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Norfolk Arms, Russell Square

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user reviews of the Norfolk Arms, Russell Square

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

It’s quite a strange place. One evening you will be served by quick, pleasant and attentive staff; another evening get moody, surly and totally disinterested staff that make you feel out of order for actually coming to a ‘pub’ and ordering a drink!

The décor inside isn’t what you expect at all from the outside. The tapas is very good, but stupidly expensive for what you get. It’s certainly not a drinking pub.

And I have to agree about the glasses, they are ridiculous.
B3XTER - 5 Jun 2014 16:38
Not really a pub is it? A little bit of Spain in Bloomsbury. We had to wait for hotel check in and despite the tramps using the outside tables as a vantage point to drink out of cans, the place looked quite homely. We entered, presented with a nice welcome and made good use of their free papers to pass the time. Oh, and I bought a drink.
Mappiman - 28 Oct 2013 17:05
Clearly a gastropub but a very warm welcome on arrival and all the staff were very attentive. However I can't understand pubs that sell wine in the type of orange juice glasses you get at breakfast in hotels. Weird and trying too hard to be different and trendy yet looking a little pretentious in my book. Pleasant seating to watch the world go by but the comedy glasses had already left a bad taste in my mouth.
AlistairVonLion - 26 Aug 2013 17:27
Very foodie, quite spartan interior but actually appealing. Notable for cured hams, chillies etc hanging in windows. Indifferent Theakstons tasted, didn't try the food.
curioushistory - 6 Jun 2012 13:21
Inattentive, indifferent, sluggish, poorly informed staff. Below-average ale. Sunday roast served in a tapas dish. Avoid.
MisterKnackers - 9 Apr 2012 14:08
This may have been a pub once but it is no really a tapas bar with limited facility for drinkers. On the evening I was in every one of the tables was occupied by diners with the drinkers clustered uncomfortably around the bar. It has the environment of a restaurant with a bar rather than a proper pub - this feeling is further exacerbated by the hams and salamis hanging from hooks around the bar

GKIPA and Theakstons XB on pump but really if you are looking for a pub in the area this is not the place and you would be better of going to the Skinners, Boot or Lord John Russell.
murgatroyd - 15 Nov 2010 09:21
I'm surprised by the negative reviews. The Norfolk Arms is a bit pricey so I don't go often but whenever I've been it's been fine. The staff are ok - not TGI smiley but civil enough and helpful (incidentally, I'm middle-aged, plump and homely looking so there's certainly no trendy prejudice taking place).
ChristineA7439 - 28 Oct 2010 11:49
Beware. On my first visit last Friday, the hideous barmaid gave me change of a tenner when I had given her twenty pounds. When my friend suggested she might apologise, he was informed that I was lucky she had refunded me. Will be back for their hell freezing over celebrations.
pubinspector - 19 Oct 2010 13:13
This is more a restaurant than a pub. The tapas is good, but the beer is not. If you are on a date it is superb, if not, avoid.
SomersetChris - 4 Sep 2010 18:52
I had the misfortune to come across this pub yesterday and agree with the comments of earlier posters.

I meet some friends there who had managed to get a table which had a reserved sign for 7.30 pm on it and had been assured it was fine for them to drink.

Unfortunately mid drink we were told that we had to move as the staff had got the booking run and needed the table for 7. The waiter was particularly rude and hurried us to get off the table. We were then forced to stand and finished our drinks and the waiter simply shrugged his shoulders when asked what we should do.

So overall happy to take your money and happy to treat you like rubbish.

On the upside then ventured to the much more accomodating and friendly Lord John Rusell.
bogrbrushsw11 - 25 Jun 2010 08:44
This is truly the 'piers morgan' of central london pubs - has a massively inflated sense of its own importance. Very happy to take your money at 10.55pm, but woe betide should you still be supping at 11.06pm. The Norfolk Arms staff will bear down on you until you finish your pint and refuse to even acknowledge your existence. Tapas menu is lazy with tiny portions and the staff are suitably rude. All in all a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Save your money - drink in the Lord John Russell and eat in Chilli Cool around the corner.
sipwatts - 12 Jun 2010 00:31
Visited 28/4/10 - the place is very noisy, staff couldn't seem to care less and are constantly badgering you to order food, were very rude when we asked for more (food was good, if pricey) at 10.10pm, 'kitchen's closed'. Started clearing up the pub, stacking chairs etc before 11pm, brought bill super fast and basically shovelled us onto the street before 11.10pm. Really not a nice place at all - and as other reviewers have said, it's a restaurant in the shell of a pub. Don't go if you just want a pint.
MP4455 - 29 Apr 2010 09:35
Also it's reasonably handy to ST Pancras if, as is often the case for me, you have a half hour or so to kill before jumping on the Eurostar.
Malikbek - 20 Apr 2010 14:30
They still have Theakstons XB but the pint I had last week was fine. Stylistically the place is rather odd - from outside a typical old style pub, inside a sort of semi-trendy Tapas bar decorated with dangling legs of Spanish ham. As others have said, there is no delineation between eating and drinking areas but (outside meal times when I've been there) there's never been the slightest problem with drinking a quiet pint and the tables-&-chairs layout makes this a food place to sit and read... if that's what you're looking for in a pub!
Malikbek - 20 Apr 2010 14:28
Mess and horrid, beer served with less care than you would rinse out a cup, had the worst Theakstons XB ever. Given its location someone needs to tell the owners that if the place wants a regular clientelle it needs to start looking after drinkers.
loveleedshatebates - 18 Jul 2009 06:54
I agree with the previous posters that have said this place is more restaurant than pub. The atmosphere inside was non existent and the only sounds were the chinking of forks on plates and teaspoons in Darjeeling.

Theakston XB was available alongside Greene King IPA which was on the turn and Fosters, Kronenburg, San Miguel, John Smiths Smooth and Guinness. I found the barmaid to be nice enough, but I felt uncomfortable sitting inside so I sat on one of the benches that line the path outside.

I dont think that Ill be going back here to eat or drink in the future.
Strongers - 6 Apr 2009 09:14
Visited this place on 28th November 2008 as part of a "Counties" crawl. The barman was surly and unwelcoming and seemed unimpressed that we were there for beer only. The prices are extorionate. I would not recommend this place at all and it only gets a 1 because it actually serves beer.
Bong - 12 Jan 2009 09:39
I like the New NorfolkArms and it is a welcome change to the area in which I live. Before it changed hands the pub was very run down with the local drug dealer working out of the toilet. If you are looking for an traditional pub this is not for you but if you want a sit down meal and a good chat with friends this pub will suit you.
jane1126 - 7 Nov 2008 10:16
Can only agree with the comments that it has something of an identity crisis - food looks good but when the place is swamped with loud parties in a "pub" setting it was time to move elsewhere to eat. The XB was not exactly in sparkling form, either...
meurglys_iv - 13 Jul 2008 12:38
This is a restaurant; not a pub. As a restaurant, it's fine. But you will feel harassed if you just pop in for a few pints - and there's no 'drinking area' either; they want you to buy food/spend money, and will give you menus and hover. Which is fine if, like I say, you want a restaurant.

(hmmm... Russell square? Not really: more kings cross)
rachaelov - 7 Jun 2008 13:36
Not sure what to make of this place..been a couple of times now but it feels like it doesn't know what it or restaurant. All the smokers had the tables outside, everyone was eating inside, and any spare tables were reserved for later. Nowhere to stand with a drink without feeling in the way or being asked "can I help you?" like I should be ordering some food.
ManhattanGirl - 9 May 2008 17:30
Hmmm... looked really 'interesting' with the Hams hanging up, but somehow missed the mark. The Theakston XB was OK and the food was average... Quite a nice vibe going on. It's just a shame non-smokers are now 'confined' indoors as al the outside seating gets swamped by the smokers.
dking66 - 1 May 2008 11:48
complete shithole avoid like genetically modified bubonic plague!!!!
poshpplhater - 5 Apr 2008 01:12
This isnt a pub, I know it isnt a pub because if it was I wouldnt have spent so long at the bar without being served before walking out. As it was I was transfixed by how many people could mill about behind the bar, seemingly busy, but managing not to make any eye contact with those of us waiting to be served. I did get a couple of apologetic glances from the only bloke actually serving and I decided to hang on as they do have two hand pumps. He eventually served me with a pint of Theakstons XB which I sunk before hed finished his next round of White Zinfandel and lime & coriander crab cakes with rocket salad and Peruvian vinaigrette.

Millay - 12 Jan 2008 19:42
Recently had lunch on a Sunday as part of a group of about 12 and the food and service was first class.

RogerV - 15 Jul 2007 20:58
This is a restaurant first, then a pub. Bar staff pestered us so much to try and order food whilst we had drinks that it put us off eating and decided to go somewhere else. It wasn't a tough call as the two ales were really dreary, one generic lager was seemingly brewed by Sarson's and the other looked as though it had passed through a soda stream. Really disappointing as I was looking forward this place. Maybe it was a bad day.
cardamom - 18 May 2007 12:11
I went back here Saturday 24th and still think its a great pub (still got a great table!) but they need to choose better beers. Thanks for having two real ales and taking care of them, but can we just have at least one interesting one please? (Am I being greedy?)
jackvervacke - 26 Feb 2007 18:52
Saturday night and the pub had empty tables, not great for the pub but great for us. I had the only Green King IPA in my life that didnt taste off. That alone shows someone here cares! As for the pub, its beautiful. They do food and the prices are lower than any other gastropub I have been to. Some of it is tapas, great when you just want a bar snack! Definitely one to return to.
jackvervacke - 6 Feb 2007 06:56
Just read what has happened to this place, makes me sad...


"Just a couple of months ago this was any old boozer - one that, by and large, gave students from the halls of residence across the road a convenient way of disposing of their loans. Then, all of a sudden, up went the scaffolding, out went the grimy patterned carpets, in came the white paint, the cute school tables and church seats, the French management - and the food.

The NA has gone so seriously gastro that there's no real vestige of the 'pub' that ought to complete the epithet. There's no armoury of booze on show: where you'd expect the spirit racks to be, a charcuterie slicer has pride of place. All the tables inside are set with rudimentary tea towels and cutlery; there's no obvious non-dining area. It's almost (but not quite) a restaurant."
anonymous - 4 Sep 2006 17:59
Ok. I may have been a little premature. Have been in here a couple of more times and am impressed that such a positive turn around has been made with regard to the clientele. No drug dealers! Fantastic!
I was just disappointed to say goodbye to the old pub, that's all. Never been a gastro pub person but this is a decent place. I hate to say, an improvement.
peterg - 17 Jul 2006 16:16
What a shame that beautiful Victorian pub has been replaced by this new Norfolk Arms. It doesn't seem to know what it's trying to be. All too-new tables. Could they get paler? Silly school chairs. Bare walls. Boring bar. Ugly paint job everywhere but especially on the listed ceiling. Criminal. But the toilets are better.

peterg - 14 Jul 2006 18:34
So what's going on? There were rumours of the pub closing and being turned into either a Spanish restaurant or gastro pub. Then all the furniture gets dumped on the street - I wonder if they got away with that. No skip for three days. I hope this turns out ok.
peterg - 12 May 2006 08:50
Fate seems to have brought me back here quite a bit recently. I had the food for the first time in ages a couple of Saturdays ago, and although it wasn't cheap it was well worth the money. The staff are always friendly and I've never had a bad pint there.
valbear - 23 Jan 2006 13:06
Hey what a change ,We dropped in as friends told us it was better.It is the old publican seems to have gone as said above the Big Gorrilla is a the original gentle giant and the foods really good aswell Idid not eat but my mates have said its really good .
Planning on several visits to be sure the beers as good as Ive been told
darken - 13 Dec 2005 18:23
Was very surprised by this pub appears to be quite the opposite of what it is. From the out side it looks like a local pub for local people, but i found it to be a real good laugh me and my friends only stopped in for one but ended up staying all night. The "big gorrilla" behind the bar is your original gentle giant and the place was packed if they can keep this up will be make for an axcellent night out I'll keep you posted........
anonymous - 29 Oct 2005 14:33
went in today what a dump .big gorrilla behind the bar very overpriced...will not reccommend to anyone.also they cant be doing that well as they dont seem to be able to afford light bulbs ....
anonymous - 18 Oct 2005 18:34
very freindly .the landlord has turned this pub around.i am sorry i am leaving the area and will not be able to use the pub as much.although the locals do get a bit leary
johns - 26 Aug 2005 19:36
Food ??? Forget it. Its Nobbys Nuts or grumbling guts,too many pubs nearby prepared to make a much better effort. Walk on by unless gasping.
anonymous - 17 Jun 2005 22:21
Not the busiest of pubs. This is probably accounted for by the obnoxious landlord and high prices. The range of beers is very mediocre indeed and the few regulars are hardly welcoming.
kyle473 - 16 Apr 2005 21:35
Not the best pub in the area, but a lot better then some of the comments posted. I was in there last Friday night, and it was busy without being packed. The staff where very friendly and helpful, even offering to carry our drinks over. There are better pubs nearby, but on a Friday night its nice to find a place where you can get served and get a seat.
valbear - 7 Feb 2005 16:39
I have only been in the place once and was not particularly enthralled by the place. I visited on a thursday or friday night and to my surprise, myself and my friends were the only people there besides one obvious regular and the somewhat onboxious barman.

Upon entering the barman abrasively asked 'what do you want?'. Upon viewing my limited choices i opted for a pint of guinness, which was no of a particularly high calibre. We stayed for the one drink then left - never to return.
spleen978 - 4 Feb 2005 01:25
This pub has now been sold,not sure who now owns it,they have yet to make their presence felt,but watch this space.
Glenn - 29 Oct 2004 21:42
I live in the area. The rudeness of the staff sets a new record. I went there with my friend, who is suffering from luekemia, and they refused to serve us because they said he looked "ill". Sam's comments are spot on.
Damien - 19 Oct 2004 22:10
this pub is horrible, unfriendly, overpriced and empty.
martin - [email protected] - 19 Oct 2004 12:57
Pretty grimy little pub. More King's Cross than Russell Square, with a stuffy, dark interior, loud fruit machines, unwelcoming staff and fearsome local clientele. There are many superior pubs in the area.
Sam - 23 Jun 2004 17:38
Great pub with great beer. I try to drop by for a pint or three whenever I am in London.
beerbum63 - 16 May 2004 22:18
The Norfolk Arms is my first proper 'local'. It is attractive and friendly and you can easily spend a few hours here. I like the fact that it attracts so many different people. Tourists are attracted to it's traditional pub look. I love it.
Peter G - 27 Sep 2003 19:05
Everytime I come to London which is twice a year I spend a lot of time drinking in this pub. It's filled with local's who are quite friendly and the food is not half bad. It not pretentious like the John Russell nearby.
JackKrayUSA - 2 Jul 2003 20:40
Outdoor scenes from Channel 4 comedy series "Black Books" are filmed across the road
Michael - 5 Aug 2002 11:13

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