A reliable Fuller’s Ale and Pie House in the heart of Westminster office territory, complete with attached hotel.
Among office buildings on a historic street just along from St James’s Park station and only a short step from Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, the Churchill War Rooms and the park itself, the Sanctuary House couldn’t be better placed as a small – and very highly rated – hotel. As an added bonus, its bar is actually a Fuller’s pub, one of the brewery’s Ale and Pie Houses, which is open to all.
Occupying a lengthwise sliver in one corner of an imposing early 20th century building that once hosted insurance companies and publishing firms, the moderately sized bar area has been refitted relatively recently in traditional style with plenty of rich and warm wood, pillars, mirrors and engraved glass. Split level floors and small screens create a few hidden cubby holes, some of them decorated with stained glass on ecclesiastical themes that nod to the proximity of the abbey and its sanctuary. There’s plentiful table seating throughout and standing room at the bar.
Local workers from nearby employers like government departments and London Underground, which has its headquarters above St James’s Park station, mingle with tourists in an atmosphere where there are a fair few suits and certainly not much buzz or energy, but it is certainly civilised and friendly, in contrast to many of the tourist traps closer to the main streets. Staff do their best to be helpful though don’t always seem particularly knowledgeable about what they’re selling.
As the name of this mini-chain suggests, traditional pub comfort food is the order of the day, although with a slight upmarket twist, and at prices you’d expect in the area. Pies with mash and vegetables are the main feature, most of them of the “crust only” kind where the filling is placed in an ovenproof dish and roofed with pastry. The house special is steak, kidney and horseradish in a red wine gravy (£10.25); alternatives include smoked fish and leek (£9.95) and Quorn cottage pie (£9.50). Other options might be pan fried scallops (£7.25), beef stroganoff (£9.75), beer battered fish and chips (£9.95), ribeye steak (£14.75) or a slightly dry puy lentil burger (£9.25). A retro dessert menu includes knickerbocker glory (£4.95).
Fuller’s beer is of course the main focus at the bar, and since the manager of this Cask Marque and Good Beer Guide listed pub holds a Fuller’s Master Cellarman accreditation, it can be relied upon to sell the Chiswick brewer’s ales in top condition. Chiswick Bitter, Discovery, ESB, London Pride and a seasonal are usually on handpump, and there are a good few Fuller’s bottled beers including 1845, London Porter and Vintage Ale. A wider than normal range of international specialist beers from other brewers is also sold on keg or in bottle, including Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar, Erdinger, Hoegaarden, Duvel and Singha. Most of the 24 wines are sold by the glass (from £3.90), with a list that ranges from easy going varietals to more pricey options like Chablis and quality South African pinotage. Tea and coffee are also available.
The Last Word
Admittedly, the Sanctuary House isn’t bursting with character, but it’s a decent and comfortable environment with good beer and the feel of a proper pub rather than a hotel bar. A good backstreet standby in a much visited part of town.