Finding East Sheen’s The Victoria proves to be a rather trickier journey than you’d imagine. Although it’s only a few miles away from Putney, finding a taxi or bus along the Upper Richmond Road on a Friday night proves an undertaking roughly on a par with rolling cheese up a hill with your nose, blindfolded. Then when you reach East Sheen, The Victoria is only located after some painstaking detective work involving Google Maps, lurking as it does down a couple of distinctly suburban side roads. The unsuspecting visitor might be surprised to hear that what awaits is one of South-West London’s best gastropubs, a place in equal parts homely tradition and modernist flair.
The man who’s responsible for combining flair and tradition is chef Paul Merrett, whose brainchild this is, along with his partner Greg Bellamy. After serving his time in various Michelin-starred establishments, Merrett apparently decided that he wanted to do something simpler, and so set his sights on opening a traditional, top-notch pub. The dining area, encompassing both a conservatory and a more traditional bar, is comfortable and pleasant but free of the sort of pretentious frills (yes, we’re looking at you Marco and Gordon) that a lot of high-end chefs feel that they have to decorate their pubs with. Here, it’s the food and drink that you come for, not the pretension.
The short, well-chosen menu offers a variety of dishes that should appeal to the carnivorous and discerning ladies-who-dine alike. Starters of salad landaise (lashings of duck confit and gizzard) and crispy Cornish squid set the mouth watering before main courses of rack of lamb and butternut squash and polenta allow one to realise that Merrett is a man of serious talent, and the buzzy atmosphere means that prices are allowed to be kept sensible, mainly at the sub-£20 a dish mark. For cooking of this calibre, that’s one of the best bargains in town. The wine list is similarly well priced; a bottle of full-bodied and rich Malvasia Nera 2009 from Puglia is an absolute steal at a mere £31.
If you’re too inebriated to bother going home, then staying the night is an easily recommended option.
If you’re too tired, or just too inebriated, to bother going home, then staying the night is an easily recommended option. The cosy and well-appointed rooms, just a short stagger away from the main building, offer all the mod cons that you’d expect, from iPod docks and flatscreen TVs to splendidly comfortable beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, allowing you to sleep and dream uninterrupted slumbers of bliss. Then a cracking full English awaits you on the morrow, with bacon, eggs, black pudding, baked beans, fried bread and every other sort of goody, along with a smorgasbord of continental pastries, yoghurts and all sorts.
You’ll leave here replete, happy and wanting to recommend what you’ve had to all of your friends. And, with any luck, you’ll be able to give them better directions as well, meaning that finding their way to this semi-secret delight won’t be nearly as hard as it was for you. Just don’t tell too many people; even East Sheen has to have a few hidden treasures.
The Victoria, 10 West Temple Sheen, London, SW14 7RT, Tel: +44 20 8876 4238, Email: email@example.com
The Victoria is an elusive treat
Finding East Sheen’s The Victoria proves to be a rather trickier journey than you’d imagine but, since it turns out to be one of South-West London’s best gastropubs, a place in equal parts homely tradition and modernist flair, Alex Larman reckons it’s worth the effort.
Alex Larman woke up at the tender age of 23 and, Martin Luther King-like, announced to the world that he had a dream. He was simultaneously going to write the 21st century's answer to Ulysses, direct the film that the bastard child of Scorsese, Kubrick and George Formby might have made and become a global roue on a hitherto unknown scale. Then reality kicked in, and the dream collapsed, in favour of a parlous and occasionally sketchy existence maintained writing about food, drink, film and all the other essential requirements of a modern boulevardier's life.
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