NOVEMBER 2019: We’ve added some of our favourite spots in Victoria, including Ole & Steen (a branch of the on-trend Danish bakery), Bleecker (a US burger joint), The Other Naughty Piglet (a chichi wine bar and small plates joint above Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Other Palace theatre) and Market Hall Victoria (an Aladdin’s cave of enterprising food traders). Heading towards Pimlico, we also like Dragon Inn Club (great for proper Sichuan cooking), Kazan (an opulent Ottoman grill), Lorne (elegant but unfussy modern food) and A Wong (creative Chinese cuisine in a casual space).
Traditionally a wasteland when it comes to decent restaurants (unless you count all the chains), the area around Victoria station has been given a big shot in the arm by the arrival of Market Hall Victoria (and, to a lesser extent, the shiny Nova development). There’s now enough colour and flavour there to satisfy any culinary craving, at any price – whether you’re after a bowl of pasta, an Aussie brunch, some Danish baked goodies or a good old British roast. Moving out towards Pimlico, you’ll find fancy-pants contemporary cooking, opulent Ottoman cuisine and some stonking Chinese venues. Here’s our pick of the best places.
The best restaurants in Victoria
Forget gilded dragons, book-length menus and stir-fries by numbers, Andrew Wong’s big-hitting but pared-back Pimlico Chinese is a singular affair offering elevated cuisine at everyday prices. Preserved duck egg with marinated tofu, chilli and soy is typical, as is poached razor clam with sea cucumber, vinegar tapioca and wind-dried sausage. Take a trip round China with the spectacular tasting menu or simply park up at the bar-counter and nibble away at your leisure.
When only a filthy-good US-style burger made with rare-breed dry-aged beef will do, Bleecker’s first bricks-and-mortar outlet comes up trumps. The oozing bacon cheeseburger is a carnivore’s dream – load it with ketchup and mustard, and order a side of ‘angry fries’ drizzled in blue cheese and hot sauce, too. Our advice? Come hungry, eat fast and don’t linger – this place is quick and dirty.
Midway between Victoria and Pimlico, Dragon Inn Club tries to be all things to all people. The menu covers a lot of Chinese territory but stick to the Sichuan dishes if you’re looking for the authentic stuff – magnificent chilled appetisers and punchy chilli-laced specialities with hints of sweetness and deep-rich saltiness. You’re encouraged to eat in the basement – a low-lit, atmospheric space done out like a beach bar, with log booths and a soundtrack of monotonous beats.
If you’re looking for a funky but laidback vibe in Victoria’s sleek Nova building, you can’t beat Hai Cenato, Jason Atherton’s bullish steel-and-glass tribute to the Italian-American pizzeria. But don’t come here for the heavily hyped but disappointing pizzas (okay toppings, thick but tasteless bases), instead, plump for the smart modern starters, brilliant flavoursome pastas and joyously calorific twist on the ice-cream sandwich. The Drunken Oyster bar upstairs does a mean line in cocktails.
No relation to Kazan Kitchen across the road, this opulent Ottoman grill has been a Pimlico mainstay since 2002 – a polished, atmospheric spot complete with carved screens, glowing lanterns and flower-topped tables. Expect to pay a little more your nosh, but in return you’ll get creative mezze plates, prettily presented kebabs, full-flavoured regional specialities (the Albanian-style calf’s liver is a must-order) and a few resolutely un-Ottoman offerings (but stick to the Middle Eastern classics).
Elegant enough for mature sloanes, stylish enough for yuppies and a no-brainer for business entertaining, Lorne is the restaurant of Pimlico’s dreams – and a bookmark if you’re around Victoria station. The swishly turned-out, slightly feminine dining room is a perfect fit for the kitchen’s good-looking but unfussy modern cooking, which yields dishes such as grilled plaice with garganelli, ’nduja, white crab, peas, celery and samphire. There are excellent Sunday roasts, too, and tip-top wines to match the food.
The lovely crew who brought us Market Hall Fulham have opened a foodie complex at Terminus Place in Victoria. What was an Edwardian shopping arcade is now a vibrant, opulent space complete with three bars, a coffee shop, 11 kitchens and a 100-seater roof terrace. It’s a vibey sort of place and gets pretty noisy at peak times, but the food traders are excellent with lots of big names alongside hopeful young contenders.
We love Ole & Steen’s on-trend Danish bakery in St James, and this swish offshoot in Victoria’s Nova complex also has a lot going for it. Its counters are loaded with sweet and savoury delights galore – cinnamon social slices, flaky croissants, fancy cakes, muffins, baguettes, smørrebrød (open sandwiches on rye bread) and much more besides. Uncluttered seating and tall ceilings emphasise the Scandi-chic vibe and you can watch the bakers in action if you nab a seat upstairs.
Like the original Naughty Piglets in Brixton, this offshoot is part chichi wine bar, part small plates joint – a haven for show-goers and grape-loving foodies on the upper floor of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Other Palace theatre in Victoria. You can probably skip desserts (especially if curtain-up is on your mind) but everything else is spot-on – from creamy burrata with pesto and courgettes to a champion dish of black pudding with slippery, vinegar-steeped cuttlefish and capers.
The airy younger sibling of Fitzrovia’s Riding House Café, this all-day café and diner in Victoria’s Nova development is a friendly, social hangout full of interesting design quirks and trendy detailing. The food is a bit of a mixed bag, although you’ll have a nice time if you stick to the Anglo-US stuff rather than veering off into Latin or Asian territory – the reuben sandwiches and caesar salad are brilliant. Staff are solicitous and full of smiles.
Billed as a ‘modern take on the great British carvery’, but occupying a noisy, cavernous space within Victoria’s Nova centre, Stoke House is (thankfully) better than expected – especially if you fancy a trencherman’s plate of roasted flesh (perfectly cooked beef rump, crispy and fatty lamb belly etc). Sadly, sundries and sides can be a bit of a let-down, but this is still a sound option for hungry local office workers and travellers.
Slotted into Nova’s foodie hub, Timmy Green (part of the Daisy Green Collection) is a stylish and spacious all-day Aussie diner spread over two floors, with snazzy Art Deco touches and a cute baby grand in one corner. Bondi-style bottomless brunch brings in the punters, but there are all sorts of goodies on offer, from trendy small plates and fresh salads to grilled grass-fed meats. To drink, you’ll find craft beers, Aussie natural wines and innovative cocktails.