10, West Temple Sheen, London SW14 7RT |Tel:020 8876 4238 www.thevictoria.net
Approach The Victoria from one direction and you wonder what a nice little pub like this is doing it what appears to be a residential area, albeit one that is rather pricey. Approach from the other direction though and you realise that it’s actually just a stone’s throw from Richmond Park and ideal for walkers, cyclists and anyone to aim for.
A pub then, but don’t think plain old pub food. Paul Merret is the co-owner along with restaurateur Greg Bellamy, and Paul has an excellent track record as a Michelin starred chef. Now running his own place he has welded his quality cooking to a charming old-world interior and fuss-free seating in a conservatory to the side. The dishes aren’t complicated in description or content, but quality of ingredients and skill in preparation means they are all well up in the premier league. Even a wake taking place in the main bar can’t stop us grinning happily at the menu
White onion soup with chorizo and herb oil is just the right quantity for lunch. The onions carefully cooked down without a hint of burn to taint the velvet flavour. Only the herbs bobbing in an envelope of oil above the submerged little cubes of spicy chorizo break the Dulux whiteness. My dish of two caramelised scallops sat alongside a perfect piece of slow-cooked pork belly, its meat falling away and its crackling blistered and full of flavour, is equally perfect. A puree of green peas is actually made of peas lightly smashed so that the skins are still visible, a textural note as well as a nice visual one. Even the twist of parsnip crisp, which in other kitchens could merely be a cheffy decoration, adds another sweet note to the tune.
While we’re waiting for our mains chef sends out a little treat of another starter, a mini taster of sashimi’d Shetland salmon cut in pound coin thick slices with a crunchy edge of shallot and chilli and a cucumber pickle on the side. The fish is butter smooth, and there’s some wasabi in the mix too, I reckon.
And so to mains. Seeing my steamed fillet of bream arrive I had a moment of panic- I’d forgotten that I don’t normally like the look of steamed fish, but this soon reassured me. It was so fresh that the skin was flashing silver as if the bream was still swimming about and had flesh like a white cloud. The delicate yet intense flavour of the fish went superbly with the tangle of pak choi and cavolo nero it was sat on, the vegetables wok fried to retain bite and flavoured with a dash of coconut milk and spiked with chilli. Best thing I’ve eaten for weeks, no contest.
My pal’s roasted Barbary duck breast was properly pink inside, but I never doubted this chef would make an elementary mistake. Braised cabbage, and rosti potato were fine but what really sang out was the celeriac pureee. This ugly veg is a real Cinderella in the kitchen and made a superb mash to go with this quality piece of quacker.
Great desserts of a classic Jamaican Ginger cake on a poached rhubarb compote with maramalade ice cream and some lovely gooey dark chocolate fudge cake with a white chocolate sorbet, made us fancy a little lie down, and as The Victoria also happens to be a bijou hotel, we could easily have done so.
With such way above average food, a nice ‘pubby’ feel and the promise of summer meals in the garden, this would be my regular place to dine if I could afford to live in the area. Thoroughly recommended.