The Christmas season in London is well and truly underway. The lights at Oxford Circus and Regent Street have been lit, and could give any competing neighbourhood a run for its money. The cheerfully decorated areas dispel the grey that befalls London on a cold winter’s day; distracting people from the unpleasantness of rush hour. Every corner has been crammed with a Christmas tree, and every street overhead is adorned with fairy lights that radiate joy onto the streets. It’s more than bulbs and baubles for us; it’s a marker of joy, it’s the foreshadowing of Santa’s sleigh.
One competitor for the prize of best Christmas decorator seems an unlikely addition. The Churchill Arms (in Kensington, West London) has been dressed to impress, with 21,000 Christmas lights and 90 Christmas trees. The outside of the pub can barely be seen, for the decorum has taken over to excess. The walk from Notting Hill Station to here is five minutes, and as people walk by they are not accelerating their pace but slowing it. The luminescence of the pub draws people in, proving that the allure of Christmas, even for the most cynical of us, can still awaken the child within. The pub is not just whimsical for the winter season, but is decorated in a quirky manner all year. The landlord Gerry O’Brien plasters the establishment in a plethora of flower arrangements during the warmer months. As for the Christmas decorations, this year’s took a week and a half to be put up. Although, this challenge is nothing new; O’Brien has been putting them up for 30 years.
O’Brien told the Daily Mail: ‘We want to make the lights look better every year and it really does make a striking impression. This year we’ve got a lovely reindeer outside the door in front of the Queen’s picture, so it looks like she’s taking a ride to Buckingham Palace on the sleigh.’
His words rung true, it really does leave an impression, and one which continues on the inside. The inner decor is one akin to a hoarder’s house. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is dressed in pots, pans, cricket and rugby posters, beer ads and much more. There isn’t any room for anything else but the abundance of stuff doesn’t annoy the visitors, instead it coaxes them in with a homely atmosphere. For the boozy ones of us, obtaining alcohol is a nigh impossible feat; there’s only one place to pay and an endless supply of tavern-goers eager to buy a pint. The wait, especially only week before Christmas, may be extensive.
There’s also a restaurant onsite, but it does not offer the typical ‘spoons menu of hearty British pub classics. Instead, they serve Thai food which seems jarring for such a place. The food came promptly but tasted cheap. One dish with came with sticky noodles resembling a student’s instant-noodle lifehack; coupled with beef that didn’t taste very beefy; and gravy definitely not made from scratch. Overall, the food was a miss but the outside made up for it.