Excellent authentic Thai food in a butterfly-themed tropical jungle setting. That’s not exactly what you’d expect when you walk into a pub called the Churchill Arms. But then again, this isn’t any ordinary pub as it’s been drawing foodies craving a Thai fix from all over town and the massive amount of flower basket draped around the exterior should give you a hint of the interior. To be fair, the pub area alone is quite nice with a fully stocked bar, a wide range of beers and ales on tap and bottle, and plenty of seating around including a fairly large outdoor terrace when the weather is favourable.
No better place to meet than the pub section. Drinks are very reasonable priced, particularly for Kensington, and you can usually carve out a space even on a busy night. It’s worth putting your name down and waiting in the pub if you don’t have a reservation as the restaurant busy even on a Monday night.
If you fancy a posher start, then just down the road you’ll find Kensington Rooftop Gardens and Babylon Restaurant & Bar which serve up some most excellent cocktails. In particular, try the Dark Chocolate Old Fashioned from Babylon served with figs – one of my favourite drinks in the capital.
What makes the food so good?
Quite simply, the staff and kitchen look like they’ve been taken straight from Thailand. These guys and gals are no-nonsense and all about the food. It does feel a bit like you’ve stepped into the streets of Bangkok as they quickly usher you to a table, push you for an order, and then within minutes your food has arrived. Add that to the slightly hot and humid setting with the smell of fresh flowers in the air and you can close your eyes and escape the City for a little while.
We opted to basically every dish on the menu that had three chillies (the hottest level) given our group’s tendency and even desire to burn out their tastebuds. Oh and a Pad Thai which is my standard test for a Thai place.
The Pad Thai was delicious with supple noodles in the classic lime and peanut sauce bursting with fresh clean flavours. It had the taste of a dish made to order rather than en masse and spooned out as needed. I’d easily rate it as one of the best Pad Thai’s in London if not in my experience to date.
On the spicy dishes, each was well executed with tender meats, crunchy veggies, and a boatload of chilli flavour (despite there being relatively few chillies in the dish). Even the most leather tongued veteran at our table had to admit the heat was there in spades and more than a few of us broke out in hiccups. Yet it wasn’t all fire with a solid depth of flavours shining through so that the heat enhanced rather than overwhelmed the food.
And to cool the fire?
There is a full standard wine list but we opted to stick with the ales and porters from the bar. In fact, the Fuller’s London Porter was a perfect match with the light creamy texture and bitter chocolate flavour acting as a counterpoint to the sharp spice of the food.
I’d suggest sticking with a sweeter white wine or a pint of a darker ale to cool your tongue. Stay away from anything carbonated as that will just aggravate the pain!
Worth the dosh?
With main dishes being around £7-9 and each one a pretty hefty portion, yes it’s brilliant value. Hell, a meal here costs less than the average cocktail at the bars/clubs just down the street.
Find the Churchill Arms here
119 Kensington Church Street, London, W8 7LN
020 7727 4242