The Kings Arms, opposite the Bushy Park Gate at Hampton Court, has been closed for some time now, and we were worried that it might end up as luxury flats or offices. But no, phew, it has been very lovingly refurbished and the result – a dog-friendly pub in a boutique hotel – is a triumph!
The place has been in existence as a pub, hotel or inn for longer than any other business in the area. It is believed it started as a shop that sold beer made on the premises, but it was granted a licence in 1709. With Queen Anne on the throne, the Inn was originally the Queens Arms, but by 1772 it had changed sex to the Kings Arms, with King George III on the throne.
We set off with Crystal Poodle in tow to check out the menu. The executive chef is Michelin-starred Mark Kempson, who created the menu that is prepared and presented by head chef Jack Scoines.
We were in The Six restaurant (the wives of Henry VIII of course) in the bar where dogs are welcome. We started with drinks and delicious, warm, homemade sourdough bread. The menu is well composed with sharing boards, and side dishes (from £3). My husband started with Smoked Eel on Toast, Crushed Egg, Beetroot and Watercress (£8.50) and I chose Crispy Ham Hock, Minted Peas, Shallot and Gem Lettuce (£8.00). The wafer-thin slices of smoked eel were very delicate and the dish beautifully presented with beetroot being a perfect partner. I wasn’t expecting croquettes from the menu description, but was pleasantly surprised; they were really good, with smashed fresh peas and salad. The starters were both excellent and either would also make a good light lunch.
The Six Burger, Smoked Onions and Spiced Tomato Relish (£15.50) caught my husband’s eye, and it was refreshing to be asked if he wanted it medium or well done (medium recommended). Roast Halibut, Smoked Bacon, Grilled Gem, Garlic Buttermilk (£17.50) was perfect for me on a summer evening. And I opted for a Palace Garden Salad (from around the back in the Palace kitchen garden no less!) to accompany it.
Well, the chip I stole was delicious. Piping hot and really crispy on the outside and absolutely perfect. The burger, thankfully, not served on a paper napkin, or a wooden board was declared very acceptable and well seasoned. My halibut was fabulous, perfectly cooked and seasoned, with the most divine sauce and accompaniments.
We shared a British cheese board (£10), something else that would be perfect for a light lunch. The cheeses were at the ideal temperature and a well-balanced mix. My husband finished with British Red Fruits, Vanilla and Baked Strawberry Ice Cream (£7.50) that was very swiftly demolished.
There is a good wine list, with plenty of choices by the glass from £6 (£21 a bottle), which allowed us the flexibility to pair with our food. The atmosphere at The Six is relaxed, friendly, the staff knowledgeable and all seemed genuinely proud of the establishment in its new guise. The décor has been sympathetically styled to give a modern edge to this lovely old building, but keeping the atmosphere and many of the important historical elements.
We’ll definitely be back to The Kings Arms – and quite soon!