The Windsor Castle (ex-The Cardinal), Victoria

Our rating: FAP Rating 3 - Click for an explanation of our ratings      User rating: Community Rating 2 - Click for an explanation of our ratings   (13 reviews)
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FancyaPint?'s review...
FAP Rating 3 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
Brewer Sam Smith's caused a bit of a stir with their refurbishment of this pub, hidden behind Westminster Cathedral. Considering that they usually do an excellent job of restoring pubs (such as with the beautiful Princess Louise in Holborn), this was a bit of a surprise. It actually turns out a few people were upset with the name change, to one which predates the current (already very old) one. Even Archbishops (who should've been grateful it wasn't bought by Nandos) waded into the non-event. More important things were afoot inside however and the interior has now been brought back - using the cliché – to its former glory. Wooden partitions have made a comeback, as has a parquet floor and lots of brass. The old gloomy rear eating area has been turned onto a more open, loungey affair - which looks like a cross between a gentleman’s club and a hotel foyer. As a Sam Smith’s pub, you know what to expect on the food and drinks side of things - a reasonable selection of their own ales and wines, plus some cheap pub grub. The clientele is identical to that pre-refurb: officer workers, lost tourists and a smattering of lucky older residents. Overall, it’s hard not to like such a handsome pub.
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Reviews (1)
07 Feb 2013
Rating 0 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
Absolutely agree with StephenB12 - tried to have a nice evening in there recently, but it was terrible. Took ages to get served at the bar, although it wasn't even busy; staff couldn't be bothered to serve; the place was a tip; and the heating was broken. What used to be a great pub is now run by children. Afraid we won't be going back any more.
Reviews (1)
07 Feb 2013
Rating 1 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
I have been back quite a few times since the refurb and like what they have done with the place. BUT...the staff, OMG what is it with this place? I thought the previous staff when it first reopened were bad but it just gets worse. Seriously avoid this place for at least a couple of years until the staff grow up. They are so inexperienced and have no idea how to serve drinks, be polite, be efficient, clean up as they go along and look the most disinterested bar staff I have ever seen. They cannot cope with even three of them behind the bar, the place is never that busy but I waited 15 minutes to get served. One problem is they haven't been trained to work sections of the bar and dont note who is next- also can only pour one drink at at time. It's a shame because it's a good Sam Smiths in a good location but the staff have no idea- neither does the bar manageress as she wasn't present for most of the evening while all the empty glasses were either piling up on the bar or being dropped on the floor behind it- Mr Smith sort out your staff.
Reviews (2)
18 Dec 2012
Rating 1 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
We have now over the past 4 years given this at least 6 chances to prove that it could be a good place to meet friends and have lunch. Unfortunately it has failed on all occasions!!. Today’s lunch should have been simple, chicken breast burger with chips and salad………..Yer, right, the chicken had been microwaved, (they deny this) but you just know, how else could something be solid in the middle, then they say it was defrosted in the microwave, well same thing, it still cooks it and then lightly tanned with a griddle pan to make it look as if its been cooked! Hence, tough, chewy, anaemic no taste pieces of chicken in a bap with nothing else….. chips were good. Sent back to the bar staff who asked would I like anything else, asked for a beef burger without the bap this time, simple, Nope….. ended up with a BEAN BURGER, the chips were still good but I like my meat. Would I go back, nope, sorry you have had too many chances to get the basics right and I can understand why the staff are rude, you need get a decent cook in, they are the ones that have to deal with the complaints!!
Reviews (2)
18 Dec 2012
Rating 2 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
We have now over the past 4 years given this at least 6 chances to prove that it could be a good place to meet friends and have lunch. Unfortunately it has failed on all occasions!!. Today’s lunch should have been simple, chicken breast burger with chips and salad………..Yer, right, the chicken had been microwaved, (they deny this) but you just know, how else could something be solid in the middle, then they say it was defrosted in the microwave, well same thing, it still cooks it and then lightly tanned with a griddle pan to make it look as if its been cooked! Hence, tough, chewy, anaemic no taste pieces of chicken in a bap with nothing else….. chips were good. Sent back to the bar staff who asked would I like anything else, asked for a beef burger without the bap this time, simple, Nope….. ended up with a BEAN BURGER, the chips were still good but I like my meat. Would I go back, nope, sorry you have had too many chances to get the basics right and I can understand why the staff are rude, you need get a decent cook in, they are the ones that have to deal with the complaints!!
Reviews (11)
03 Dec 2012
Rating 4 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
The Windsor Castle used to be called The Cardinal but has since undergone a full refurb and a name change. It's still a Samuel Smith pub though so serves reasonably priced beers which is a refreshing change in this part of town. The bar staff were friendly too!

The bar is over 2 levels. On the ground floor it has a central bar area, with panel divided drinking sections around it and a large relaxing lounge area at the back with a very attractive stained glass ceiling. It has dark wood and ornate etched glass throughout and has a very traditional and cosy feel to it.

Upstairs there is a large dining lounge that has been done up in a similar style. They really have done a great job restoring this pub to how it once probably looked a hundred years ago and is certainly worth a little detour to visit.

The only down side is that you can't take your drinks outside and there is no outdoor seating area.
Reviews (1)
09 Aug 2012
Rating 1 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
The staff are a real problem here - unwelcoming, confrontational, unfriendly. There's a little Australian who thinks her job is to be as unpleasant as possible to everyone; a right little Hitler and a jobsworth. It's a real challenge to like or to enjoy a pub when people like that (and the rancid duty manager) are around, spoiling your evening.
Sam Smiths' beer is the usual low quality, but combined with high prices here the place is often empty compared to 5 years or so ago, when it was humming every night.
They must be losing thousands - we were the last to leave at 10.15 one night this week. The manageress blamed it on the Olympics but I think it was the smell of her tramp customers (who sit at the table by the door and in the front snug - you won't miss the smell).
The Warwick Castle is a glorious cathedral of a pub, but just as cold. Pop in to admire the fixtures and fittings, but don't plan on staying for any longer than a half. It really saps your spirit.
Reviews (1)
16 Dec 2011
Rating 4 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
@JonnyB--Not to be contentious, but the features which you've pointed out (etched glass, ornate partitionis, etc) are all contemporary, not antique, and in fact are characteristic of ALL Sam Smiths pubs. I think they all get the furnishings from the same supplier, sort of like a Victorian themed fast food chain, if you like. Also, the previous incarnation of this pub, the Cardinal, was also a Sam Smiths. Not sure whether the management has changed.

So, it's a Sam Smiths, and you get exactly what you expect from a Sam Smiths: proprietary brand booze at reasonable prices and a subdued, perhaps slightly drowsy atmosphere. I actually kind of like what they've done with the back room personally. Anyway, didn't mean this as a detraction from the previous comment, but, facts and facts, y'know...
Reviews (1)
14 Sep 2011
Rating 3 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
This must have been a great boozer once: etched glass partitions and several rooms including an upstairs lounge (which could be great with a few reading lamps and books and newspapers). However, like most pubs in Victoria this one has had its soul sucked out of it by one of the big chains; Sam Smith in this case, which does at least mean well kept bitter at a well kept price, and the two barmaids on duty were friendly enough (perhaps someone's taken note of previous reviews). To be fair I did visit mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, so perhaps it has more character in the evenings. (I can't understand though why they saw fit to change the name!! Sam Smiths must have had their reasons, but I can't imagine what they were - can anybody enlighten me? Is it something to do with chain pub branding?) If you're waiting for a train, it's worth a visit for the historic interior and reliable, well priced beer - particularly given most of the alternatives in this area - but not a destination pub.
Reviews (1)
04 Aug 2011
Rating 0 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
Staff unfriendly. Atmosphere cold. Its been revamped but lost its soul and many of its old customers
Reviews (2)
31 Jul 2011
Rating 1 - Click for an explanation of our ratings
Truly dreadful - went on 31 July 2011 and it was cavernous and almost empty, except for a barmaid who was so incredibly rude that we were left dazed and speechless. It was like being shouted at in a prison camp. Don't you dare take a glass outside or you will be shot (they claim there is a sign - none of us saw it). Not sure why it's down as The Cardinal - it is now "The Windsor Castle" and has been open under that name for several months now. Avoid like the plague, under any name.
Reviews (1)
06 Oct 2010
Not rated yet! - Click for an explanation of our ratings
Have tried to contact this pub for last two months but it seems to have closed down - pity as it looked good
Reviews (6)
02 Aug 2008
Not rated yet! - Click for an explanation of our ratings
In the very early 70's, was this pub run by Joe "Dazzler" Cornelius, a retired pro wrestler? I remember being in Joe's pub one night - very quiet - and not far from my work in Artillery Row? It wouls have been '71 or '72 - anyone help?

Contact details
23 Francis Street, Victoria, London, SW1P 1DN
020 7834 7260
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