"A real gem in West London"Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
Well where do I start to describe this real gem in West London? I have already recommended it to three people in as many days.
It is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Richmond and Sheen town centres. And this works in its favour. There is a small car park at the back and it is located on a leafy green residential road that is clearly visible from the large picture windows of the bar. Relaxing.
Décor and environment
The main bar has two sides – one is traditional with both low and high beautiful dark wood tables. The bar has elegant hanging tiffany-like white lamps and the walls bear arty boxes encasing decorative light bulbs (what will they do when incandescent bulbs are withdrawn from use?). The walls are a dark warm womb-like red but the overall feel is clean, uncluttered, modern and bright. No mean feat for a bar that has been open for just over a year. I couldn’t quite hear the music but that suited me as I like to hear what my companion is saying.
The other side of the bar is more spacious and lounge-like with large dark brown leather sofas and more low tables – complete with tea lights - and one or two open nooks containing tables for restaurant overspill. The cream walls make it all very calm and tasteful.
This bar opens into a spectacular conservatory – it is huge. My companion commented that he’d “lived in flats smaller than this”. But it’s modern. Although I must admit that it took me a while to get used to the large 70s inspired black lamp shades which were dwarfed by the sheer size of the ceiling areas. But, unlike some conservatories, it felt warm and an integral part of the place – not a stuck-on afterthought.
The conservatory is at the top end of the garden – and the walled path to the street access (just love that designer gate!) runs along its side. But it opens into a wonderful space – with an outdoor kitchen area planned for future use – with tasteful plants, the odd designer rock and plenty of tables and chairs and a well thought through play area for the children. The surrounding walls make it feel private and cosy rather than hemmed in - it is one of the nicest outdoor areas I have found.
Should you decide that you don’t want to have to drive home The Victoria even has a number of hotel rooms. I would be interested to hear anyone’s views on those.
The Victoria is co-owned by a celebrity chef (Paul Merrett – BBC “The Best” and “Ever Wondered about food”) – which usually doesn’t impress me that much. But I found myself reviewing the food as if I were in a top London restaurant rather than a suburban gastropub - it was that good.
Although I always associate chowder with the fishy heaven of Boston, I opted for the pumpkin and coconut chowder with fresh chilli and coriander (£5) to start. It had a lovely texture and was warm, filling and with just the right amount of spice and seasoning. My companion – having read the menu notes on the restaurant’s commitment to fresh, British produce – selected the English asparagus with oak smoked salmon, soft boiled egg and gribiche dressing (£8.50). He was a little surprised that the dish was cold and I was amused to see it had an almost kindergarten layout – squares shapes in the middle with chopped gherkin and onion encircling them but he reported that it tasted extremely good.
For mains I selected the prima vera risotto with new season peas, feves and asparagus with herb and caper dressing (£12.50) which was as a risotto should be. I liked that shaves of parmesan were provided in a separate dish so I could add as I pleased. My companion was delighted that his substantial 21 day aged Devon 7oz rib eye steak (£17.50) was presented on a wooden block although he has a thing about steak knives that I don’t get. It was confident cooking.
The thrice cooked chips were sublime. I would go back again just for those although my companion grizzled a bit as there was cucumber in his mixed leaf salad – and he hates cucumber. But to avoid coming across as negative, he spontaneously commented on the delightful tear shaped bowls too.
Other menu features were the Jersey oysters – a bargain at £8. My eye was also attracted to a scallop tagine with king prawns and cous cous (£15.50).
We washed it down with a bottle of Chilean Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon (£19) which was far superior to the glass of Bordeaux (£3.85) I had drank in the bar beforehand. But my companion reported that the London Pride was perfect and exactly as it should be. The wine list was extensive (and apparently created by wine expert Ollie Smith) but I regret my wine appreciation only extends as far as “do I like it?”. Yes, I did.
The bar staff were young and funky – dressed in black with some impressive hair styles. And that was just the boys. Unhurried but attentive service.
The restaurant staff were super pleasant but not over familiar. Desira, a sincere, genuine and unassuming member of the team, looked after us well although she was a bit timid to start with but quickly warmed to my companion’s banter. She was professional and friendly. Polite.
The young manager appeared to make a great effort to chat to everyone – and it was obvious that he knew a lot of the regulars – but to us he seemed a bit over eager – but then we are not local and he doesn’t know us.
At 730pm on a Friday evening there were a few couples in as well as one or two families – dogs and kids seem welcome here but they remained seen and not heard which is fine by me. Mind you, the kids menu wasn’t terribly inspired – but then again I know from bitter experience that small people are extremely fussy about what they eat so it’s probably best that it has been kept simple.
But it quickly filled up – mostly locals, lots of couples, one or two groups of older women on a Friday night out but with more small groups of young and old friends arriving steadily until it was full but not uncomfortably so. Eclectic.
Apparently, the breakfast here is fab – and lots of the local Mums pop in after the school run. It struck me that it would be a superb location for a weekday business lunch – impressive but recession acceptable.
And it goes without saying that the garden would be glorious on a sunny weekend lazy lunch or early evening (and just a stone’s throw from Richmond Park if you wanted to round off an outdoorsy day) and the soft lighting in the conservatory would make a romantic backdrop if you were that way inclined. All in all a pretty much “pub/restaurant for all occasions” – and right on my doorstep in West London – hooray!
This is a real Gastropub – and unpretentious. Well worth a visit. But make sure you book as it is bound to be busy at peak times and you wouldn’t want a wasted trip…
KimT reviewed The Victoria on Fri 08 May 2009