The Carpenter’s Arms is tucked away in a quiet residential road off the busy King Street. It has wooden floors, bare wood tables and quite bright lighting from an assortment of chandeliers and side lamps, some matching, some not. Window frames are painted dark brown, and there are a collection of prints e.g. an early black and white photo of Hyde Park Corner.
I initially rang up to book and was told “no bookings”, so I was surprised to be asked “do you have a booking?” when I arrived. It turns out that they do take bookings, but not on a Sunday. So what was that table with a “reserved” sign on it? “Ah, we took a booking accidentally for that one”. On sitting down we were then told that the kitchen was busy and so we would not get our food for “30- 40 minutes”. Well, at least they were up front about it, so we decided to have a drink and look at the menu. This turned out to be tricky since they had run out (there were seven tables in all with people at this point) and then finally when we were given a pair of menus, they turned out to be slightly different. One, it seems, was the lunch menu. Bear in mind this was not exactly a busy night. 30 minutes came and went and I inquired whether it might be possible to order: “no”. At this point the "soup nazi" episode of Seinfeld was playing in my mind. Finally after a couple of further inquiries the bill pad appeared exactly 57 minutes after we had arrived. Service from our waiter/manager was, if I am being kind, terse, though a waitress was friendly enough, albeit she managed to slop the soup over the side of the dish when it arrived. I had to remind the waiting staff twice before a drink was finally delivered, though when we finally made it into the system dishes arrived at a steady pace.
The menu itself is slightly ambitious for a gastropub, with some rather exotic ingredient combinations. Bread was pleasant slices of brown bread with seeds from a company called Flourish from Tottenham (bread 13/20). A chickpea soup had a fairly hearty, tomato-based broth and tender chickpeas, but was garnished with dandelion. This seems to me an example of pointless complication, since the raw dandelion was very bitter, and actually detracted from what was otherwise quite a pleasant soup (11/20). My salad of pigeon with red cabbage had nicely cooked pigeon with red cabbage, diced apple and hazelnuts with a light vinaigrette; this was a little bitter and perhaps a few green leaves would not have gone amiss, but this was a pretty good salad (12/20).
My main course of rabbit and vegetable pie came with a pastry case seal, the rabbit itself tender to the point of falling apart, a few carrots constituting the vegetables (12/20 for the pie). This was served with purple sprouting broccoli that were completely unseasoned (10/20). Monkfish was better, served with decent curly kale and a bisque sauce (12/20), and a side order of thin chips was nicely made and properly seasoned (13/20 chips). Chocolate tart had hard, thick pastry but a decent filling, served with cream and garnished with cracknel which was a reasonable idea but was rather too hard (11/20). Affrogato is just a posh name for vanilla ice cream with some espresso poured over it, and this had pleasant ice cream and a nice coffee flavour, but served with rock-hard, bought in amoretti (12/20).
The wine list was short but sensible e.g. Mount Horrocks Riesling at £33. Starters are mostly in the £8 bracket, main courses around £17, desserts £5 or so, with vegetables extra, so the food itself was just over £30 a head. Lunch (at least on Sunday) appeared to be the same price. Given that lunch at Michelin starred Trompette nearby is £27.50 at the time of writing this hardly qualifies as a bargain. Though there was some decent food offered this evening it seems to me the kitchen is trying too hard e.g. the ill-judged dandelion garnish in the soup, and shows mixed technique (the hard pastry in the tart) while service was, well, dismal. Head chef Paul Adams did not put in an appearance this evening.
In the vicinity I have had better meals at the Duke of Sussex