Refurbishments of pubs happen all the time in East London and the results are not always an improvement. In fact the outcome isn’t even always a pub, however lacklustre, but a new mini 24 hour Tesco/Sainsbury’s/Waitrose, a badly converted set of flats or another much needed coffee shop serving up tepid brown caffeinated milk for the price of a small semi-detached house in Hull.
The Kings Arms was once reminiscent of the type of pub Del & Rodney might have been found in flogging hooky gear and the presence of Trotters Jewellers around the corner only ever added to this feeling. I’ll be honest; under its previous incarnation there was zero chance of me crossing past the threshold to experience scents which make you lament the introduction of the smoking ban. I’m pleased to report now though that The Kings Arms has been refurbished, reborn, regenerated and I’ll be honest; it’s not half bad.
Situated just off the incessantly busy Bethnal Green Road a sleek black exterior with classic stylised signage confronts you as you plod towards The Kings Arms. A few optimistic benches sit beneath the windows for those happy to get a wet arse just to glimpse the fiery yellow orb for a few seconds in between deluges.
The look of the inside is most accurately described as a tap room with a wooden central bar dominating the space. Festooned with at least a dozen pumps you’re spoilt for choice but fortunately the staff cut the mustard with a decent knowledge of what’s going to squirt out of them. My deliberately slightly fussy preferences were catered for deftly and after sampling three tasty tipples I retreated to a seat to consider the rest of the establishment with my chosen pint.
Seating here is a little reminiscent of a school classroom and I faintly expected to see ‘Karen luvs Daz’ or ‘Sid iz a dik head’ carved crudely into the table top as I placed my pint. It’s probably reclaimed from a long defunct establishment but that’s presumably good as the construction of new chairs is likely to be cruel to penguins or bees or offend someone somehow (almost certainly Peter Tatchell) and should be shunned. Regardless of the fact they’re a bit uncomfortable and leave you daydreaming about protractors and fountain pens at least everything matches (unlike pretty much everywhere else in Shoreditch) giving the place a sleek modern feel.
The real good news is that lepidopterists and entomologists can finally rejoice that there is now a pub catering specifically for their interests as the walls are generously decorated with framed examples of many exotic species. Outside the Natural History museum there are probably precious few places where you can enjoy such an array of fancy creepy crawlies. It makes for interesting gazing over a beer and to someone these creatures are things of beauty and not a reason to reach for a rolled up Radio Times and can of Raid. The downside of the decor being that if you, or indeed any of your drinking companions, run a mile at the sight of anything with more than four legs and sporting an exoskeleton you’ll need to be blindfolded to go in.
For me this is a seriously fine example of a modern pub. A stylish refurb to update but not demolish the old has been artfully achieved offering beers ranging from the typical to the dangerous at not exorbitant prices accompanied by solid bar snacks such as meat, cheese and scotch egg (though at £5/6 these balls of pure joy might be a bit of a stretch). If more pubs were refurbished like this I might have slightly lower blood pressure and far more places to drink. But then where would I go to buy a Pepparami and a bag of croutons at 5am?