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The Builder's Arms, SW3

Louise Elgin loves her Sunday lunch!

Certain British traditions are sacrosanct and should remain so. A Sunday lunch with all the trimmings has to be one of my favourite ways of passing the day, ideally in cosy surrounding complete with log fires and plenty of newspapers. Obviously, I am not alone in my views as when I visited The Builders Arms in Chelsea, a place that fitted my requirements suitably; I found it packed to the gills. This is my sort of pub, a large room divided into two, one side for drinking, one side for dining, complete with comfy sofas, framed pictures, log fires and a drawing room cum dining room atmosphere. The clientele looked straight off the set of 'Friends', an amazingly good looking, affluent crowd, mostly in their twenties and thirties who were hanging out and generally having a good time, a little lively, perhaps, yet not offensively so.

The Sunday lunch menu looked extremely appetising, with several things to tempt us. To start I had a smoked salmon and crab tian, a sort of small sand castle in shape and look. This proved a very refreshing, clean mix of flavours, whilst being well seasoned with the added zing of fresh chervil, giving it the X factor. Our other choice, char-grilled mozzarella wrapped in Parma ham, did not look particularly appetising but proved very tasty, the only negative comment being that the 'cheese could have been a little hotter'.

We ploughed on, both opting for 'roasts', comfort food especially on a winter's day. My roast loin of pork, whilst being very tender, disappointingly lacked flavour, and a bit more crackling would have gone down well! The vegetables were all very well cooked, particularly the flavoursome roast parsnips, which had a good bite and a fine root veg taste. However, the roast potatoes could have done with a little more crispness to make them perfect. The roast beef with all the trimmings was very well received, the beef being described as 'succulent' by my contented guest.

For pudding, we both, rather greedily, chose the plum crumble and custard. This was enjoyable, with large chunks of plum and a topping that was spot on, served with perfect custard. We were drinking a superb Merlot 2002 from Yalumba, an Aussie classic; full-bodied, ruby red in colour, spicy overtones and a silken finish. All this for £15.50 a bottle - bargain!

Our bill came in at around £65 including service. As The Builders Arms doesn't take bookings, my advice is to get there early if you want any chance of dining at this quite rightly, highly popular Chelsea gastro pub.

Louise Elgin. December 2004.

Starters from £4.25 Mains from £7.50 Puds from £3.50 Wines from £11.40

The Builders Arms, 13 Britten Street, London SW3 Tel: 020 7349 9040

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