I fell in love a little bit with this place as soon as I walked in but I can't quite put my finger on why. Maybe it's because it's set in a quaint corner of Chelsea strangely devoid of the perma-tanned, puffa-toting, teeny-pooch wielding set, filled instead with Old School types quietly enjoying life. Maybe it's the slightly disconcerting Dog-as-Admiral portraits on the walls and jar of Bonios on the counter. Maybe it's because the decor with cosy, comfy chairs, but stripped back wooden flooring makes it bright but warm on this freezing February lunchtime. Maybe it's because it has actually implemented the oft-debated-at-pub-post-wine idea of British tapas with reasonable success: you could easily get carried away as everything on the menu is appealing but we exercised restraint and had between 2 of us: fish pie, cottage pie, honey roast carrots and parsnips, and cauliflower cheese and each mouthful (although there's only 3 or four per dish) was delicious. None of these elements necessarily scream Best Pub Ever but that meal and 4 glasses of wine for a modest £35 (excl service), in such an amenable venue, does shout “Bargain!”. This place defies definition but “charming” is the best I can do (I actually saw a woman mouth “ooooh” when she walked in) and if we absolutely have to do the whole play on words thing then I'd say definitely Pleasant Surprise rather than Nasty Surprise.
As an aside Geronimo Inns, which owns this place, is managing to do all the things a chain should deliver in terms of assured levels of quality on food, drink, service, and decor but managing to maintain the one thing they usually sacrifice for it: genuine individuality at each locale. Fans should also try Prince Albert (south of The River, cosy post-dogwalk drinks) and the recently re-opened King's Arms (Fulham Road, no-nonsense food, interesting mural behind the bar!).