Sanctum Soho London is a new, £20 million hotel from Mark Fuller, who is better known as a restaurateur and nightclub owner (Embassy, Geales etc). The press puff describes the hotel as ‘an alluring haven of hedonism’, though there was little evidence of this on our visit. The rooftop spa bath (overlooked by offices across the street, oh dear) was empty; there were no scantily clad starlets darting from room to room. Instead, we found an expensive hotel (rooms around £300 per night, with ‘crash pads’ from £185) decorated in the sort of mirrored and brassy taste that’s a big hit in Dubai – even the jewelled room doorhandles look like something from Claire’s Accessories.
The restaurant’s much more sober, if you ignore the tedious ‘Now That’s What I Call Dodgy R&B’ playing on our visit. Toffee colours dominate, with some mismatched chairs that look like a job lot from a burlesque outfitters. Our fellow diners consisted of Jodie Marsh lookalikes and the many men of wonga: middle-aged geysers in black suits wearing expensive watches and gold chains, speaking broad Estuary English. At the next table, one chap cornered conversation with talk of his investments in Barbados.
Mark Fuller’s places tend to land just the right side of tacky because he manages to create great food in his restaurants, the most notable being Embassy. No. 20’s menu isn’t at the exalted level of Embassy, but it’s mostly good. We were impressed by a fricassée-style dish of rose veal, perfectly tender and served with baby vegetables; and a starter of pressed ham hock was also well-made. A pudding of ‘blueberry pie’ (actually a tart) had wafer-thin pastry and stole the show.
Other dishes were well-intentioned, but the execution was wide of the mark. Salt cod cake tasted of potato, with no discernable salt cod flavour, and the breadcrumbed crust reminded us of cheap fish cakes; the dabs of salad leaf garnishing the cirmumference of the plate like the face of a cuckoo clock couldn’t disguise a dull dish. And a wagyu beef burger, ‘100% wagyu’ as the charming manager reassured us, could have been sensational if the kitchen hadn’t toasted a stale bun to sandwich it.
Service throughout was charming and smiling (as we’d hope for, with 15% service added). The wine list is quite brief and limited, with only two whites and two reds by the glass; prices start mid-range but climb rapidly. Of course, there are lots of Champagnes. Sanctum wouldn’t be rock’n’ roll without them. Incidentally, we did try to rent a room by the hour – the mostly widely-reported USP this hotel – but I'm still awaiting the receptionist’s return call, so we’re unable to report back on the Wii consoles, Myla underwear, Jimmyjane ‘intimacy kits’ or the ‘much, much more’. But if the restaurant is anything to do by, such gimmicks may not live up to the anticipation.