Peter Jones - Chelsea
3 meals in Chelsea, England
Anyone with an ordinary size wallet might well walk out of Sloane Square tube and start humming Elvis Costello’s I don’t want to go to Chelsea. But the blinding bling of Tiffanys and shine from passing fashion models’ hair aren’t all there is to Chelsea.
There’s still a few places catering for us dull souls who don’t own a football team or plan to marry into one.
Starting at the top of the Kings Road is the Royal Court Theatre’s basement café. Set in the 19th century auditorium pit, with natural light streaming in from the glass block pavement above, this is a great place just to sit with coffee watching someone writing a play at the next table, or notice a clump of famous actors eating sandwiches on a break from rehearsals. It gets busy in the evenings but never too busy to allow an atmosphere where people just seem to be hanging out for hours talking about interesting things. The locally sourced menu has main dishes such as grey mullet stew at around £10 and the desert menu alone is good enough reason to wander in. Yesterday, for £4.75, I had home made blood orange torte with crème fraiche, watching Rufus Sewell buying coffee. You see, maybe you do want to go to Chelsea.
Across the Square the gigantic Peter Jones department store has stunning views from its top floor self service cafeteria. It’s open all day for drinks and snacks with main courses around £10, or a salad accompanied Croque Madame for £7.25. The panorama of West London from the floor to ceiling window gives an air of excitement to even a cup of tea here. Go up by the stairs or the lifts, avoiding the shopping floors, is my advice, because Peter Jones has fiendishly attractive displays that make you fall down weeping with greed for things you didn’t know you wanted. Designer shoes fair enough but designer poachette rings? I didn’t even know they existed but I want them.
There used to be more quirky, cheap eateries along the Kings Road, where you could see George Best or Bob Geldorf having an all day breakfast but the last bastion of really cheap food is quite a long way down. The Stockpot has a two course lunch for £6.95 and a 3 course dinner for 9.55. Lots of good pasta dishes, risotto and a pan fried cod with lentils and mash worth any Russian Oligarch’s fortune. The clientele is a cheerful mix of cab drivers, artists and tourists on a budget. The super fast waitresses like everyone to hurry along but they’re so discrete and friendly about it you don’t notice that they need a fast turnover to keep the prices low.