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Red Lion, Soho

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user reviews of the Red Lion, Soho

please note - reviews on this site are purely the opinion of site visitors, so don't take them too seriously.

A gorgeous little gem of a Sam Smith's pub just off Carnaby Street in geographic terms but seemingly from another world entirely. For those who don't know the drill with Sam Smith's pubs you really need only know three things and they are as true of this pub as any; 1) They don't serve anything other than their own brands from beers and spirits through to soft drinks, 2) They tend to be in lovely buildings and decorated in a strictly old school style and 3) They are normally cheaper than the other pubs in the vicinity.
This has a particularly lovely rear room which resembles a classic European "brown pub" with extensive dark wood pannelling, a fireplace and lamp lighting and is an ideal refuge from the hurly-burly of the west end. The drinks were as ever excellent and reasonably priced. Service was good, but I would qualify that only by saying that it was very quiet when I visited and there was only one person manning the bar, so hard to judge how it would fair when it's busier.
All in all a good find and well worth visiting for a drink if you're passing that way.
Mr.Monkfish - 8 Nov 2014 17:30
Good little pub. The wooden exterior continues throughout, making the atmosphere nice and dark, the way it should be in an old London pub. Usual selection of Sam Smiths available so if that's your thing, give this place a try.
R.Swipe - 6 Mar 2012 21:12
Had a quick one in here before heading to the Blues Bar across the street ,standard Samuel Smith's boozer - you either like them or you don't.
Reverend - 18 Jan 2012 15:02
Firminafirm - The toilets have been in that state since 2003 when I first drank in here.

Probably my favorite of Sam Smith's Soho pubs, despite the lack of cask Old Brewery Bitter. I've had some excellent nights in here, although I haven't been in for a while. That is something I should try and remedy.
Misk. - 1 Feb 2011 17:23
I still like this pub. However, on a recent visit just before Xmas the toilets were absolutely disgusting. Overflowing with grafiti everywhere. Gave an impression of not giving a toss about the pub.
firminafirm - 7 Jan 2011 22:33
Just found this pub while doing a bit of my xmas shopping, what a find!, although i obviously wasn't the only lucky one, the place was packed upstairs and down, this is a proper pub well kept, and the staff were very helpful even though clearly overworked. i know where i'll be coming whenever i pop up to the west end
bopeep21 - 27 Nov 2010 21:32
Great Sam smiths, prob the best pub to meet up in Soho after work. They have now re done Kingly street so a great place to stand around and smoke and drink
zmarsden - 27 Nov 2010 18:38
If you fancy a banging hangover after two pints then this pub is for you.. Keep giving it the benefit of the doubt as my mates are skinflints - every time the same, waking up with a chemical induced weirdness that lasts for two days - Avoid!
bob_brick - 18 Jun 2010 14:17
great pub 8/10, shame they only do sam smith beers, but great atmosphere, great crowd and great service, not sure what the food is like, but who cares its a pub
plechs - 14 Apr 2010 13:14
Love it or hate it a great lively sam smiths just off carnaby st. Not open on a sunday though.
JimmyJacksonJones - 31 Oct 2009 15:15
Nice Sam Smiths pub in Central London that is a refuge from all the crowds. Interior is quite traditional with wood panelling throughout so it has retained it character down the years. The Lounge Bar upstairs is particularly cosy and probably the best part of the pub. Sovereign and OBB well kept and cheap prices too. Toilets were a bit manky with the usual grafetti that you become accustomed to in London.

All in all, I thought this is a decent pub to meet up with friends and have a civilised drink together. I maybe wrong but don't think there's a pub nearby than can better that..??

wezmiester - 29 Oct 2009 16:59
A Sam Smiths pub which I guess will dictate whether many people like it or not. The wood panelling is quite distinguished and lends the pub a bit of an aura of a gentlemans club (old style rather than one invloving girls called Tracy or Yelena gyrating nakedly in your face for a tenner).

It's quite a deep place with two room separated by a staircase cutting across the bar. Since the back room has no windows and is blocked from the street by said staircase it has a rather gloomy funereal atmosphere even on a sunny spring afternoon. The lack of customers when I was there didn't help either although the pub does get a bonus point for having a dart board.

Another one, like many in the area, that is ok for a pint but not really good for an entire evening.
murgatroyd - 21 Jun 2009 22:01
I have something to say about this place. Shifts and Intrigues abound, and I would venture to state that should Lucifier himself enter the Saloon, he would soon find his tail pulled. I happened upon the Red Lion on the night of Michealmas last, weary from long and fruitless perigrinations in the name of a worthless Whigs canvass. I had been told of the place by a D Waspnest of Snares Brook, who alluded to the fact that both 'Bonce' and 'Scrifton' were in stock. Enquiring of the proprietor, he gave no satisfaction on the matter but this was a mere trifle for what followed.
Turning away with a bottle of miserable substitute, I noticed Gladstone, Angora rabbit and companion was not to be seen. I frantically searched, appealed to the scant custom and the proprietor, but all knowledge was denied.
I gave up the rabbit for dead, camped by the fire and took mournful swigs from my little glinker of discontent,but did not fail to notice the furtive glances and doubtful mutterings between the others and the Proprietor could not entirely keep his dark plots covered by extreme effort of a passive countenance.
Be on your guard, traveller
senberbex - 4 Jun 2009 14:39
The only real pub left in soho, staff are maazing, waiting time non existent, friendliest pub by far, plus thy manage to keep out out all of those types we want to protest/murder
arewenot - 3 Apr 2009 04:04
Nice interior, service prompt and the OBB was OK today but no running hot or cold water in the gents', no signs up indicating transient problems so this seemed a bit odd.
_grobag_ - 27 Mar 2009 21:51
Frankly one of the few pubs with interior character left in this corner of town - I was in over xmas - front bar; gloomy - cold fire flickering away, dirty leaded windows, a few souls drinking. Whiskey completed the scene for me. Loved it. a world away from the tourist / shopping maelstrom outside but only a few feet from it.
Plenty of tidied up pubs nearby for the main trade.
gonetolunch - 28 Dec 2008 12:14
The pub itself isn't bad, I like the decor a lot but the lack of music I think is a problem, simply because the pub doesn't get very busy so lacks the background noise required to feel comfortable when chatting with mates.

However the main problem with this pub is the bitter which is all the smoothflow type stuff and is bloody awful. I wouldn't return solely for that reason.
scousemouse - 17 Nov 2008 11:49
Big, cheap and friendly. Could do with some music though, can be a bit dead sometimes.
inquintessence - 18 Oct 2008 00:02
This place is like drinking in a morgue. It was empty at 16:30 on Friday afternoon and Iím afraid that I had to leave as the only noise was some buzzing from the air conditioning unit on the wall.

The barmaid was very friendly and the beer was very cheap, but a pub needs some atmosphere for me to enjoy it.

Maybe it gets busier in the evenings, but Iím not a big fan of SS pubs so I probably wonít go here again.
Strongers - 2 Sep 2008 08:09
This used to be my local ten years ago, and i was stunned to find recently that it no longer sells draught ales, only the nitro variety. For a Sam Smiths pub this is incredible.
wellinformed - 20 Apr 2008 18:47
This pub is very cheap... and there's a good reason why. Dark, dingy and the beer is flat and flavourless, plus more than two pints of the Alpine and all but the strongest stomachs will be feeling sick. (Trust me, I know!) If you feel like a quiet game of darts, avoid on a Thursday when it has become inexplicably busy in the evenings, and stick to the traditional lemonades.
inspector_gold - 16 Feb 2008 18:53
many fond memories of drinking in here with john dryden (not the dead poet). front bar has an open fire, and beer is cheap. back bar much bigger and there's an upstairs dining area, too.

a decent little pub.
DavidWaspnest - 20 Dec 2007 17:18
Thought this was a great pub, just a little too busy in the evenings for my liking, great(cheap) beer, nice atmosphere, friendly crowd and helpful staff,(i needed a little help with the strange choice of brews), i'll definately be back, especially after the smoking ban comes into effect!!!
loopielou - 8 May 2007 13:31
Anyone who has drunk in any number of Sam Smiths pubs will know the drill - Alpine lager, dark brown wood, lack of natural sunlight, etc. However this place sets itself apart from a number of the other ones in the area for the following simple reason.

Picture the scene (sorry - this is strictly for the guys here). It's Christmas on Oxford Street. You've been trawling the shops for an hour trying to find your dearly beloved the dress/shoes/handbag she asked for but it's not in this shop. Or that shop. Oh look - there's one that looks a bit like it.... and it's 20 quid cheaper.....but it's 'not quite the one'.

Will she notice? 90% probability she will. She'll notice the fact it doesn't have tassles on the handle.

Too much pressure in one go. Do you buy, or not buy? If she notices, you will be branded a failure and be castigated until you either buy her something even more expensive, or you get dumped. If she doesn't notice - you'll always be worrying when she looks in shop windows that she'll see it there and know it wasn't the right one. You need a beer fast.

The Red Lion to me represents an oasis from this situation, a saviour of sanity. Firstly, it is quiet. Deathly quiet on Saturday afternoons. Funeral parlours have more activity. Secondly, and as mentioned before, the poor staff here have a lack of natural light and look worryingly cheerful considering their cavernous surroundings. Perhaps its the lack of customers 'Hey it's a real person like they showed us in Sam Smiths Training'. Anyway, it makes getting a beer a cinch.

With pint, you can take the weight of your decision off your mind, ignore the third call from your partner demanding to know where you are, and generally enjoy Saturday afternoon with a little less stress, while you contemplate what to do with the rest of the day....probably not much shopping though....

And that is why it is the best Sam Smiths in London
rampantwurzel - 27 Apr 2007 11:45
Was in here recently for a pint or two. Old Brewery is keg in this one. Strong sewer smell in the front bar which I was told was from outside but seemed to drift though to th rear bar later on.Maybe I was unlucky on the day I went.
douvres - 27 Mar 2007 23:32
Typical Sam Smith's decor and beer, but even so, it's one of my favourites, if not the favourite of Sam's Soho pubs. As Mike D mentioned, the placement of the dartboard is ill-advised - as if the landlord thought "where's the worst place I can put this thing" - but a dartboard ANYWHERE in a Soho pub these days is a good thing.

Always a great place after being dragged out shopping. The pub is tardis-like, in that all you can see from the outside is a tiny front bar and narrow passageway, but the back bar is very large, and the upstairs enormous. You're almost always guaranteed to get a seat somewhere in this pub. I love the fact that the main bar is tucked away in the back with no windows, so you can completely ignore the hustle-and-bustle of Soho after a long day's elbowing along Oxford Street.

One gripe - This place needs to get some sort of dress code in place for its staff. Watching the staff stroll past each other behind the bar is like watching a catwalk show for Madhouse. Cheap t-shirts, oversized jeans showing more crack than a televised search of Whitney Houston's house. One of them I think only owns the one t-shirt. The cynic in me thinks there's no dress code because then Sam Smith's might have to shell out some coin for a uniform, but I could have sworn other SS pubs have some sort of standard outfit (ie. branded T and apron).

Any, presuming you can avert your eyes when ordering, a fine, relaxing pub to collect your thoughts in while deciding where to go next.
topdog_andy - 7 Mar 2007 11:12
It has a dart board! Next to the bar! DUCK!

Mike_D - 5 Jan 2007 14:32
It's a minty fresh pub with cheap unspecified booze and plenty of seating room and usually some men with moustaches in there as well as myself which makes it all thoroughly splendid.
raziqrauf - 19 Aug 2006 14:38
Central location (five minutes walk from Oxford Circus and round the corner from Carnaby Street). Samuel Smiths beers, which I like. Back bar (with dart board) can be quite noisy. Front bar is quieter. I liked it.
clissold345 - 1 Jun 2006 19:04
I used to work at this pub and i agree with whasky the landlady is an overobsesive bitch. She gets upset pretty easily.
jessica9 - 14 Apr 2006 14:32
This bar is a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. Tucked down a back street and off the beaten path it offers a refuge, and in winter a warm roaring fire! Cheap pints a great atmosphere and a clientele as varied as they are friendly.

Jesper - 14 Mar 2006 17:26
Nice pub, cheap Sam Smiths beers and handy if you fancy a game of 'arrers too!
LondonWolf - 14 Feb 2006 12:50
I have been drinking in this pub since 1986. the price of a pint of Sam Smiths was £1-36. It is now only £1-68! great pub
firminafirm - 24 Sep 2005 08:36
Didn't see the landlady on my recent visit as it was fairly quiet and there was only a youngish bloke on duty who was pleasant enough. Paid £10.06 for four pints of stout and a pint of Sovereign which would be unlikely in Bournemouth where I live (Not that we have the good fortune to have any Sam Smiths pubs in our area) but is astonishing for Central London. Can't beat that and would have stayed much longer but for my mates who wanted to continue our oub crawl.
anonymous - 20 Jul 2005 21:27
As you can see by my comments below, I have been drinking here for while now. Unfortunatley I won't be now, as a new couple have taken over and they seem to dislike their customers. I asked for a noisy fan to be switched off and the landlady said no. She then came over to us five minutes later and asked us to leave! And this is at lunchtime when we have popped in for a quiet lunchtime pint, and the pub was empty. What an over-reaction.

I have spoken to other people who drink here who have said they have seen similar incidents, of the landlady being extremely short with patrons. I hope they leave soon so I can start drinking here again. In the meantime there are lots of other lovely Sam Smith's pubs in the vicinity!

whasky - 10 Feb 2005 14:38
Very nice pub, with good interior. Some of the cheapest Ale you'll find in Central London. Also very friendly staff and manager, who were more than welcoming, even though we were a bunch of scruffy students and quite different from their normal clientele.
anonymous - 22 Nov 2004 18:02
Handy old-fashioned pub with the lethal Sam Smith drinks as standard. Just don't sit upstairs in the corner chainsmoking, as it's banned til they stop doing food. Not-one told me. I was too drunk to see the signs when I staggered up there.
Ruby - 16 Mar 2004 14:31
This is one of my lunch time locals, round the corner from my office.

Good old Sam Smith's pub, very dark brown wood pannelled interior, with a light and roomy restaurant upstairs.

Friendly staff and good cheap Sam Smiths beer brewed by one of the few small brewery chains that have pubs in London.
Timos - [email protected] - 12 Sep 2003 17:31

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