My great uncle Midge, Alfred Bossom, later Lord Bossom of Maidstone, was a great drinking partner of Winston Churchill. Churchill would regularly end cabinet meetings by saying that he was “off to Bossom’s” at 5 Carlton Gardens. When he was first introduced to my uncle, then a backbencher, he famously said “Who is this man Bossom whose name means neither one thing nor the other?” This well documented remark has followed me around all my life and that of everyone in the Bossom family.
I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it is said that Churchill made his wartime broadcasts from the Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street. Perhaps Sir Winston and Sir Alfred occasionally also took their bevvies here, who knows?
But here’s the thing, this pub too is neither one thing nor the other. Outwardly it could not be more of a traditional true blue British drinking hole with its copious hanging flower baskets, its many Union Jacks and the intense homage it pays to Churchill with a gazillion kitschy decorative objects depicting the great man. And yet, at the back of this establishment is a conservatory serving some of the best Thai food in London, an incongruous combination which somehow works very well.
Come rain or shine, the pub is always heaving with people, and the restaurant is full to its plant and lantern hung rafters. You struggle past the enthusiastic drinkers at the bar to enter what appears to be a Thai jungle. Small marble topped bistro tables are set closely together and each and every one is taken.
We enter on the spur of the moment, without having booked, desperately praying for two vacant seats as we awkwardly squeeze through to the back. Tentatively we ask the Thai matron guarding that section whether perhaps, pretty please, she can find a space for us. She looks us up and down as though we’d made some completely insane request of her, shakes her head and tells us that maybe, if we’re very lucky, there might be an opportunity in about an hour and a half but then our prayers are answered, she sees our crestfallen faces and takes pity, pointing to a free table with firm instructions that we have exactly one hour to eat but then we absolutely must vacate. We nod so furiously that you might think our heads will roll off. Phew! The Lovely Husband and I high five each other and grin. Success!
No time is lost in bringing the compact menu, which lists nothing but noodles, curries and stirfries and helpfully indicates the level of spiciness by increasing numbers of butterflies, repeating the theme of the wall decoration hung inbetween portraits of the Queen and other very British paraphernalia. There are no pretensions of sophisticated cuisine here but watching our fellow diners, who are greedily tucking in to their fare, tells us conclusively that the food is good. We each order from the hottest dishes available because we like that sort of thing and, naturellement, prawn crackers which are always the perfect prelude to any Thai dinner.
Before we can say Winston Churchill, our steaming plates arrive. The Lovely Husband’s Pad Gra Praow, stir fried chicken with chopped chili, garlic, onions, fresh Thai basil leaves, red and green peppers and steamed rice like only Asians can cook properly, is hot enough to blow off the roof off your mouth but oh so good, beautifully spiced, the chicken pieces succulent and tasty, the veg firm, just gorgeous. My Kaeng Par vegetable curry too is resplendent with subtly nuanced fieriness and quite delicious. The portions are so generous that I can barely manage half, the prices so reasonable that the wallet is barely dented.
This is a great place for a good quick supper in a funky and fun environment. At a push, and only if you’ve booked, it could also work well for a first date when perhaps you’re not quite sure how much you may have to say to each other. It’s too busy to be seriously romantic but it certainly impresses without trying too hard and that at fairly low investment.
The very un-Thai Chocolate cake and apple pie are on offer to complete the meal but we are too well sated to even consider them. We pay our £30.15 (£19.50 for the food we consumed, £10.65 for alcoholic drinks), excluding service charge, and stroll home for coffees and salted caramel truffles on the sofa and a box set episode of The Affair.
Tomorrow I must start a diet, really I must, though I already suspect that by then my good intentions will have flown out of the window. Oh go on, just one more truffle. What’s that other Churchill quote? “I am easily satisfied with the very best.”
The Churchill Arms, 119 Kensington Church Street, London W8 7LN, Tel.: 020 7727 4242 www.churchillarmskensington.co.uk
What I wore
White Zara Basic boyfriend shirt with applications, light blue and white cropped narrow seersucker pedal pushers, Ann Taylor Petite, sky blue and silver French Sole ballerina shoes, French navy Miu Miu bag.
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