Get involved: Send pictures, video, news and views - text NEWS SHOPPER to 80360 or email us
Review: Imperial Arms, Chislehurst
With a cowboy, plenty of booze, someone suggestively polishing the silver and music constantly playing, one could be forgiven for thinking they were at Elton John’s pad.
But alas, we weren’t at the Rocket Man’s glamorous mansion – we’d wandered into the Imperial Arms in Chislehurst.
This quaint pub, which prides itself on just having undergone a transformation at the hands of Elton’s very own interior designer (not that you’d ever guess it), smelled a little like an old folk’s home on arrival.
And it’s fair to say my young-ish companion and I dramatically brought down the average age of punters drinking cups of tea at the bar.
Between the four of them, we decided there was every bit of 320 years’ life experience, but it didn’t stop them having a great time and dressing to impress.
One of the gentlemen in particular, who I like to call the Superman of Chislehurst, had gone all out.
We first saw him as an elderly, more Clint Eastwood-like Clark Kent, complete with cowboy hat and typical old man’s coat.
And then next thing we knew, his alter-ego was revealed – boy is this super hero posh.
Forget Lycra, our wild ranger does it better with his extra smart beige suit and tie combo – ready to rescue any damsel in distress at the bowls club.
Watching these plucky drinkers having a fantastic laugh at life got us thinking – where and when do you suddenly get the old person’s uniform from?
Is it a letter in the post on your 70th, pointing you to the secret shops carrying snugly beige overcoats and cardigans?
My advancing friend tells me it’s a gradual development though.
Apparently it all starts when power tools start looking attractive and Countryfile becomes the most fascinating thing on TV.
He also loved the song playing by long-forgotten 80s band Thompson Twins – apparently named after detectives in Tintin which was interesting to learn.
Looking around at the wallpapered borders, made to look like books on a shelf, my gaze fell upon the portraits of Napoleon.
Everything just seems a little old fashioned, like a traditional olde-worlde English pub, and nothing like the Crocodile Rock warbler’s home.
I imagine visiting his pad would be more like walking into a Vajazzle.
We ordered a small glass of Rosé (£3.95) and a pint of delightful Doombar - £10 with a gorgeous, mighty burger and chunky, man-sized chips.
I had the special, spicy Szechuan pork for £5.95.
The food really was wonderful, although I’d made the mistake of thinking mine was a main course.
More like a starter, the three pieces of perfectly cooked pork came with a beautiful, spicy sauce for dipping.
I could start drooling thinking about it.
My generous friend was nice enough to offer up half of his burger too – and since moving in with a vegan and being forced into vegetarianism at home, the meaty feast was a dream come true.
The barmaid, who spent much of her time vigorously polishing the cutlery (away from the elderly gents who may have found the whole thing a little overexciting), was wonderfully helpful and friendly throughout our visit – a real credit to the pub.
And then it all became clear.
Elton’s designers had clearly been here, but had only had enough time to do the loos.
“Blow me, there’s gold gilded mirrors in the men’s.” My companion excitedly reported.
Apparently they were the most incredible toilets he’d ever seen – I’m sure Elton would’ve been proud.
Address: Imperial Arms, Old Hill, Chislehurst, BR7 5LZ
Decor: *** (I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues)
Drink: ****(great range of ales, lager and wine) Price: *** (average)
Atmosphere: **** (very friendly, became busier as we were leaving)
Staff: **** (very helpful and welcoming)