Bods’s Guide to Pubs in Merton: The Sultan pub

Published on 27 January 2009 in , , , , ,

When I lived in Ealing some years ago, I seemed to do nothing but write posts about pubs, beer and restaurants or whatever.  For some reason I stopped and I never really mentioned anything that’s in the area I live in now.  Which is Merton, SW19, London.

So it’s time now to even the score, as I present a small series I’ve cunningly called “Bods’s Guide to Pubs in Merton”. 

It’s basically a series of posts about pubs that are in walking distance of my house, and which I rate and recommend.  It’s all mostly in Merton and Colliers Wood – two towns which basically merge into one and which no one really knows where they begin and end because they’re really ill-defined. 

So with that said, this is Part 1. 

The Sultan

78 Norman Road, Merton, London SW19 1BT

When we moved to SW19, we were lucky in that we knew some people there.  In fact there was quite a colony of people in the area, and as such, my first visit to The Sultan was way before we moved in.  It’s also the only pub in the area that I did a proper review for – I wrote about the Sultan in 2004

In that particular piece I forgot something very important.  I didn’t mention something that everyone else, without fail, mentions from the outset.

This is the only Hop Back pub in London.  This means this is the only place in London where you can always get GFB, Entire Stout and, of course, Summer Lightning, on tap, all the time.  There’s also a guest beer – often one of Hop Back’s seasonal beers, or from Hop Back’s neighbour, the Downton Brewery.

The pub itself is a 1950s brick build roadhouse, named after a 1830s racehorse.  It’s split into two rooms – a larger saloon, named after former Archers actor Ted Higgens, and a smaller public bar.  The décor is pretty plain – the large pine tables and chairs are slightly confusing, but the atmosphere is friendly and calm.  It’s a locals pub and a friendly one.

There’s no TVs and no juke box – the saloon usually has the radio playing (Magic FM normally) but the public bar is noise free.  As for food?  Well if you don’t want crisps, pork scratchings or a Pepperami, you’re a bit stuffed.  This is a beer drinking pub, not an eating pub – and it’s an attitude that works, having won the South West London CAMRA branch pub of the year several times, as well as winning the CAMRA Greater London pub of the year a few years ago, along with Time Out’s Best London Pub award in 2004.

The Sultan also has a nice, but small beer garden which hosts the annual beer festival in September.  However one addition following the smoking ban does detract from it – for some reason the garden now features lighting of the blaring floodlights persuasion, meaning nighttime outdoor drinking isn’t as calm and relaxed as it used to be. 

But the most distinctive feature of the Sultan can be found in the gents toilets.  Scrawled above the urinal is a phrase that has been there since the dawn of time, and which frankly no one seems to know or understand – and which can’t even be found in Google.  Well until now.  That phrase is Scriv Biv.  And if seeing that doesn’t make a trip to the Sultan worthwhile, I don’t know what is.

Tomorrow, Bods’s Guide to Pubs in Merton continues with a trip to another pub – The Trafalgar Freehouse.


  • The trouble with the Sultan is that there’s never anyone in there under the age of 50. No atmosphere.
    Good beer, though.

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    That’s often one of the things I like about it! But there are sometimes younger people in there. For starters, I was there last Wednesday! And coincidentally there was a small group of mid-20 somethings playing darts,