Builders Arms Hotel
The Builders Arms has lived a few lives under the stewardship of chef and restaurateur Andrew McConnell. At one point it contained a fine-diner named Moon Under Water. Later, that was removed to make way for Ricky and Pinky, a playful Chinese restaurant.
The classic old front bar never went away, though. It was always your first introduction to the place and invariably filled with happy drinkers, regardless of the time or day. Now that good cheer has spread to the rest of the building, which has been converted back into the bistro it perhaps always wanted to be.
It’s still counter service in the front bar, where you can throw back easy-drinking lagers with a burger or rotisserie of the day. The table-service bistro, though, is where it’s clear you’re in a McConnell establishment. The waiters are personable and switched on. The colour palette is a restrained cream, blue and grey. And the food is just that bit better than everywhere else in town.
Take the chicken parma – a football-like Kiev-cut, rather than the usual flattened thing. It’s topped with fresh mozzarella and a delicate shroud of prosciutto to make it feel a bit different and special. Then there’s the popular and semi-famous fish pot pie. Break open the steaming pastry to reveal a soupy mess of rockling, ocean trout and prawn. Other choices include steaks, pasta, oysters, beautiful salads and a moreish whipped cod roe dip we think every meal at The Builders Arms should start with.
Again, this being a McConnell pub, there’s a decent selection of wine from new-wave producers such as Alpha Box and Dice, SC Pannell and Jericho. Likewise, well-made aperitifs or a beer are a great choice if you’re taking to the compact, lived-in courtyard on a warm day.