Review of The Imperial Arms, Chislehurst
PUBLISHED: 13:05 04 October 2014 | UPDATED: 13:05 04 October 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Love history, tasty pub classics and tapas? Then head to this newly refurbished wine bar
Fans of dark, cosy winter spots where you can enjoy a glass of wine and some tasty tapas are going to love the Courtyard Wine Bar in the grounds of The Imperial Arms in Chislehurst.
Landlady Tina Bullard is lucky enough to have interior designer to the stars, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, for a brother and for the bar and new wine bar (once a coachhouse) to have already featured in his hit TV programme Million Dollar Decorators.
The pub itself, which dates back to 1787, has also been beautifully restored and is warm and inviting with its red-panelled walls, red velour and leather banquettes and high bar stools with red leather seats.
Trompe-l’œil book wallpaper decorates The Library Bar and The Catherine Bar is named after the Mistress of Napoleon III who stayed here when he was exiled to Chislehurst in 1870. There are even more Napoleonic references in the wine bar, which is pure Gothic fantasy – a vast timbered ceiling discovered when the old one came down, antique mirrors everywhere to open up the space, copper-topped tables and candles at night.
Dramatic curtains in red velvet and sackcloth reference the French flag and there are busts and portraits of Bonaparte, fantastic chandeliers and a mix of antiques.
A singer/guitarist entertains customers on Thursday evenings and wine and food pairings are planned for the near future.
I was impressed to see that the wine list offers 14 by the glass as well as a stunning connoisseur selection, including a cult Shiraz (Dead Arm) from Australia and a classic white Montagny burgundy.
Real Ales served are Doombar, Harveys and Timothy Taylors, Landlord and guest Real Ales, plus local brewery Greenwich Meantime Brewers Pale Ale.
The pub specialises in classics such as whitebait and home-made chicken liver pâté among starters, mains ranging from ‘Old Hill burgers’ to steaks, Thai green chicken curry and ham, egg and chips.
Due to constantly changed dates for my visit and circumstances out of my control at the pub involving a stairlift (don’t ask), I was there on a Wednesday lunchtime to taste the tapas menu for a wine bar that is currently only open Thursday to Sunday evenings. Yes, I was confused too.
However, Tina managed to rustle up an appetising platter for me, which certainly showcased her careful shopping for the finest ingredients at Borough Market and from local suppliers such as Higgs Butchers in Chislehurst’s Royal Parade.
I enjoyed a sliver of 23-month-old Gruyère and a gorgeous Langres cheese that was new to me but I would definitely seek out again, fennel-studded salami, prosciutto and gorgeous duck rillettes.
Star turn for me, however, were the more-ish, cripy little pork bites served with apple sauce, which disappear like hot cakes I’m told – as do the home-made sausage rolls sold behind the bar in the pub. I snaffled one from landlord Alan on my way out, still a bit peckish, and can vouch for its delicious pastry and succulent filling.
Do be aware that parking can be a bit of a challenge, the car park is small and there’s a constant flow of traffic on Old Hill, so you have to react quickly to the turning. There are invariably spaces by the Common. n