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Builders Arms, Kensington

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user reviews of the Builders Arms, Kensington

please note - reviews on this site are purely the opinion of site visitors, so don't take them too seriously.

Has been repainted in the last couple of months apparently and upstairs is now a second bar. Football on one screen this lunchtime and, even though Chelsea were playing, it was not obtrusive. Doom Bar, Purity's UBU, Ilkley's Mary Jane and Windsor & Eton's Knights of the Garter were the 4 handpulls - the latter at £3.85 was a little cloudy but perfectly drinkable (although I could not describe it as the best pint I have ever had). Rather a long wait for food but, when it arrived, it proved very tasty. Overall, quite a decent pub.
paul_d102 - 22 Mar 2014 20:04
Full marks for having a fully comprehensive and clearly priced drinks list available on all the tables for perusal by customers.

When will all other pubs take this up?


mycetes - 19 May 2013 21:58
This is an excellent pub. The food was about the best I have found in any pub in London or the country for that matter. The service was brilliant and the beer in top class condition. Prices were a bit on the high side but it was well worth paying a little bit extra for such great all round quality.
StudioM - 11 Apr 2013 15:08
Lovely old pub in a secluded corner of kensington, a great find. No ales on this afternoon though, which was disappointing, had to have a heineken instead, boooooo! If you find yourself being dragged around the shops on kensington high street, nip down here for your lunch (food not sampled but looked good)!
TommyRogers1979 - 12 May 2012 19:19
Very impressive modern incarnation of a pub. Foodie without losing the relaxed pub feel. Well kept pint of Harveys washed down a delicious ox cheek pie, which was good value for the quality.
curioushistory - 8 Jan 2012 16:42
Have only visited once, midday lunchtime and quite impressed. Beers and food good with some distinctly non standard pub offerings on menu; prices reasonable. Staff friendly and efficient: barmaid even spotted our empty glasses and offered to bring more drinks. I don't get that in my local !

Read other comments about evenings and think I'll restrict my visits to lunchtimes.
Jimdee - 18 Jul 2011 17:36
Alright food, trendy selection of beers, not the best staff in the world when it comes to attentiveness - a hip back street pub that just isn't cool enough.

We are locals who prefer the Queen's Arms (why no comments page for that -huh?)a few blocks away. But we do come back on Mondays for the free comedy show. That is great value, often better than some of the paid shows we go see in Soho.

The pub could do with board games or live music or a quiz machine.
HRHMICKEY - 27 Feb 2011 15:18
A lovely pub in a lovely location.

My evening however was spoilt by the staff. The barstaff seemed slow and inexperienced and were not helped by the landlord who was drunk and spent the couple of hours I was in the pub being slightly abusive and chasing customers away.

A real Fawlty Towers kind of place.


Beerlover1973 - 7 Feb 2011 16:22
The Builders Arms is a pub that left me with mixed feelings. Its exterior has been painted pale green since the photo was taken which is quite frankly pretty ugly. If anything the interior is worse with dark olive walls and furniture that seemed largely to consist of hideous sofas and upholstered benches.

This is a very expensive residential area and the pub is also adjacent to Richmond University (the American international university) so that will inform you about the clientele. When I was in on a midweek afternoon there were a few suits outside drinking but most people inside seemed to consist of the sort of students and trustafarians you would like to administer a good kick up the arse to.

So far so bad however the Builders does have a number of redeeming features. The bar staff were friendly and attentive and the drinks offering is pretty impressive. Three ales on pump (Cornish Coaster, Deuchars IPA and Doom Bar) along with three ciders on tap (Bulmers, Aspells and Gaymer) and an impressive selection of continental lagers. Drinks prices were very reasonable particularly for this part of London.

There were a number of people eating and the food looked and smelt pretty good. The menu was varied and almost identical in offering and design of the menu itself to that in the Crown and Greyhound in Dulwich village so I assume they are run by the same people.

As an added bonus there is a free comedy night on Mondays.

As I said at the start of the review I had mixed feelings about this pub. I could recommend it for lunch but in the end the decor and clientele pretty much put me off coming here again.
murgatroyd - 7 Nov 2010 10:35
A little harsh, the last contributor, methinks. By all means this establishment could be criticised for being a little Sloane Rangerish, but what does anybody expect of pub in this district? Expecting to see flat-capped manual labourers with dirty fingernails here would be like expecting to see royalty in a back-street local lager den in Liverpool. Like it or not, there is penty of money around and that will be self-evident upon arriving at the Builders. It's not the pub's fault and it has to serve the immediate community around it if it is to succeed.

That notwithstanding, by and large the clientele were tolerable, and I didn't feel that the Hooray Henry element drowned out my enjoyment of the place, despite one or two of their number clearly endeavouring to do so after too many Jagerbombs. No, I hadn't heard of them either but suffice to say they should be kept well away from over-privileged toffs in their 20s.

It was a fabulous sunny afternoon and beers were taken outdoors. Up to 4 cask offerings on pump (Sambrooks Wandle, Harveys Best, Sharps Doom Bar and Deuchars IPA - a fair spread and not wildly over-priced for the capital, at around £3.10 a pint). Additional interest could for once be found over on the taps too, with some unusual imported choices including the winsome Sierra Nevada Pale. Service was respectful and with a smile - my, what a rare commodity that is in London, to be sure!

The menu didn't look half-bad either, with a range of tempting dishes served all day. But happily we didn't have need of them as we were destined for finer dining at the Roof Gardens. This pub provided a perfect distraction and is a worthy stop-off if en route to the shops or restaurants of Kensington.

TWG - 2 Aug 2010 18:04
The management of this pub is a serious joke if not arrogant for treating it customers the way it has been.

1. Lots of people at the bar waiting to be served (I personally have had to wait 5-8 minutes) due to there ONLY being 2 bar staff (and over 10 people waiting to be served) and they seem unable to multitask (i.e. when using the Chip and Pin terminal of which there is only ONE the staff don't seem to be able to take the next order while waiting of the terminal to be free). It funny that one time when I went and it was a cash only bar how quickly one could get server with the same amount of people at the bar.
2. Staff seem to lack common sense that when it's busy someone should step into reduce the crowd at the bar but are still focused on there other task i.e delivering food or picking glasses. Or talking to each other.

My overall rating for this pub is 2/10. If only there were a better management to address the issue highlighted above I am sure this could be a quite pleasant pub.

cool_man11 - 15 Feb 2010 18:04
I've known the Builders for donkeys years - in there regulary when it was a 'normal boozer in early 80's with currency notes all over the wall behind the bar- anyone remember Rosa''s cafe opposite? Not caf territory now - always was upmarket here but is very 'enclaved' nowadays. You really only come in this bit if you have business in a house, know someone or get lost down behind Barkers!
Builders well patronised since its smarten up a few years back - the American college being a mainstay of trade so quite a young, glamourous and well heeled crowd. I gave it a try again recently. Not overdone in decor dept - clubby feel but still bar standing and high tables to lean. Good beers - Tribute, London Pride, Sierra Navada 5% - it's a California beer - Gales HSB, Schnider Weisse (one of those fancy ceramic tap things) Aspalls and Addlestones ciders on tap, and Illy coffee too.
For the summer sangria and Pimms in jugs - sounds good huh.
Staff were very crisp and friendly - very good Aus manager on - and the food looked good and wasnt overpriced for this sort of pub. Blooming good sounding veriety of burgers - meat from the West Country & named. All in all a very good place, perfect for its area with a good 'local pub' feel to the place.
gonetolunch - 11 May 2009 18:38
One of my most favourite pubs in London. I live 2 blocks away, and I'm happy to have such a great "regular" spot to go to. With a smaller bar area, low lighting, comfy chairs and suble decor, the mood inside is much more relaxing and comfortable than other local pubs (e.g. Greyhound Pub, Glouster Arms) which are big, bright and only have hard wooden seats.

I've never had problems with the staff, although I'm somewhat of a regular, and Americans (such as myself) are usually treated better in the UK's service industry (probably due to our heavy tipping customs).

I agree the wine selection is somewhat uninspiring, but its a pub, not a Wine Cafe.
hellyskiia1 - 9 Feb 2009 23:27
Another traditional old Victorian corner pub given a trendy makeover to attract the more upmarket clientele but wonít appeal to traditionalists. Not my sort of place but it certainly does have a few merits. Aside from the 3 Ales available (Pride Broadside & Tribute) there was a surprisingly good selection of lagers and draught beers (Sierra Nevada, Kiri Ichibvar, Fruili, Peroni etc). Prices are not particularly cheap as one would expect. The main bar is a single, high ceiling room with a sofa area in the middle and rather stripped back furnishings, large plants and plain picture windows. Overall it is a bit featureless and certainly not particularly cosy or intimate. There is a small 2 table anti room to one side of the bar away from the masses and a further bar upstairs (closed for a private function). There is also seating outside with patio heaters. A glance at the menu revealed that the food was not as expensive as one would expect in such a place with main dishes in the £7-9 price range. The Sunday evening movie nights are an unusual idea. Not a place I would make a specific journey to but that is more a matter of personal taste than anything particularly untoward about the pub and the place was packed to the rafters during my visit so it certainly does have its admirers. Not exactly a place you would stumble across by accident either.
RogerB - 29 Oct 2008 23:30
Not a bad little pub, nice staff, with a great selection of European beers (e.g. two wheatbeers). And they do a lovely little garlic sauce with their chips. The crowd's a bit sloany, but this is Kensington of course!
saamah - 25 Jul 2008 21:36
Good little pub for a few drinks on Sunday afternoon. The wine list lacks inspiration, but the Pimms hit the spot.
ksthken - 19 May 2008 21:37
Fine pub with a great selection of beer - two bad points which mean I shall NEVER visit again

1 Piss poor / agressive attitude of staff (particularly at closing time)

2 Short measures, I have never had such a short pint and the response I got when asking for it to be topped up - well see point 1

Never going back
mrandyp - 20 Jan 2008 00:59
Stopped by for a weekday evening, has been a while since been in and glad to see it has changed for the better. Feels nice and is very busy. The list of beers is impressive, the food was rubbish and SO SLOW! The staff really didn't have a clue what was going on. Would go back to check out the beers.
little_alec - 6 Jan 2008 15:25
The food was pretty good, as was the alcohol on tap. Didn't frequent it as much as I did a few of the other pubs, but still enjoyed my trips there.
SummerLights - 27 Jul 2007 17:22
Top drawer Saturday afternoon pub. Felt the barman / manager a little over agressive and "bouncerlike" when it came to kicking out time - always nice to be asked rather than told - we are your customers afterall old boy - however, on the whole great boozer. Recommended.
Gilo - 15 Jun 2007 14:44
Great Pub.

Nice lagers on tap (not too many bitters though). The food is really good(particularly the Quesidilla platter). I love going to the Builders Arms on a Sunday afternoon and feeling sorry for myself because everyone who lives in this neighbourhood makes a butt load more cash than I do.

Estonian barman "Sanders" adds a particular charm to this place with his "hazy" service. Not the greatest bartender in the world but his stoner idiosyncrasies will make you giggle.
andrewtc04 - 13 May 2007 15:27
Nice neighbouhood pub. Service left a little to be desired.
anonymous - 14 Mar 2007 02:38
The pub is positioned on the cross roads of Kensignton Court Place and St Albans Grove, very easy to find. It is a smart and tidy pub, with a small fenced off area with seats for outside drinking. Postitioned next to Prue Leiths cookery school and oppostie Wodka.

Only one bitter on sale the last two times i have been there, it was ok - but can't for the life of me remember what it was called. Bar snakcs are quite pricey - but the prices are in fact what you pay around any pub selling them, the chilli rice puffs proving to be very addictive.

The ambience is friendly and the furniture and eclectic mix from comfortable sofas to wooden chairs. Mix of students, media types and also the Kensington crowd. Bar staff can be a bit hit and mix between the fabulous to the rather ordinary.

If you are looking for a pub to go and get a decent pint have a chat and enjoy yourself - this is not a bad place to go. If you are looking to go and pull, watch football, rage about social injustice then this may not be the place for you.

Can't comment on the food but it did look ok when being served to others.
Flasheart - 2 Oct 2006 11:27
Dear 'boony',

Your snack related comments are a nonsense.

Nice boozer.


OllyMott - 21 Sep 2006 13:11
Outstanding, just recently nominated for some prize as best neighbourhood bar in London, and I certainly hope it wins! Only dissapointment is the recent disappearance of the quiz machine but that said, new gaffer Shane (though Glen may hold the reins now) keeps it going from strength to strength. Food not NEARLY as bad as some have made out, in fact, I would venture that it's pretty damn good! Upstairs area so comfy and they rent it for functions and have an extra bar for when it gets busy (mates had a great birthday up there.) Downstairs telly a bit small and no Sky as yet but then if you want sport you go to the Greyhound round the corner. Good mix of people, students from cooking and American schools, locals, and typically posh Kensingtonian tosspots, but not even they can taint this. Sets the standard really for the area in almost every way. Certainly my pub/bar of choice in the area, great when it's nice outside if you can get a seat to. Innovative stuff like Sunday film clubs (good films, Dusk to Dawn, Trainspotting etc...Sound of Music nowhere in sight!) and a good range of beers and wine (it's a Mitchall and Butlers (sp?) I believe). Oh, and decent eye candy (more if you try and have a convertible/Coutts card).
jlairdo - 28 Jun 2006 13:09
Nice place with friendly staff. Big minus being that the food is rubbish and the snacks over priced.
Wenners - 27 Apr 2006 14:28
The ale is always bad. Always. Their cellar must be like the tropics...
Mike_D - 12 Apr 2006 15:38
Very much a bar than a pub, attracting up-themselves media types and the cirencester set, prices set accordingly. Limited seating space often taken up by bar staff on breaks, upstairs often closed for private parties.
My friend enjoys their potato wedges, still that's not a reason to go there,and nor is she
boony - 6 Apr 2006 12:50
I've been coming to this pub for years and am really fond of it. always a good atmosphere and the new manager is really good (just a pity he's not around all the time). great for a night out catching up with mates in a chilled out environment
anonymous - 10 Feb 2006 11:03
The Builders is a great pub with friendly staff and a good selection of beers and wine but DO NOT EAT here as the food is awful and well overpriced for what you get.
Knocker - 23 Jan 2006 14:03
the new manager seems to have made a big difference. I like how the seating area have been rearranged to create additional space. Like the what he has done with the light (light/candle on every table main light dimmed a bight) the menu has changed eventhough some of the stuff on it is not of my taste it still looks good. The bar service has become better but slags at time (mainly when people pay by card, and the small chip and pin device take for ages ) would suggest they try serving other people while they wait.
fmark - 10 Nov 2005 17:15
Hmmm. Yes. I'm with fmark. Was a very attractive pub and does boast a small choice of wiess bier, with more populars such as Amstel & Adnams. Not enough.
Went in a few days ago and the service was appauling! Dirty mugs / plates / glasses / newspaper were strewn across the table we sat at (no others free) and it was covered in ash. After finishing a pint, a good twenty minutes later, I cleared the crap to the bar along with another couple who had tacked on to the table. The dosey barman was oblivious of this and his job apparently.... he was busy chatting and looking smug whilst "training" a barmaid in need of some common sense. Ages to get served - table wasn't wipped once.
No wonder Jenson Button didn't stop long.
Because of close proximity to work I made the mistake of a revisit. I waited forever for doseypants to serve me as they were training another confused looking girl.
I can find plenty of other pubs to die of thirst in.
Seb - 22 Sep 2005 20:00
I have been regularly been going through the pub. It seems in the last couple of months it has take a turn for the worse. Bar staff are really slow at serving drinks, they seem to be chatting among themselves more than anything else. The Assistant manger (how is trying to apply for the manger job) is a Muppet. Half of the time instead of helping he seems to be getting drinking with the crowds. The food is okay but they do tend to be in a habit of closing the kitchen quite early. Itís a shame really, it has a potential of being a good pub but they need to getter better/different staffs. Get the old manager back, he knew how to run the place .
fmark - 8 Sep 2005 14:10
After being away for few months I was looking for to having a pint in my local. What i got was bad service and dirty glass. I know that Manager and staff changed but question is WHERE IS A NEW MANAGER ????
What a disappointment, I don't think i'll be back any time soon....
jane123 - 27 Jun 2005 21:03
Nice looking pub with good beer. It is one of those places when busy can crumble.
First time I went the food was ok and only drank nice cold lager.
Since then I've found the upstairs which is a new secret for the types that like to hide away and chill out! Although you will be disapointed by the Pimms!
Most recently the food was crap!!! It proved my theorey that whats on the menu doesn't mean whats on your plate. Kitchen should try harder!
Will go again.


little_alec - 26 May 2005 12:58
Visited this pub for the 1st time last week and have to say it has a nice feel to it with a good selection of beers and wines although the food was just about passable. Good atmosphere and nice bar staff although inexperienced......definately going back and would recommend.
Knocker - 24 May 2005 16:36
The food in this beauty of a pub looks really good. There's a great selection of beers on tap, including one of my favourites Staropramen. If you are lucky enough to get a table upstairs, it is really cosy. (Worth booking in advance.) A gem of a hostelry.
brionyot - 22 Dec 2004 10:30
Very attractive bar with very attractive barmaids. Nice range of food and drink, especially continental bottled beers. Always a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
Ben - 13 Mar 2004 16:44
it's alright, should have a menu instead of on the chalk board.
Nice cosy,friendly pub, good food.

laura - 11 Mar 2004 12:49
We visited on the last Friday before christmas and stil managed to get served very quickly by a competent barman who could remember a stack of orders at once and all in a bar which was standing room only. Friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere. A great addition to the Xmas crawl...
Blue - 23 Dec 2003 15:35
Used to be a favourite of mine. Still have some fond memories of this establishment. Don't like the new refurbishment. Stacked with Yanks during the school year.
DWM - 20 Nov 2003 19:23
I meant *good food not goos food.
Rebecca - 7 Oct 2003 23:28
When I was studying in London this was another hang out of ours. I went to school just down the street, so we were there all the time. They have great shooters for 1 pound, and goos food.
Rebecca - 7 Oct 2003 23:26
Fav hangout of mine back in '95. If your there... you have to try the "Ninja Leprechaun" ... ask for it by name. Say hi to Patrick for me ... that is if he is still there.
Rob - 6 May 2003 21:29
What a little gem..... this pub is generally heaving on a Friday night. The atmosphere is one of Fun & frivolity....The food is fab, the staff are friendly and there tends to be some really fit birds there. It's the real deal !
Paul - 1 May 2003 08:12
This is one of the best. Probably because I work 20 meters away, but it has character, good food, and a fun atmosphere with friendly staff.
Kathryn - 30 Apr 2003 17:25
Great pub, nice location. Great range of shots and prices. Unfortunately has been scarred by two refurbs (being refurbed last time I walked past). Used to have a lot of character, see what the next refurb brings. Used to be full of fit American students from Richmond College just down the road.
A.N. Other - 8 Feb 2003 16:43
Very friendly, great landlord, cheap shots, table football
Alice - 20 Jun 2002 11:58

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