This 300-year-old pub in Chelsea’s heartland has fed and watered many imbibers, famous and otherwise. Before its annus horribilis in 2012, when it was closed, threatened with redevelopment into a luxury residence and then occupied by squatters as a protest, The Cross Keys was a creaky old-school boozer complete with flagstone floors, Chesterfield sofas and a conservatory dining room at the back. With new owners and a chef enticed from Fulham gem Medlar, it’s now gone the full gastropub.
Happily for local drinkers, more than half of the refurbished space – a sea of rustic wood, tarnished mirrors, and flattering lighting – is still the preserve of the bar. Cask beers include the local amber ale Portobello Star, but this being Chelsea, it’s the grape that really gets locals’ juices flowing. The wine list is French- and Italian-leaning, with just shy of 25 options by the glass. The bar has very smart nibbles: a scotch egg costs £6.50, but it’s the size of a goose egg.
The Cross Keys has a really local feel – which in Red Trouser Land means boisterous bonhomie, cash being liberally splashed by the lords of the manor, and their well-mannered, fresh-faced sons waiting tables. It was rightly packed on a ho-hum weeknight.