Chelsea area guide

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

The playground for London’s wealthier residents, Chelsea was the home of the Sloane Ranger and is now, thanks to ‘Made in Chelsea’, known for a whole host of reality TV stars. High-end fashion boutiques are scattered all down the King’s Road, which is unrecognisable from its 1960s swinging London roots and punk heyday, and there are numerous top-class eateries to try. Tucked down the immaculately kept residential streets are a number of gastropubs, the Chelsea equivalent of the local boozer, while those searching for cocktails and nightlife will be pleased by the swanky bars on offer. There’s much to please those with an artistic streak, too. The Saatchi Gallery and the Royal Court Theatre have both made this fancy area their home.

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Things to do in Chelsea

Chelsea Physic Garden
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Chelsea Physic Garden

Home to world's oldest rock garden, Britain's first garden of ethnobotany and a Garden of Medicinal Plants. 

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5 out of 5 stars
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Saatchi Gallery

Saatchi Gallery

Opened in October 2008, this gallery has three floors providing more than 70,000sq ft of space for temporary exhibitions. 

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5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants in Chelsea

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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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
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5 out of 5 stars
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Dinings SW3
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Dinings SW3

Let’s get the awkward stuff out of the way. This long-awaited sequel to Dinings W1 is not cheap. But if sushi is your desert island dinner, it’s worth it. It’s everything that was great about the first Dinings, only with a bit more sophistication. First up: the setting. Compared to the charmingly poky Marylebone site (one teeny counter, two teeny basement rooms), this space, in a Grade I-listed building, is palatial: pale walls, double-height ceilings and gorgeous arched windows, dust-scattered sunlight streaming through them. There are tables, or a large, luxurious marble counter, where you can watch in awe as the chefs perform their micro-surgery. Because the menu, again, dials things up a notch. More dishes. More smoke. More razzmatazz. It’s not pretentious – they only get the blowtorch out with good reason – but quietly ambitious. There’s subtle complexity and precision on every plate. It’s food you’ll want to savour. The signature wagyu bun (£7.95) is bang-on. A juicy, intensely flavoured patty, a brown bun that’s soft and warm, the hit of heat, the crunch of baby gem. Sticking with the meat – cooked on the Josper for maximum nom – there were moreish izakaya-style chicken wings (£3 a pop, the best-value thing here) and a beautiful slab of charred Iberian pork loin with a sage and fermented miso sauce. Sounds incredible, right? It was. The sushi, meanwhile, is ‘modern’. There was sashimi of fatty salmon belly with a microscopic ‘Nikkei salsa’; seared, delicately sweet

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Pubs in Chelsea

The Cross Keys
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The Cross Keys

A 300-year-old pub in Chelsea’s heartland now a full gastropub that is still just as dedicated to its beer-drinking crowd. 

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Botanist
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Botanist

This upmarket gastropub eschews any pubbiness in favour of a cocktail-bar-cum-restaurant feel. 

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
3 out of 5 stars
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Tommy Tucker
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Tommy Tucker

A food-focused pub that puts more focus on cocktails and wine than craft beers. 

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Chelsea Ram
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Chelsea Ram

A cosy and likeable boozer with an agreeable balance between drinkers and diners.

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Bars in Chelsea

Tonteria
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Tonteria

‘Tonteria’ means ‘nonsense’ in Spanish, and this Mexican-themed Sloaney hangout has silliness in spades: think fire-eating women in latex, live lucha libre wrestling and booze poured from a miniature Mayan ziggurat. If that’s not ‘loco’ enough for you, there is even a toy train to deliver shots to your table. Yeah. In one of Guy Pelly’s stable of west London bars, the clientele are predictably well-heeled (legend has it Prince Harry uses his own secret entrance), but there is delicious tapas and it’s a prime spot to mingle with the high-born and high-cheekboned. To blend in you may as well quaff a champagne cocktail: the Tonte Spritz’s heady fusion of sweet and citrus will have you merry from the initial sip, while the frozen margarita is deceptively drinkable while packing a serious punch. Special mention to the stonking tequila selection, most notably the Reserva de Alma, one of only two bottles of its kind in the world and a snip at £5,000. ¡Ay caramba!

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
3 out of 5 stars
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Ritorno
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Ritorno

If you like polish, Ritorno is the place for you. This cocktail bar on the King’s Road must go through buckets of the stuff. It’s got the kind of swish glossy floor that makes you wish you’d worn grippy walking boots and tables so sheeny they reflect your thirsty mug back up at you. The bar is shiny too: a light-up marble-effect creation backed by rows of glinting spirit bottles. The walls are all butterfly prints and the lights are low, giving a moody vibe even on a warm and sunny London evening. As for Ritorno’s drinks menu, it promises a four-fold journey around Italy. One section showcases tipples inspired by Italian poets. The menu feels innovative – homemade butter and sage ice cubes make an appearance – but the drinks were more exciting written down than they were in reality. Still, the Sardegna, a short vodka-based concoction topped with lavender air, was sweet and botanical, while the Perla, a cocktail flavoured with rose and orange and topped with petals, was pretty to look at and easy to drink. Small plates continued the Italian theme. We opted for creamy burrata, herby arancini balls, deep-fried anchovies and meaty Nocellara olives. The food was solid, a welcome accompaniment to our cocktails. But the most polished bit of Ritorno remains the surroundings.

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

A speakeasy themed cocktail bar in Sloane Avenue that's hidden behind an inconspicuous black door. Inside the venue is decorated like a quirky living room cum bar, with trinkets scattered around, mismatched furniture and a helping of taxidermy. The bar staff are dressed accordingly to suit the prohibition era soundtrack and there's a fancy dress box to help visitors fit in.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Bluebird
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Bluebird

Once a magnificent art deco garage complex with links to speed racer Sir Malcolm Campbell (hence the name), this is now a multipurpose eating and drinking venue, part of the D&D London stable. At street level is a lively café (and front courtyard) and food store. The restaurant is on the first floor; bag a table by the window for a diverting view of the King’s Road. There's a Mediterranean slant to the menus, with dishes ranging from steak tartare and queen scallops with chorizo and apple to baked black cod with butter beans and pancetta, daube of beef with young carrots and celery, grilled calf's liver with sweet peppers, olives and sage, and rump of Norfolk lamb with merguez sausage and bulgar.  Weekend brunches, afternoon tea and seasonal menus also feature.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Hotels in Chelsea

Draycott Hotel

Draycott Hotel

A five-star oasis just off Sloane Square providing a quintessentially British experience. 

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Blakes

Blakes

Complete with dramatic, orientalist decor, this boutique hotel is a living casebook for interior design students.

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Cafés in Chelsea

Tangerine Dream Café
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Tangerine Dream Café

Yes, you'll have to pay entrance to the Chelsea Physic Garden to enjoy this café, but then a wander within the garden's walls is a delight in itself – and the perfect prelude to some alfresco dining. Tangerine Dream pride themselves on simple presentation and the freshness of their produce, so don't be surprised if the zucchini (and flower) served as salad with your and sun-dried tomato and Gruyère tart is uncooked – but do be surprised if it's anything less than crunchily delicious. There are terrific cakes too, from lavender scones to orange polenta cake. The café is licensed and has a proper wine list (including fizz), but the own-made Amalfi lemonade is surely the tipple of choice as you sit looking out across the parterres.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
The Chelsea Quarter Cafe
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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
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Bumpkin Chelsea
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Bumpkin Chelsea

This Sydney Street spot is the fourth branch from Bumpkin - a chain that kicked things off with a venue in Notting Hill. It's all about classic British cooking here, with an emphasis on locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients - so expect regularly changing menus that keep the culinary focus on Old Blighty.  Dishes range from full English breakfasts and Sunday brunches to slow-cooked pork bellies served with poached Granny Smith apples, dressed Cornish crab with English caviar and toast, and line-caught sea bass with a caper and anchovy nut butter and samphire. The butcher's meat board - a popular choice - features cured meats from West Dorset.  The wine list offers further homage to Britain, with Chapel Down, Hush Heath, Bolney and Nyetimber just some of the home-county wineries showcasing their wares. Bumpkin brew their own ale, too. 

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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April's Café
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April's Café

Selling the kind of clothes that cost a month’s rent (but that you’d consider going temporarily homeless for), Boutique 1 is Sloane Street’s latest swish arrival. And this, its in-store eatery, is suitably swanky. With low-hanging lighting, plenty of plants, pale wooden furniture, scattered House of Hackney cushions and an urban garden through the windows, it’s like being in the kitchen of your Scandi dreams. As much attention has been paid to the presentation of the food as to the interiors, the dishes created in palettes worthy of a Wes Anderson film. The pastel-hued, sculptural crab salad was served in scooped out cucumber columns, equal parts food and architecture. Which isn’t to say it was all fur coat – flavours were well balanced, dishes nicely seasoned and textured. Even a chopped salad, seemingly designed for people who don’t like food, saw the neat addition of pickled grapes. It’s an overwhelmingly healthy menu, ideal for avoiding existential crises while trying clothes on afterwards. Having said that, the shallot tarte tatin was incredibly indulgent, so sweet it was almost a dessert, with a pastry both sticky and flaky. Order that if you need a shopping deterrent – which, megabucks fashionistas excepted, you almost certainly will.

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars

The perfect weekend in Chelsea

Eat: Dinings SW3
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Eat: Dinings SW3

Splash out on some of the capital's most inventive, tasty and jaw-droppingly presented Japanese food. 

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Explore: Chelsea Physic Garden
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Explore: Chelsea Physic Garden

Home to more than 150 species of plant, you can also find the lovely Tangerine Dream Café nestled in the half-acre garden. 

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5 out of 5 stars
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Visit: Saatchi Gallery

Visit: Saatchi Gallery

Discover some unknown, young and contemporary artists both homegrown and international.

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5 out of 5 stars
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Listen: 606 Club
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Listen: 606 Club

Tucked away at the wrong end of Chelsea, this jazz club is almost exclusively limited to British jazz musicians. 

Users say
5 out of 5 stars

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