The Sanctuary Café

Restaurants, Cafés West Hampstead
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The Sanctuary Café
Richard Ehrlich

A few weeks ago we said that a rather dismal café in a post office in Holloway was the first such operation in London. A TO reader tweeted us saying that another had already opened in West Hampstead. And not only was this a café/post office combo, it was situated in a church.

Here, happily, the postman delivers only good news. The Sanctuary at Grade II-listed St James Church is a wonderful café, capably run and warmly welcoming. An espresso had cooled off a bit by the time it reached us, but it was well made. Better still was a ham and cheese toastie (part of a range which they heroically resisted the temptation to call Posties). And best of all was a pair of gluten-free cakes, especially a light and airy orange cake: the equal of any we’ve tasted in London.

On a Saturday afternoon the place was jumping, literally: there is a children’s play area here, and the kids were out in force. Weekdays are quieter, according to the manager, who also explained how the whole thing came about. When plans were announced to shut down the local post office, St James’s vicar,  Andrew Cain, hatched the idea of moving it to his church. Money was raised, and the new operation – which also includes a shop – opened in July. Profits will go to a local community charity.

If you live anywhere nearby, you should go there: St James is a dream of a neighbourhood café. But note that on Sundays, the church is used as a church.

By Richard Ehrlich


Venue name: The Sanctuary Café
Address: St James Church
The Sherriff Centre
2 Sherriff Road
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 8.30am-5.30pm
Transport: Tube/rail: West Hampstead
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Average User Rating

4.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Love this place. A local church has been made into a post office, cafe and childrens' play area......lovely sandwiches and coffee.

It's such a new take on a cafe and shows how it's possible to combine it's different elements - great food and drink, play, post office services and even prayer if you want - but they also run an excellent and innovative quiz night. A real communal hub that is full of new thinking and fearless experimentation.

This place is amazing has a great soft play area for the little ones

It's a beautiful venue with excellent staff. Their extra curricular work with the Homeless is brilliant aswell!

Amazing healthy food and friendly staff, coffee is top notch and its great if you have kids as theres a huge play area

Beautiful location. The stain glass windows are spectacular. Every member of staff is a delight!

Love this place! Great cakes, good coffee and friendly staff. All Churches should be like this

It's great to see a historic church having a new lease of life in serving the community. Fantastic initiative.

Just the best place to have coffee and bring kids. The idea behind it is inspirational - the profits go to funding a social worker for the elderly in the local area - and the high-end sofas, coffee, great soups and tagines, and brilliant kids menu make it really wonderful. Cakes and coffee are way more expensive than necessary but then the profits are all for a good cause, so it balances out. Just a great place.

Normally, running tedious errands of queuing for postage and purchasing boxes and cards is one of the rather more dreaded Saturday tasks undertaken by weary Londoners, especially in the lead up to Christmas. However, at the post office in St James, the cheerful and warm atmosphere more than makes up for the journey in. Enjoy a sinfully delicious menu of hot drinks and snacks in one of the comfy armchairs or sofas in the lovely Sanctuary Cafe where no one will hurry or worry you. Take in the ambiance of the majestic church interior and the infectious delight of little voices playing in the hullabaloo opposite. Top destination with the great satisfaction of all profits going to charity. I think this local gem is pretty hard to beat!!!

Lovely staff, delicious food, and a beautiful setting. Plus the Oreo Brownie changed my life...

Fantastic place when you have a child that you want to keep busy while you are enjoying a coffee, panini or an amazing cake. Staff is very friendly, there is a huge playground for toddlers, some pop-up shops to buy little things... Highly recommanded.

Soak in the blessings - lovely staff, excellent post office facilities - open till 6 pm on Saturday, delicious cakes and books to read. Real community vibe, support lots of causes including the foodbank - so take a few non-perishables to leave by the altar.