On Saturday night my friends and I enjoyed our Christmas dinner at The Windsor Castle, which is located on Campden Hill Road. I hadn’t been to this pub for a couple of years and as soon as I’d walked in, I wondered why I hadn’t been back in so long.

It is the perfect winter pub; perhaps because it feels Dickensian with its very low inside doors which are technically oblong shapes cut out of the wooden panels: you have to stoop through in order to get to the next section of the bar. It’s only when you take a look at the website that you learn how the pub was designed to segregate class and sex back in the 1830s. Yet despite their initial polemic function, a sense of romanticism lingers as you make your way through the pub.

Despite the cosy nature of this pub, there’s a real sense of privacy here, as Kensington and Notting Hill locals perch on stools or sit huddled around tables. And if you stand at the bar like the group of revellers on Saturday night who donned loud Christmas jumpers as they began their festive celebrations, you get a real sense of this place as you take in its intimate landscape: The Windsor Castle is traditional through and through.

As for the food, if you’re looking for gastro fare you’re in the wrong place. On the Christmas menu there was venison pie, salmon in pastry and of course, a Turkey dinner. Most people finished their dishes and there weren’t any complaints. The food here is simple, honest grub.
But The Windsor Castle isn’t just for winter; it also has a lovely garden in the back. And I for one have decided a Gin and Tonic will be on the agenda there next summer.

Yesterday, I popped into The Phene to check out this year’s Winter Garden. It was about 4.30pm when I arrived and there was a table of people inside finishing up their lunch; a couple on the other side of the room having a drink; and a man wearing a suit, drinking a cocktail. There were also a few people outside.

I’d never seen The Phene so quiet and chilled. I’m used to going there in the evening to find a crowded bar and garden – and admittedly, I tend to pick other places as first choices. But yesterday was superb and the winter garden really made me feel festive whilst reminding  me of my impending deadline to finally deal with my Christmas shopping!

Over the last year, I’ve learned to order straight from The Phene’s cocktail menu rather than go off-piste. It’s easy that way and I started yesterday with a Passion Fruit Martini which I can wholly recommend. I then proceeded on to a couple of glasses of champagne, which felt perfect for the setting.

So all that’s left to say is that if you’ve finished work early or are taking time off over Christmas, I’d definitely recommend checking out The Phene during off peak hours. It’s a real treat.

For more photos of The Phene’s Winter Garden, click here.


The Abingdon is by far my favourite pub for cocktails. Every now and again I try other pubs for martinis but somehow they always prove to be a disappointment. As a general rule, based on experience, cocktails and pubs don’t seem to mix. Only the exceptional places can get away with it and The Abingdon is definitely one of them.

This evening, we popped in as we were heading back to Chelsea. It was a spontaneous decison and we managed to grab a table. The place was busy on a Monday night.

I skipped starters and for main, I ordered the lobster lasagne with a second dirty martini:

For dessert, the bf and I shared a chocolate cheesecake and OMG, see below:

Note the very thin base at the top of the image. For the most part, the cheesecake had a mousse-like texture. It was divine.

The Abingdon was the venue for my first date with the bf, four years ago, and for other reasons it will always be a special place. But I have to admit, this isn’t the type of place to go to if you’re in a hurry. The restaurant area is relaxed and that includes the service. And if you don’t mind the pace, you’ll be in for a real treat!

I’m not great at turning up to a party on time but last night I finally made it down to The Jam Tree on the King’s Road – and wow! This venue hasn’t been so popular since it was CTR (Come The Revolution). I’m not even sure what it was before The Jam Tree. But that doesn’t matter anymore. This place has come back to life!

Last night was a Hog Roast, pre-Embargo, party and the beer garden was steaming. By the time we arrived, the the roast had finished so I can’t comment on the food (like I said, not on time). But I did have a Kickjam cocktail which consisted of an espresso shot with Russian standard vodka and raspberry jam, which was delicious. It tasted like a smoother and thicker version of an espresso martini. I couldn’t taste the tinge of raspberry though.

If you’ve been to The Jam Tree in Olympia, Chelsea has quite a different vibe. It feels fresher, for obvious reasons. The main food menu also looks intriguing; I’ll be trying it soon. I’ve always enjoyed the food at the Kensington branch, so am feeling relatively optimistic with the fare here.

A final note: It’s worth following The Jam Tree Chelsea on Twitter to find out which fab DJs will be coming up. Tonight has DJ Femi Fem from the Young Disciples; a band I used to L-O-V-E!

Snow turned Chelsea into a veritable winter wonderland last week; perfectly timed for The Phene’s Winter Garden Party.

Admittedly as I ran on the treadmill at The Chelsea Sport’s Centre and looked out of the window to see the harsh weather, I struggled to imagine heading down the road for an outdoor party. But I persevered and a couple of hours later, I was inside a toasty pub sipping on Belvedere cocktails and the odd hot toddy.

Eventually, it was time to venture outdoors and what a delight it was. The comfy seats, which were reminiscent of an outdoor Sydney lounging vibe, were covered by stylish white canopies. Meanwhile, the outdoor heaters and a couple of burning fires kept everyone warm despite my eco conscience, which did struggle slightly. The first floor Lounge was my other favourite area. With a Christmas tree in the corner and three sofas positioned in front of a roaring fire, this was a gorgeous room to hang out in.

A couple of nights later and with the snow now settled, I visited 102 Sydney Street to discover one of the most exciting events in Chelsea. Neal’s Yard Galleries had turned a disused office block into a three floor art gallery.

This exhibition contained a huge range of works, which made every floor a genuine surprise. Take India Amos‘ fine art collection: her still life on linen brought texture to the simplicity of her colours and subjects. There was also the suggestive works of George Morgan whose pieces evoked a romantic and sometimes fantasy world. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rupert Burt’s abstract works were inspired by molecular science.

Given what I have said in the past, it was so exciting to see art bring an industrial space to life in Chelsea; so much so that I might have to pop in again before it all comes down next month.

Mina Zaher

Follow her @kingsroadrocks

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