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Phene (CLOSED)

Restaurants, Delis Chelsea

Time Out says

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On a sunny day, few options are as appealing as sitting in a leafy gastropub garden in Chelsea. The new owners of what used to be called the Phene Arms have invested in a wonderful garden refurb, complete with comfy seating, water feature and patio heating. On our visit, the jolly customers sitting outside were beaming like the sun across over the handsome townhouses of this very affluent neighbourhood.

A small fortune also appears to have been spent turning this boozer into series of bar areas and even a deli: it’s an odd mish-mash of styles.

Less attention seems to have been paid to staff training, or the food and drink on offer. On arrival, the service appeared in turmoil. Eventually we collared someone to lead us to the table we’d booked. The table had been accidentally double-booked, so we were asked to wait in the bar while they sorted it out. This set the pattern for well-meaning, but utterly muddled service that prevailed the whole evening.

The menu’s of very modest ambition, and by aiming low, succeeds is hitting its target. A curry of coconut and orange resembled the sort of thing Brian Turner might concoct on ‘Ready Steady Cook’, with segments of raw orange topping the 1970s-style, creamy-textured curry; but in this particular dish, the rice was broken and stodgy through overcooking.

Roasted sea bass would have been a better dish, with its skin crisped to blackness, but beneath the flesh lay a risotto which was so unpleasantly salty we didn’t persist beyond the first taste.

At least a steak was cooked reasonably well, and nibbles included some interesting British salamis and cheeses from the deli – though none of the serving staff seemed able to tell us what they were.

To drink there are a few lagers on tap, and a very limited selection of wines by the glass; the wines we tried were tired and characterless. The spirits list is decent, though, so maybe that’s the way to go.

In its favour, The Phene is a relatively cheap, good-looking place in a very smart part of London where there are few bargains to be had. The garden is the star attraction, though we were summarily herded out by 10pm – we were told that clearing the garden by that time is part of the licence agreement.

PS in August 2011 the Evening Standard reported that the Phene is to close.



Address: 9 Phene Street
Transport: Tube: Sloane Square or South Kensington tube or 170 bus
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