The Churchill’s Arms- the Go-To Thai Restaurant in Notting Hill
Be welcomed with open arms at the famous locale that is the Churchill’s Arms Pub and Thai Restaurant.
The Churchill Arms in Kensington is a sort of Winston Churchill fetish bar, full of every conceivable piece of Winston Churchill memorabilia, or toy. Relics of his actual corpse may lurk, loitering behind a decorative mug or a Plasticine bust of his head. There is a three-quarter-size cardboard cutout of the Queen, photographs of every other British prime minister looking confused or disappointed, and what I think are the ‘scores’ from the Battle of Britain. There has been a Thai restaurant inside the Churchill Arms for many years although no one seems to know exactly when it opened; the mid-1980s is my best guess, until a Thai pub historian intervenes. It claims to be the first London pub to serve Thai cuisine, but this may only possibly be true, because the Churchill Arms also claims, on a blue paper disc, that Churchill made his wartime broadcasts here, and laughed at Hitler’s watercolours while drinking banana daiquiris and farting.
It is the thai pub of a madman. There are maybe 40 Christmas trees on the roof. Gerry the Irish landlord is obviously a sort of Radagast the Brown figure. (Radagast had a chariot pulled by atomic rabbits in Lord of the Rings). And he decided that what the Churchill Arms was lacking was a garden sitting on its head. It is, as far as I can see, the only Kensington pub that still contains natives, that is, people born within the district, who have never cried inside a branch of Foxtons. Barflies with face foliage who can only survive in this corner of the fragile Notting Hill ecosystem — because I would be amazed if there were any council flats left around here — sit at the bar with incredible natural balance, stroking their whiskers, running gnarled fingers down the Racing Post. And they clash, like a tide of a great river, with the Notting Hill incomers, who like to eat in the Thai restaurant because it is good and cheap. It feels right that the Churchill Arms should be a war zone. It is Yalta with prawn crackers.
The incomers are men with flabby pink Ralph Lauren ears, or Sloaney ponies with long noses and glittering, contemptuous eyes. They enter swiftly and jog for the restaurant, eyes averted from the natives, because silence is still the Sloane weapon of choice, although a Russian T-42 would be more effective. The restaurant is full of pinned butterflies living within a jungle constructed from eccentric houseplants. And here, at the gateway, as in a mystical quest, another barrier, or labour, awaits the Sloaney pony or the man with Ralph Lauren ears who wants a meal for £8 — an angry fat Thai woman. She does not care that George Osborne once walked past you in Costa Coffee on Notting Hill Gate and smiled with at least 2 per cent of his mouth, or that you once licked Prince Harry’s face. She shouts at everyone. She is the only democrat left in W8, or possibly the world.
And the food! Churchillian menu of the lardy gods! The Churchills menu overflows with steaming plates of meats and spices, brought by what I call brusque anti-service, swamped with gravy and the sort of rice Europeans can’t make. I am often asked where I eat in London when I am sad. The answer is here, with Churchill’s wobbling ghost, in the by far the best Churchill-themed thai restaurant Kensington has to offer.
Visit the Churchill’s Arms is at 119 Kensington Church Street, London, W8 7NL
Churchill Arms opening hours: Mondays-Wednesdays 11am-11pm, Thursdays-Saturdays 11am-12pm, Sundays 12pm-10:30pm