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Red Lion, St James

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user reviews of the Red Lion, St James

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

Beautiful Victorian gem, hidden away behind Picadilly. Very busy but friendly, Fullers ESB in excellent condition. Highly reccommended.
Aztecgoat - 12 Jun 2016 09:22
Small, yet beautifully formed.

Lovely interior - all etched mirrors.

Fullers ESB at well over the £4 a pint mark. Should be expected.

Some photos at my walking blog -
Mappiman - 7 Feb 2016 13:10
Arrived about 2.15 and it was still quite busy, got a seat in the little section behind the bar. Worth a visit just to see the Victorian glass panels/mirrors. Quite a few bar staff on but they were not in a hurry to serve or collect glasses as they were too busy chatting. 4 Fullers beers on, we had ESB & Discovery which were both fine. Got the impression that the manager was struggling with staff as he was having a go about all the dirty glasses piled up on bar, and when I told a barmaid that the ladies was flooded and had water coming through the light fitting she just shrugged, but manager came straight over and thanked me for letting them know. Change of staff and it would be a very pleasant place to spend a few hours.
Shuv16 - 26 Apr 2015 12:44
Popped in here for a quick pint after a long wander in search of a watering hole. Good ales and lovely decor as others have noted, but the whole place smells of stale beer. Others might find that authentic, but it makes it hard to persuade the other half to stay in such circumstances.
TommyRogers1979 - 4 Jan 2015 18:02
The Red Lion was my second stop of the day after first visiting the Powder Keg Diplomacy in Battersea (not listed on here). The Good Beer Guide and other websites state that the pub opens at 11:30 on a Saturday. So I took a little walk around the area before returning at around 11:30. The barmaid had seen me on the cameras and opened up. But apparently the normal opening time is now midday on a Saturday (closed on a Sunday). I was the only customer during my short visit. This is a Fullers pub with 6 ales from their range - Fullers London Pride, Chiswick, Bengal Lance & Front Row & Gales Seafarers & HSB. Although there may have been another couple around the other side of the bar. I plumped for the Aspalls cider. The real value of this pub is the interior. The walls are lined with crystal clear glass and this is a fine example of the old Victorian gin palace. The single room itself is small and curves around the central bar. I can imagine the place gets very busy with local office workers on weekday lunchtimes. A trip to the toilets is an interesting experience. Watch your head and your step if you negotiate the staircase down to them.
blue_scrumpy - 23 Feb 2014 10:27
A fine Fuller's pub just off Jermyn Street and away from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus.

Unassuming outside but inside you will find a Victorian interior with etched glass & lots of wood panelling.

1 bar that is split into 2 rooms by the central bar and glass partion divide.

6 hand pumps on 1 side and 2 on the other dispensing the full Fullers range including ESB and Seafarers.

Very busy and almost full to capacity on the Saturday night I visited...this was a mixed crowd but mainly the age was 40 +.

This is another pleasant and genuine London pub that needs to be visited.

lezford - 5 Jan 2014 13:02
To the query below: "what it's like when it's busy, I don't know..." the answer is: "Very, very busy." At five every weekday the pub gets stuffed to bursting with mainly local officeworkers. Lunch is also busy.

It's a testament to the success of this pub, or perhaps to the art of traditional pubmaking, that even crowded this pub is a good place for a pint, so long as you're prepared to stand up and get a little jostled. This is not a residential area, so it won't be as homey as a neighbourhood local can be, but it's still what they call a "proper pub"--people drinking and chatting in an open, relaxed environment. In fact, it's more welcoming and homey than many neighbourhood pubs are, these days.

The service here, in my experience, has always been great. Despite the crowds they're efficient and best of all, always seem to serve people in the correct order. The decor is stunning.
Clubber.Lang - 10 Dec 2013 12:33
What a lovely oasis of calm in the bustle of the West End this is. What it's like when busy I don't know, but the Fuller's is good and they have a few guests. The interior is stunning; I could easily stay here for along time.
djw - 2 Nov 2013 23:53
Great little Fuller's pub just off Jermyn Street. Amazing interior, pretty good staff and beer seems well kept. Well worth a visit. Gets busy though! 8
Goldings - 13 Mar 2012 19:54
Excellent pub. A small but perfectly preserved Victorian pub. Two small rooms with the walls covered in cut glass mirrors. Very popular so don't expect a seat. Fullers Bengal Lancer on top form. Staff very friendly and helpful.
Coming from the north of England I didn't expect to be impressed with London pubs but this one is a gem. Worth going out of your way to visit.
catador - 3 Mar 2012 10:41
The ales are very well kept and the welcome was warm and attentive but the magic of this Victorian gem is its amazing, glittering interior. Built in 1821 (although the frontage was rebuilt in 1871) the Red Lion is a tiny pub appearing much bigger inside by the fabulous glittering cut glass and gilded mirrors lining the walls. It is a wonderful Victorian treasure hidden down a backstreet in St James, just off Piccadilly. Part of my ‘Victorian Splendour’ pub crawl - see link below.
BobOs - 28 Sep 2011 11:04
Fullers always on good form, but certain bar staff will make you ask for a full pint.
dan76uk - 2 Sep 2011 10:28
A nice, small, old fashioned pub with just enough buzz for me to wonder why other places bother with canned music. The full range of Fuller's beers.
16jamesdoc - 16 Jul 2011 11:59
A fantastic little pub and my favourite place to while away a Saturday afternoon. All the usual Fullers ales on draft and kept to the usual high standard. Staff are pleasant and attentive. A classic London pub decor wise which adds to the overall charm. Can be very busy at times as really is little but well worth a visit.
Jazz_Messenger - 16 Jan 2011 18:06
Nice little pub, dont let a crowd outside put you off - I ventured round the back of the bar and there are seats there..........nice mirrors and dark red interiour - interesting place. Shame shut on weekends.
adamwalsh - 10 Sep 2010 18:58
I agree that this is a splendid pub and although there isn't much room it's usually possible to stand in comfort - this does not worry me and I'm not a young man! Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
malo66 - 17 Aug 2010 16:37
Splendid little pub, with the emphasis on 'splendid' (with a glorious glazed interior and fine woodwork around the island bar), 'little' (and for central London, it really is) and 'pub' (in all the best senses of the word, with a relaxed atmosphere and efficient staff - even when busy). Six handpumps along the front of the bar (and a couple of duplicates around the back), offering a decent selection from the Fullers/Gales range. My pint (and it was full) of Discovery at £3.30 was first class, and served in the right glass at just the right temperature on a hot summer day. Overall, thoroughly recommended.
rpadam - 2 Jul 2010 20:52
Small ornate Victorian pub in a quiet side street between Piccadilly Circus and Green Park. Curiously, this Red Lion is one of three Red Lions in this area of London which feature in either CAMRA's National or Regional Inventories.

This Red Lion is a former Nicholsons pub - now owned by Fullers - and features splendid surviving Victorian glasswork and mirrors. Note also the three separate former doors at the front, indicating that, despite its small size, this was formerly a multi roomed pub. A semi-circular island bar separates the back part of the pub from the front, accessed by a narrow mini-passageway.

My recent Saturday afternoon visit, being my first since the acquisition by Fullers, found as many as 6 Fullers beers on - ESB, Pride, Chiswick, Jack Frost, Discovery and the Gales - branded Seafarers Ale, which seems too many. It would have been nice to have seen a guest beer or two on offer instead - perhaps I just came in on the wrong day?. Both the Chiswick and the Seafarers - £ 2.60p and £ 3.05p respectively - were in good form.

Pleasingly, and perhaps surprisingly, the pub seemed to have more of a pubby atmosphere that from what I seem to recall when I visited it under Nicholsons banner and drinkers were more dominant than previously.

This is a splendid pub - it's only small and it will probably be standing room only - but don't let that put you off. It's one of London's classic pubs decor - wise. Well worth seeking out.
JohnBonser - 27 Jan 2010 12:37
Tends to trade on its location and bijou qualities. That said, outside peak hours it is not a bad place for a quiet and reasonably well-kept pint. Much depends on the staff behind the bar: when it's crowded the weaker ones tend to ignore who's in line and just serve the one who shouts loudest.
guayabera - 29 Dec 2009 13:25
Used to like this pub a lot, but haven't been in for a while. Ale was good last time I went, and the food served upstairs was reasonably good. Adnams bitter was the nicest pint, but if Fullers have now taken over then the usual Pride will take over...
mally_drinker - 22 Dec 2009 14:06
This was one of the best pubs in London. Always rammed with customers, and a great selection of beer. Not any more. Fullers have taken it over and the beer quality and choice have gone through the floor whilst the prices charge off in the other direction. Go if you want to see a great pub interior, but avoid if you want a good pint and a choice of ales from various sources rather than the fullers group.
mrbunter - 13 Oct 2009 18:57
Paid another visit to this survivor from the height of Victorian pub interiors the other evening. The guest ale was Butcombe's Bitter, which was in fine form. Fuller's takeover has improved the ale selection in my opinion. This is definitely one of the best pubs in the area - along with its namesake in Crown passage.
RexRattus - 31 Jul 2009 23:26
Must agree, what a treat for the old eyes to see, Fullers! Perfect!
BARONVONBEERBARREL - 27 Jun 2009 11:38
Oh what a splendid surpise. I haven't been in these neck of the woods for quite sometime. However, having restocked on Ciggies & Cigars for the days adventure at Fox's the tobbanonist around the corner, I headed for the Red Lion. Wonderful! It's now a Fullers house! Great staff and clean pub. Excellent beer! However needs a bench ouside for smokers.
Princemonolulu - 27 Jun 2009 09:24
As per the Argyll arms, worth visiting for the heritage interior and cosy snugs.
But , equally, a bit impersonal and lacking that "something special". Pint of LP a tad warm and lacking a bit of sparkle. Ok pint but not special and moreish like a good pint of Pride can be.
I love these pubs with original interiors. It really is heart warming to find survivors like this and all the more better that they sell cask ales. If Fullers ultimately run this to the same standard as the Victoria in Bayswater then they will have two of the best pubs in London IMHO !! Based on one short visit it has a way to go yet, whereas the Vic has never disappointed.
tarkatherotter - 24 May 2009 15:35
Much quieter than it used to be on my last visit.

Only one guest (i.e. none Fullers) ale on, something from Castle Rock, which was perfectly fine. Chiswick well kept, ESB and Pride less so.

This pub is nowhere near as popular or good as it was pre Fullers' takeover; it is still better than anywhere in the immediate area, and don't want to exaggerate criticism but it has lost something. 7/10 now.
mps77 - 30 Apr 2009 11:52
No probs Gann - I'm glad you enjoy this pub
malo66 - 24 Feb 2009 18:56
Many Apologies malo66. I meant Piccadilli. Sorry for the confusion. It had been a long extended weekend and probably one Skinners Ginger tosser too far...
Gann - 24 Feb 2009 16:41
I understand Fullers completed their purchase of this pub on 3 February
malo66 - 19 Feb 2009 19:45
Dear Gann (27 January)
Are you sure you visited this pub? Because by no stretch of the imagination is it located 300 metres from Paddington. The Victoria looks like this pub. And there is probably another RED LION in Paddington!
malo66 - 4 Feb 2009 19:15
The pub has just been bought from M&B by Fullers
milsonman - 30 Jan 2009 13:53
Another success with BITE as I would never have found this wonderful back street Victorian treasure otherwise, even though it was only 300 meters from my hotel on Paddington. Fantastic décor and fantastic beer and as previously mentioned, the only downside being its small size with two narrow areas either side of the horseshoe bar. Two girls behind the bar last night so service was fine.
I hope the rumour of Fullers buying this place is incorrect. Again, not because I have anything against Fullers as I regularly drink Pride and will vigorously defend the Chiswick brewery, especially against my Northern work colleagues who think beer needs to come with half inch of foam on top. But because you can pick up Fullers in a multitude of establishments and you have to go a long way to find the line-up that was in The Red Lion last night.
I don’t understand why Fullers would want this postage stamp pub anyway, when they have their Steak and Ale emporiums in the City, which must turn over more in a lunchtime in The Counting House or The Shooting Star for example that they would in a month from here.
Yes, my heart swells when I see five Fullers handpumps in a row, but when I see London Pride, TT Landlord, Adnams Carbon Green, Springhead Polar Bear and Skinners Ginger Tosser, well… Brilliant. And the last three were all good !

Gann - 27 Jan 2009 21:35
Rumour is Fuller's have bought this pub, time will tell if that's true.

If so that is a real shame. Nothing against Fullers beer, I quite like it, but the range of beer here has been fantastic down the years, and Fullers aren't known for selling much if any guest ales in their pubs....
mps77 - 20 Jan 2009 15:03
Another handsome pub, aesthetically pleasing outside & in. Dark wood, lots of etched mirrors, central horsehoe bar encircled by rather cramped narrow drinking area. Busy on arrival (Sat 15:15) and just one barman who did an admirable job but was left rather high & dry by a management who should have had more staff cover if this level of custom is the norm. Not much seating room, front or rear, but peripheral drinking shelves help a little. Pumps offered ‘sip before you sup’ tasting and consisted of Pride, Adnams Best, Landlord (reverse clipped), Oakham Inferno & Nethergate Monk’s Habit, the latter two in great condition. Beers pulled short but the lone staff was under such pressure I couldn’t bring myself to complain, although others later were topped up without problem. Nice little pub, decent beer selection, I’d certainly go back when in area.
trainman - 1 Dec 2008 11:47
I hadn't been in here before tonight, despite being a Londoner and having worked round the corner some years ago. A Nicholson's house but not as dear as might have been expected. Not a bad pint of Jennings Cumberland Ale although a tad too cold for my liking. Friendly and attentive bar staff.
Ordinary - 21 Jul 2008 22:05
Very pleasant little pub but with the ability to become very crowded as it's small and also on one of the Ale Trail maps. Several beers on including Betty Stogs.
rainlight - 12 May 2008 07:25
Beautiful interior. Jennings' cumberland ale, Pride and Tim Taylor all very well kept indeed on last visit.

The only problem with the place, in particular given it's size and shape, is that it is almost always busy, perhaps a victim of it's own success and too busy, but cracking pub.
mps77 - 6 Mar 2008 12:41
They don't get much better than this for quality of beer. An excellent selection of ales, well kept with a good mix of local and guest ales. The staff are happy to give you a free taster before you buy. Some cracking Everard's 'Pitch Black' stout and Caledonian's 'Tried and Tested' were available the other day. Robinson's Old Tom and Batemans XB coming soon. But you've got to be quick; the stuff sells quickly.
A pleasure too to go to a pub where the landlord is happy to spend time to talk about his beers and do so with a passion for the subject.
Long may the Red Lion continue.
roderick_alleyn - 26 Feb 2008 15:41
Forgot to mention in my earlier review that I don't think this pub is open on Sunday - you might want to check if planning a visit on that day
JohnBonser - 9 Jan 2008 13:04
Enjoyable visit yesterday, although in contrast to previous reviews, there were only 3 beers on ( and that soon became two when the London Pride went off ). Still the Taylors Landlord was in fine form.

Staff seemed keen and enthusiastic, in marked contrast to previous visits in years gone by.

Well worth seeking out, close to Piccadilly Underground.

It's a Nicholsons pub and listed in CAMRA's National Inventory of Unspoilt Interiors.
JohnBonser - 9 Jan 2008 12:58
beautiful inside yet tiny with 7 different ales on most with the usual xmas theme. Big English barman (pleasant change) seemed to know his stuff and though very busy gave a taste of the beers first. Proper old time pub.
pinthunter - 7 Jan 2008 22:50
standing room only in this lovely pub with a gorgeous interior - fantastic glasswork - and a good range of real ale.
mozzzzzz - 8 Nov 2007 12:57
Excellent pint of Pride at £2.50 makes this one of the best - maybe the best - watering holes in the area. Also had Landlord, GKIPA and Pedigree on when I visited last weekend. Read the menu for the history. This is so obviously a genuine Victorian treasure. I'm so glad that this one has survived the ravages of WWII and the developers. Definitely a must for a visit for the decor alone.
RexRattus - 6 Jul 2007 16:09
Nice pub with excellent service. Beer was excellent and well worth visiting for the mirrors and glass alone. Definitely worth a look. Excellent
TheHorsesMouth - 2 Apr 2007 17:55
quiet friendly Nicholsons pub with rotating guest ale policy - recommended
moclips2002 - 1 Apr 2007 22:49
Small but perfectly formed - really impressive wood and mirrored walls.

Smallish range of ales (the Landlord appeared to be off when I was in there but they had Black Sheep and one or two others) and it seems to have avoided becoming a tourist trap despite being yards from Jermyn St.

Can well recommend the Red Lion - the only small drawback is that it can be a little difficult to get a seat.
murgatroyd - 10 Jan 2007 08:55
In contrast to my last visit the beer was spot on this time and the barmaid was doing a good job.
mitomighty - 27 Nov 2006 13:54
I have a picture of this place on my wall at home, by the great Michael Smee, Britain's finest painter of pub interiors.
In fact I've only been there once myself, but the reality fully justified painting it. Small, cosy; chatty atmosphere; beer (Pride in this case) good when I was there. Well worth seeking out - I must do it again.
earlydrinker - 17 Nov 2006 11:25
Nice old place, very trad feel and Adnams was good, wish I could have stayed longer. Small but perfectly formed, recommended.
Harlap - 16 Nov 2006 15:52
It's wonderful inside but after having drunk in some quality pubs I was disappointed with the quality of the beer. What can u do?
mitomighty - 10 Nov 2006 23:28
Nice traditional pub with a good range of well kept ales. Can be a bit difficult to get a seat at times.
Crow_Valley - 7 Nov 2006 20:42
Very small, but very well maintained. Extremely busy on weeknights after work - unsurprisingly as it doesn't take much to fill it. Gets a bit smokey in the back bar though otherwise it's impossible to fault.
anonymous - 25 Oct 2006 21:34
i have visited the red lion on 2 occasions and i have fell in love with it ,the charming mirrows and decor is so untouched by time,the english little manageress is so freindly and helpfull she told me and my freinds about the dick wittingon ale trail,the real ale choice was good,i had adnams ,beautifull clear pint which is hard to find was wonderfull ,i defintly will return
anonymous - 28 May 2006 22:41
bootiful place. Another nice visit. Had some friendly punters in as well. Adnams bad but youngs and Pride and Bombadier were all good. Will be back.
mitomighty - 24 Apr 2006 16:57
Charming little pub off Jermyn St with a no smoking section at the front! Well done.Range of beers on offer when I visited last Saturday:Adnams,Old Speckled Hen,Youngs and London Pride.The Pride was off so opted for a Hen then asked for a Youngs but was told that was off too.Why the bloody hell they don't turn the effing pump clips round when they run out is beyond me! People were coming in only to be told beers were not available.One wonders what sort of managers run these pubs that run out of beer,it's a disgrace.
Miles007 - 10 Apr 2006 09:37
popped in on a sat night and there were about 10 people. Great decor nice beer loved the glass (on the wall). loved it.

staff language was ok on this occasion but in the argyll arms up the road there was plenty of miscommunication afoot! i'll moan about that elsewhere!!
mitomighty - 5 Mar 2006 15:05
A nice pub, with a very pretty little interior on the ground floor (there's more seating upstairs, but the atmosphere's not as nice). A good selection of ales in reasonable condition--nothing show-stopping, but the usual range of bitters for a Nicholson's.

Mercifully, it seems to have so far escaped the attention of the hordes on Piccadilly St., at least during the week--we last went on a Thursday evening and found the place not at all crowded, though from the comments of others on this page we may have just been lucky. On the weekends, I wouldn't count on a seat.
Hodsthorn - 2 Mar 2006 08:54
In my opinion the finest pub interior in London. It can get very busy in the evenings, so you might have to wait for a while to get a seat.
clissold345 - 2 Feb 2006 18:43
Excellent looking pub, quite rightly marked out as such by CAMRA. Decent range of beers, too.

The only real drawback in the past has been the bar staff - invariably Eastern European and attractive, but without the slightly grasp of the English Language which I find incredibly annoying.
toozer - 10 Nov 2005 13:54
Excellent pub, but I'd recommend you go on a Sunday evening when you'll have a chance of getting a seat (weekday and Friday nights can be hell). Great interior, great location, friendly bar staff. Could do with being a bit more spacious, but I guess that's part of the charm. Well worth a visit.
steve5312 - 28 Jul 2005 15:29
Small but stunning. If you want to show off to tourists, this is the place to do so. Just don't expect to get a seat very quickly--the pub is so small that it can crowd easily.
Mr.Matt - 28 Feb 2005 03:57
This is one of the most beautiful pubs I have ever seen. It is a masterpiece of mirrors and carved, well polished wood. Very busy with the lunch and afterwork bunch. Otherwise it is an excellent place to have a peaceful pint.
Charles - 24 Oct 2004 12:36
It is probably the most amazing piece of pub architecture there is. I think it is also a listed building. Quite simply an institution for the retail shirt industry on Jermyn Street.
Anthony Procopi - 19 Feb 2004 16:02

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