There a great pubs and there are great restaurants - but what if you combined the two? What do you think the result might look like? My wife and I discovered just that, culinary paradise in a relaxed, informal and convivial atmosphere, when we recently visited The Victoria, a gastro pub within spitting distance of Richmond Park owned and run by the renowned chef Paul Merrett. In fact to call The Victoria a gastro pub would be far too simplistic; Paul is a Michelin starred chef with years of experience in London fine dining restaurants and has brought his undoubted skills to the table in a way that transforms simple ingredients into meals that are, all be they served in a pub, rather extraordinary. Not only that, a finely crafted menu where provenance of the ingredients is a core strand running through the business results in meals of exquisite excellence, but without the fancy-schmancy price tag of a fine dining restaurant or more pretentious establishment where punters usually pay through the nose for the privilege.
As well as being a great pub and a place to eat, The Victoria is also a wonderful hotel-cum-B&B where visitors can use the venue as a base from which to explore the capital city - and we look forward to the summer when we hope to stay for a day or two there. It should also be noted that The Victoria offers a Saturday Brunch, Sunday, breakfast and children's menu - so it really is a go-to destination for lovers of real, tasty tucker.
Back to the meal. Our choice was from the a la carte menu which, for the quality of cuisine on offer, is amazingly priced; starters coming in at around £7. My wife had the goat's curd on chargrilled sourdough with beetroot and honeycomb whilst I plumped for the smoked chicken and shaved fennel salad with blood orange and saffron emulsion. Both starters were delectable and whetted the appetite for the main event. In the red corner, my wife had 28 day aged steak with a beautiful Bernaise sauce and thrice cooked chips; chunky little numbers served beautifully in a mini chip basket - and in the blue corner, I decided on the braised Ox cheeks, slow cooked to meltingly tender perfection in a delicious jus with baby root vegetables, a silky smooth mash and a parsley crumb. We washed this down with a glass of excellent white wine from the extensive wine list and I, a pint of artisan brewery ale from Devon, one of The Victoria's regular guest ales.
We drove two hours to visit The Victoria and in all honesty, we would have driven three, the meal was that good. If Paul Merrett ever wants to visit St Albans and open up there, I for one and of course my wife will be taking up permanent residence. To recap: to call The Victoria a pub is far too simplistic although a pub is what it ostensibly is. In terms of quality of dining experience however, it really is very much more than a gastro pub and has a highly innovative menu with dishes made from well sourced ingredients sold at prices which, for the quality and experience of the chef, are astoundingly classy. I implore you to try The Victoria once. If you do, you will discover probably the best 'pub food' you will have ever tasted - and a dining experience that will have you wanting more and more and then some more!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Victoria is a public house and dining room with hotel rooms set in a leafy residential area by Richmond Park. All seven hotel rooms, refurbished in May 2011, feature: Queen sized beds • en-suite shower rooms • Egyptian cotton bedding • Wi-Fi access • Flat screen television • IPod docking system • Complimentary tea and coffee • Complimentary mineral water • Preferential restaurant reservations during your stay. The refurbished pub and dining room have some charming new features and some original old features which have been lovingly restored under the ownership of critically acclaimed Chef Paul Merrett and Restaurateur Greg Bellamy. Enjoy delicious food in our conservatory dining room, with sumptuous wine from our extensive list. Relax with a pint and a steak sandwich in the pub. Chill at the weekend with brunch or a roast, while the children enjoy the outdoor play area. Gossip over coffee with home-made cake or unwind with a summer BBQ in our beautiful garden. After all that, you’ll need a good night’s sleep in one of our popular en-suite bedrooms. ... more less
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