The Churchill Arms

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The Churchill Arms could win a Britain in Bloom competition single handedly. In fact, I think it actually has. In summer, the outside of the 200 year old pub is festooned with so many hanging baskets of flowers that the brickwork of the pub is barely visible. At Christmas time the baskets are replaced with dozens of Christmas trees in a cheery festive display. The over the top decoration continues inside the pub where every spare centimetre of ceiling and wall space is covered with prints of the Queen mother, hurling memorabilia, a collection of chamber pots or a stuffed owl. It certainly makes for a slightly kooky but cosy atmosphere.
 
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The Churchill Arms – bedecked with hanging baskets
 
At the back of the pub in an indoor conservatory area which resembles a mini hanging gardens of Babylon, lies the pub’s Thai restaurant. Thai restaurants are commonplace in London pubs now but The Churchill Arms take on the concept is a cut above the general offering because the Thai food on offer is genuinely spicy rather than being watered down for English palates. In a nod to the mounted butterflies on the walls and general tropical ambience of the conservatory, the exact heat of each dish is indicated on the menu by a series of butterflies ranging from one butterfly for spicy, two for hot and three for very hot. Even a one butterfly dish is enough to make you gulp down your accompanying beer, a shrewd move by the publican. I was just excited to find a Thai restaurant where very hot actually means, very hot.
 
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Spring rolls
 
Another major plus is that the prices at The Churchill Arms are bargain basement. All the mains are uniformly priced at £7.50 which makes the process of budgeting and any splitting of the bill thankfully simple. The food is admittedly missing some of the subtleties of really good Thai cooking but the authentic heat and low prices make the pub worth a visit.
 
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Dining in the conservatory area is like eating in a mini version of the hanging gardens of Babylon
 
Spring rolls (£4.50) were obviously bought in rather than made on the premises as they lacked a bit of bite and crunch but they were at least well fried to a crisp, golden brown finish. However, the kaeng kiew waan (£7.50), a so-hot-it-will-make-you-sweat green coconut curry featuring bamboo shoots, fresh Thai basil, peppers and some rather random green peas was really excellent. It was served with a generous helping of fluffy rice which was included in the price.
 
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Green curry
 
From the less spicy end of the spectrum, the khao pad (£7.50) reminded me more of a Chinese fried rice dish with the slightly crunchy rice dotted with slivers of chicken, fried egg and spring onions and doused in soya sauce. It was not in the same league as the curry, but good enough for pub Thai food.
 
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Khao pad
 
I have been to The Churchill Arms several times over the years and the quirky atmosphere always amuses me while the spice in the food feeds my chilli addiction. Admittedly, it is just another pub doing Thai food, but it does it better than most.
 
Essentials
Details: The Churchill Arms, 119 Kensington Church Street, Kensington W8 7LN (Ph 020 7727 4242) Tube: Notting Hill Gate.
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve.
6/10
 
Links
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of 101 Thai Kitchen or of Garden Grill for more on my search for good Thai food in London.

Churchill Arms on Urbanspoon

12 comments

  1. Oooh, this sounds interesting. The place itself looks charming. I do love a bit of OTT decoration!

  2. The first time I walked by this place I thought it was a flower and plant shop. Ha.

  3. Latymers, also a Fullers pub here in Hammersmith, has an excellent Thai restaurant who seems to serve full flavoured Thai. Maybe some links.

    Churchill Arms is now on wishlist.

  4. Sounds like my kind of place. I’m an absolute chilli fiend.

  5. This food makes my tummy growl…especially the Green Curry. WOW! 🙂
    I love England.

  6. I agree with you re the Thai food, it isn’t the best, but it is authentically spicy. And actually, once you forget about the authenticity, is pretty nice. It certianly goes down very well after a few beers.

    The curries are definitely a cut above the rest of their dishes, I particularly like the duck ones. Mmm-mmm. This place is a semi-regular haunt whenever I find myself in the far (to me) west of London.

  7. This is actually one of my “neighborhood pubs” and I love the food, but it is so difficult to get a table. The woman always looks at me like I am delusional when I try to get a table without calling ahead. I wish that the pub would serve some more of the food in the bar area so when I get the beer munchies I could have some great curry to fight them.

  8. Kerri – It is certainly OTT!

    Thats London- I am not surprised

    Gregory – It does seem to be a common theme

    The KitchenPrincess Diaries – You would like it then

    Myinnerchick – What a country to have Thai food in a pub!

    The Grubworm – Not sure what the Thai would think of it, but I agree it is an enjoyable place for a curry and beer

    London Lady – It can get pretty crazy in there.

  9. I used to walk past this pub nearly every Saturday on my way from Notting Hill farmers’ market to Stick and Bowl on Kensington High St. We were SO addicted to Stick and Bowl that I was never able to persuade my husband to deviate into this pub although I always meant to go in.

  10. I went to here the other day. After queuing with friends for over an hour for our table in a pub drinking warm wine surrounded by old men, we were ushered into the flower strewn back restaurant. Food was incredibly cheap, and curry definitely better than the noodle dishes, but I’m not sure I’d go back in a hurry. Maybe I got them on an off night . . .

  11. Sarah – Wow I haven’t been to stick and bowl – will have to check it out

    The little loaf – I agree 1 hour is not worth the wait, it has been pretty quick on my visits, maybe I have just been lucky?

  12. i totally agree with your comments, some authenticity was missing, but a cute place anyway. i went there the other day: my thoughts 🙂
    http://caviargirl.blogspot.com/2011/04/churchill-arms-kensington.html

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