In 2009 the pub closed. The new owners stripped out the interior and painted the front a mucky grey. Then they reopened shortly afterwards as the 12 bedroom Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse. An E3 B&B option for sixty-ish quid a night. Alas the Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse doesn't have its own website, so let me kindly reproduce their marketing blurb below.
Here's what the Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse looks like today.
2012 - Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse
It's an insipid looking building. All the former charm has been over-painted, from attic to floor, in a shade that disturbingly resembles concrete. It must have sounded like a good idea at the time, giving the former pub a complete exterior makeover, but the broadbrush approach has been wildly unsuccessful. The ironwork in front of the doors used to read Saloon Lounge and Private Bar, but the gold lettering has been painted black and the ornate effect is entirely lost. The second doorway is used for storage, mostly bags and rubbish, sealed in behind locked trelliswork. Three hanging baskets dangle forlornly above the pavement, any greenery many seasons dead. A small Guinness sign somehow survives, plus an Abbott Ale poster near the ash-stubber, but there's nothing at ground level which properly signals "guest house". Indeed I've seen several foreign tourists standing outside, suitcases in tow, unconvinced this might be the place they've booked overnight.
The most eye-catching feature of the Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse is plastered across the first floor frontage. Instead of a painted sign, in tasteful gold, somebody thought it would be a good idea to over-paint the name-board and stick black plastic letters on top. They started well on the left, neatly stuck and tightly kerned, then lost it rather on the way across. Later letters were more slapdash, more irregularly spaced, and not entirely vertical. My timelapse photo montage, above, reveals what happened next. A couple of wind-whipped winters and the letters are peeling, almost tumbling, from the face of the hotel. Those Ss are part-destroyed, the R has lost its stem and the G is barely legible. And yet the owners seem content to leave this ghastly textual mess as their branded high street face. English Heritage recently spent considerable sums restoring some of theGrade II listed buildingsalongside, as part of the High Street 2012 project in advance of the Olympics. But they couldn't touch this former pub, and it's become a nagging blot on the Bow Road streetscape.
Inside may well be a different matter. I've not peered any further than the tiny reception, so I'd not want to judge conditions and the accommodation within. Varioustravelwebsites offer a selection of guest reviews, and many visitors claim to have enjoyed their value-for-money stay. But it just goes to show, when you book from afar, you never do quite know what you'll face when you turn up. Come soon, before The Kings Arms peels away altogether.