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Chelsea area guide

Fine dining, fashion boutiques and galleries galore make Chelsea a great place to explore

One of London’s most affluent neighbourhoods, Chelsea is home to the Sloane Ranger and their brasher modern equivalent as seen on 'Made in Chelsea'. Boasting a parade of high-end fashion boutiques and top-quality eateries along the King's Road, this area has long since evolved from its 1960s swinging London roots and punk heyday. Tucked in the super-smart residential streets off the King’s Road, away from the hustle and bustle, are a selection of high-end gastropubs, the Chelsea equivalent of the local boozer. Late-night clubbers should dress to impress – trainers and non-designer skinnies are a no go in these parts. Dominating Sloane Square is department store Peter Jones (part of the John Lewis chain), still the spiritual home of the upper-middle classes, and the Royal Court Theatre, champion of challenging new writing. The Saatchi Gallery has also made its home at this end of the King's Road, taking over the neoclassical Duke of York's headquarters building.

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The Ivy Chelsea Garden
Restaurants

The Ivy Chelsea Garden

Richard Caring's Caprice Holdings open another offshoot of The Ivy, this time bringing it west, to the King's Road. 

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
The Chelsea Quarter Cafe
Restaurants

The Chelsea Quarter Cafe

King’s Road café serving all-day breakfasts, afternoon tea and, come the evening, by-the-glass wines

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Partridges Market
Shopping

Partridges Market

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Box Galleries
Art

Box Galleries

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
The Phene
Bars and pubs

The Phene

A lush gastropub in Chelsea with a sizeable garden and ample seating.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants in Chelsea

Tom's Kitchen
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Tom's Kitchen

Although Tom Aikens first made his mark in haute cuisine, this brasserie is his stab at a more egalitarian style of cooking and service. It offers ‘food for everyone and anyone’ – as long as they can afford it. This is primarily a local for Chelsea Green residents; wear Thomas Pink or Joseph and you’ll fit right in. Still, the place is highly likeable. It’s the comfort food that gets the attention – macaroni cheese, fish pie, beef burger, calf’s liver with mash – but the menu is lengthy and extends to the likes of pan-fried foie gras with duck egg and Ventreche bacon. We’ve had complaints of poor service, and suspect that on very busy nights the tables would feel unpleasantly cramped. However, with an upbeat crowd and a bit of room for manoeuvre, the vibe is jolly good fun. Even better is a quiet breakfast time, when you can linger over superb pancakes and well-made coffee. The decor – white brick tiles, marble counters, sleekly chunky wood furniture – was ahead of its time and still looks the business. The branch at Somerset House doesn’t have quite the same verve, but the location is a draw nevertheless.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Gordon Ramsay
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Gordon Ramsay

Clare Smyth MBE has now been appointed chef-patron of Gordon Ramsay’s flagship Chelsea restaurant. Her name features on the intelligently inventive menu, and the cool, elegant dining room has been refurbished with distinctly feminine touches, including lilac-toned silk-screen print panels. Dishes tantalise then delight the senses; no element of the complex assemblies seems showily redundant – even the pouring of sauces at table adds visual and aromatic impact. A snow of frozen buttermilk proved a perfect counterpoint to slivers of summer vegetables in a rock pool of warm, deeply flavoured jus. Shavings of salt-baked turnip gave saline balance to the sweetness of rabbit loin with roast hazelnuts, and vadouvan-spiced, smoke-puffed wild rice provided a crunchy backdrop to tender mutton. If our set lunch desserts were a touch less perfect, petits fours stepped in with polished panache. It helps to have an insouciant budget, but we were treated with warm courtesy throughout: even by the sommelier, pre-tasting our screw-topped South African rosé. Show particular interest in any aspect of the meal and you’ll elicit an enthusiastic and informed response. The Herdwick mutton, we discovered, was ineffably pink and tender because it had been brought down from high ground hefting to lush grassland for three months. We left with a smile, and lifted spirits.  

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Medlar
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Medlar

Even if you don’t live near Chelsea, you should try to visit this exceptional restaurant at least once. The decor is understated: soothing grey-green colour scheme and unobtrusive artwork. The real artistry arrives on the plates, six dishes of astounding excellence. Assemblies are complex and have lengthy names, exemplified in our two starters: crisp calf’s brain with smoked duck breast, aïoli, pink fir potatoes and tardivo (raddichio); and confit skate with razor-clam vinaigrette, purple sprouting broccoli, globe artichokes, Jersey Royals and salsify. But every ingredient justifies its place in entirely natural-seeming juxtapositions of flavour, texture and colour. And the execution is nearly flawless, the only off-note being slightly undercooked potatoes. Save room for wonderful (and relatively simple) puddings. Cardamom custard with saffron oranges, pomegranate and langues de chat sang with flavour. And we loved it when, asked for an off-menu fruit salad, the kitchen sent out a bowl of beautiful orange segments, strawberries and pomegranate seeds. Weekday lunch is the cheapest option, though not for the six gents seated nearby who ordered two bottles of Dom Perignon and carried on with serious red Burgundy (this is haut-Chelsea, after all). There’s a small, high-quality selection of wines under £30, but £40 will give you a better time. For world-class cooking at this level of complexity, it’s worth the extra money.  

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Rabbit
Restaurants

Rabbit

'Rabbit’, as Chas ’n’ Dave fans know, is Cockney rhyming slang for ‘talk’. And  customers of Rabbit, a new restaurant on the King’s Road, excel at talking – plus shouting, hooting with laughter and generally making a lot of noise. This is Chelsea, where some view town as a place to party and country where you go to recover at mum and dad’s. On our visit, some customers even gave high-fives to the Gladwin brothers, the chef-proprietors (who returned the overfamiliar Americanism).  We’re not sure what real country folk will make of Rabbit’s jokey, ‘rustic’ interior, but as Oliver, Richard and Gregory Gladwin hail from West Sussex farmland themselves, we imagine they didn’t have trouble sourcing the tractor bonnet decorating the bar, the corrugated iron panelling, or the back end of a fox mounted on a wall. It feels more like a bar that does food, down to the ‘stable door’ entrance where smokers can linger outside. But to see it as a party venue does the cooking a disservice: the Gladwins – who also run The Shed in Notting Hill – can really cook. The ‘small plates’ menu lets you try at least two or three per person. A ‘mouthful’ (appetiser) of ‘brown crab bomb, lemon dulse’ set the scene for cooking of great technical prowess, with a crisp shell containing the warm crustacean centre, held in place on the plate by a seashore-scented lemon mayonnaise.  Rabbit ravioli was the best dish, meat tender, pasta al dente but glossed with bone marrow, lovage pesto and wild mushrooms. Fo

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Things to do in Chelsea

Chelsea Physic Garden
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Chelsea Physic Garden

Founded in 1673, Chelsea Physic Garden contains the world's oldest rock garden, made from fused bricks and flint, stones from the Tower of London, and Icelandic lava brought up the Thames by ship in 1772. Today the garden is also home to Britain's first garden of ethnobotany (the study of the botany of different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples), and a Garden of Medicinal Plants, tracing the chronology of plant remedies over almost an acre, from ancient Greek herbs to plants that are likely to be used in future medicine. Illustrated information panels explain what you're seeing, but there are also guided tours and walks, talks and workshops throughout the growing season. There's also a shop where visitors can buy unusual plants, and a café serving very good homemade cakes. New for 2015 is the World Woodland Garden, which celebrates useful and medicinal plants from the Americas, Europe and East Asia. The half-acre garden is home to more than 150 species of plant and visitors can weave through it on a serpentine path or learn more about the collection from garden volunteers in one of the woodland clearings. See more stunning gardens in the capital

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Battersea Park Children's Zoo

Battersea Park Children's Zoo

This small, charming zoo in the heart of pretty Battersea Park is run by a family who also run wildlife parks in Derbyshire and an otter and owl sanctuary in the New Forest. The usual rabbits, goats, sheep and chickens neighbour more exotic (some endangered) species such as meerkats, lemurs, Asian short-clawed otters, a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, monkeys, emus, tortoises, wallabies and talking mynah birds. Feeding sessions take place throughout the day, with keepers pateiently answering questions from visitors of all ages. In the meerkats’ enclosure children can make their way down a tunnel to pop out on a level with the creatures, and the Prevost's Squirrels dash over visitors' heads through the tunnel that connects their two enclosures. The wonderful outdoor play areas feature a large sand pit, mini trampolines, a tree house, slides, tunnels and, appropriately, monkey bars. The zoo also has indoor play areas, shaded picnic tables, a coffee shop, nappy-changing facilities and a shop for picking up some inevitable souvenirs. Birthday parties can be booked for ages our and over.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Bars and pubs in Chelsea

Pig's Ear
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Pig's Ear

Another year passes, and this Chelsea gastropub’s decor equivalent of a mid-life crisis seemingly continues. Range Rovers line the quiet street it occupies off the King’s Road, their blazer-clad owners propping up the bar while guffawing about putting £20,000 on cashback. But the walls are bedecked with a scattering of retro bloke-ish furnishings, including a framed can of bitter, an Evening Standard billboard announcing George Best’s death and posters harking back to the area’s 1970s punk heyday, including a massive promo cartoon for the Sex Pistols’ ‘Holidays in the Sun’. Our Sunday afternoon visit saw a clientele of well-heeled twentysomethings, middle-aged couples and yummy mummies with squealing infants, all tucking into hearty if variable pub fare. Smoked salmon cannelloni on carrot purée was a thick finger of fish sitting atop an alarmingly yellow paste, but pork roast loin was far more successful – two thick slices of pork with light, delicate crackling and generously crusted roast potatoes. Real ales (from Sambrook’s of Battersea, plus guest appearances from the likes of Cardiff’s Brains) and Symonds cider are lapped up by the Chelsea crowd, who also enjoy indulging in the pub’s selection of battered board games. It looks like this haven for middle-aged pursuits isn’t at risk of running out of fans any time soon.  

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Cadogan Arms
Bars and pubs

Cadogan Arms

While the bar, serving a decent if unremarkable beer selection including Adnams and Flying Scotsman, is closest to the King’s Road action, a step down takes you to the hunting lodge-style dining room of this very west London branch of the ten-strong, east London-slanted ETM pub group. With fish sourced from Billingsgate, Cumbrian shorthorn beef steaks for two, provenance flagged up at every opportunity (this is not just asparagus; this is Norfolk asparagus) and the prerequisite retro bar snacks (black pudding scotch egg, fish fingers), the Cadogan ticks all the right boxes, but does nothing outstandingly different. The decor – leather seating and hunting trophies – is similar to other pubs in the group. The menu is meaty, though a goat’s cheese salad with popcorn-sweet candied walnuts, and a huge portion of tagliatelle with wild garlic and oddly chewy parmesan shavings were satisfying enough. ‘Essex’ ham hock did not appear to be glazed as stated and came with gravy rather than the advertised parsley sauce, making for a very salty dish. There were no specials available due to a function upstairs – which also explained the long wait times.  

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
The Cross Keys
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The Cross Keys

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.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Chelsea Ram
Bars and pubs

Chelsea Ram

It’s not named after Didier Drogba, the battering-ram striker of Stamford Bridge (just up the road), but instead takes its name from the symbol of the Young’s Brewery, which until recently operated this backstreet Chelsea pub. The former London brewer now owns the 32-strong Geronimo Inns chain, although each generally still retains an individuality. There’s a bit of history here – the Ram was the first pub opened by the husband-and-wife directors of Geronimo, and they’ve taken it back under their wing once more. It’s had a full redecoration, and is cosy and likeable in that west London ‘country’ way – flowers, cushions, homely furnishings, smart wallpaper, rustic tables. Books line the walls, including Margaret Thatcher’s ‘The Downing Street Years’ and a Jeffrey Archer novel. This is Fulham, after all. And a very nice bit of Fulham it is too. The Ram fits in perfectly among these pleasant terraces, the shell of Lots Road Power Station towering over the area like the Dominion Monarch liner in Harry Todd’s famous photograph of Silvertown. Geronimo’s outlets generally feature above-average, crowd-pleasing grub and a well-thought-out drinks list, resulting in an agreeable balance between drinkers and diners. The Ram’s no different – the menu offers risotto, fishcakes, burger, fish and chips, and Sunday roasts; real ales appeal to traditionalists and progressives alike (I enjoyed a perfect Thornbridge American Pale Ale). The wine list is laid out by style and features some interes

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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