpaccio, mustard caper emulsion, pine nuts and basil £7.75, and left a clean , pristine plate going back to the kitchen.
Having not had a Sunday roast in a restaurant since December 2016 (I know - I’m out of my goddamn mind), I ordered the lemon and thyme half chicken £15. Served on a delicate swirl of puréed mash with a gigantic Yorkshire pud, the meat was cooked just right with a crispy skin sheltering the succulent strips of meat underneath. The vegetables were crunchy and came served separately in a side dish, but the roasties? My god the roasties. I’m guessing they were cooked in duck fat because they were fluffy on the inside and parcelled in a golden crust worthy of a Marks and Sparks advert. On the other side of the table, my friend was devouring the dry-aged sirloin of cumbrian beef £16.75. With one jug of gravy between us, it was empty and pooled onto our plates within minutes.
Taking a breather with an Epic Negroni £8.50 (Tanqueray No. Ten, Campari, Martini Rossoin), we came to a very adult decision to share the Belgian chocolate brownie £6.75. Served with a dribble of chocolate sauce and raspberry ripple ice cream, you can always go for one of their after dinner desserts if your jeans won’t stretch that far.
The Imperial Arms pulled it out of the bag on all accounts on our Sunday visit. Although it’s been given a modern makeover, the pub itself has maintained an authentic atmosphere and the roast menu is one to rave about; from the golden roasties to the rich gravy. If you're ever around Chelsea, I'd highly recommend popping your head in.