We could not see any references to either the London borough of Chelsea or the famous football club here. This seems to be more of a darts pub, judging by the dartboard and the display of trophies. The ceiling is traditionally moulded and slightly yellowing, the green baize walls are hung with a motley collection of willow pattern plates and nameless old pictures in gilt frames, and the big mirror is smeary. Whether by accident or design, it is this rather tired décor that makes Chelsea Arms one of the closest representations of an English pub in Dubai.
TV screens distract you no matter where you are sitting, including a large screen monster that draws football fans into the pub for the big games. The evening we visited was quiet. We sat on the low upholstered banquette seating, and ate our meal at a low table. There are not a lot of places to sit and eat. The bar is long and most of the high stools were occupied by reminiscing male expats.
The menu offered a concise choice of simple pub food, which was attractively presented. The crispy potato skins were an ample portion with a welcome salad garnish. The chicken and mushroom pie had a rich and creamy filling but a very undercooked pastry lid draped over the top. Shepherds pie was tasty, but we are still looking for one with a crispy mashed potato topping.
Lighting is muted, giving the Chelsea Arms a warm, hospitable and comfortably shabby feel. The bar itself, overhung by glasses, jugs and necessary pub clutter, is the central focus, with a small seating area either side. The lace curtains hung on brass rods in the windows give the pub an authentic feel, even from the outside. The barman and staff, not typical of the British publican, were very friendly and helpful. This is a great place for British expats to gather, for a reminder of the old country!