It’s taken us just twenty minutes by train from central London to get here but as we walk along East Sheen’s leafy streets lined with grand old houses it’s so quiet we could be in the countryside.
After a short while we arrive at The Victoria, a smart 19th century pub in a peaceful side street. We’re here to sample the food that’s previously won them the title of ‘Best Gastropub In London’ and as they have seven bedrooms we’ve decided to treat ourselves and stay the night.
A friendly staff member checks us in and shows us through to the hotel building. The room is pretty – if a little basic – bright and clean, and the bed looks comfy which is all we need! And we like the monogrammed towels in the tiny bathroom.
Beautiful Richmond Park is nearby so we decide to go for a stroll in the famous Deer Park to work up an appetite. Red deer have roamed freely here since the 1500s and it’s amazing to see so many together. It’s rutting season though, so we keep our distance!
Back at The Victoria we enjoy a pre-dinner glass of wine at the bar. The pub’s tastefully done, with smart dark wood furniture and blackboards listing the bar menu and featured wines. We both agree that we’d love it as our local.
The dining room is really atmospheric, with candles twinkling on the tables and the night sky above, and as we look at the menu we see it’s an appealing mixture of traditional European dishes with some Indian and North African influences. But, woe, my heart sinks when our (very hunky) waiter tells me that the grouse I was fancying is off, but there’s plenty to compensate.
For starters, Monsieur 2 has Cornish squid, crisp rings piled onto a refreshing tomato and coriander salad. I have a salad Landaise, a mix of crispy-skinned duck confit, earthy gizzards and crunchy shallots and green beans. It’s really satisfying although pretty huge for a starter.
Our main courses are great too. No surprise that Monsieur 2 chooses rib-eye steak with skinny fries and bearnaise – he loves his red meat! It’s a good piece of beef, seared on the griddle pan to just rare, exactly how he likes it. The fries too come in for highest praise, no mean feat as he’s a fusspot when it comes to chips.
I’m really impressed with rose veal osso bucco – braised shin. It’s wonderfully rich and tender, with a generous amount of bone marrow which I scoop out and devour, and served with a lovely tangy risotto Milanese.
We finish off with walnut and pecan baklava for me, which has good cinnamon flavour without being cloying, and for Monsieur 2 who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth the ‘mini-dessert’ of white chocolate panna cotta with gooseberries, served in a shot glass, is perfect.
With an excellent selection of wines by the glass which the staff are clearly knowledgeable about, we’ve been able to order to suit our differing tastes. Service has been impeccable – polished but informal, suited to the pub surroundings. We’re full and happy by the time we adjourn to the bar for nightcaps.
Bedtime, and we’re glad to find that the bed is as comfy as it looks. It’s also nice to be in a queen size bed – we’re so used to sleeping in hotels’ huge king size beds that we appreciate being able to get cosy!
After a great night’s sleep we shower and head downstairs for breakfast. The conservatory looks great in the bright morning sunlight and we see the pub’s attractive garden in all its glory.
We’re brought tea and coffee and invited to help ourselves from the generous buffet. There are jars of nuts and grains for DIY granola, fresh fruit, juices, compote, yoghurts, cheese and charcuterie, as well as a Dualit toaster and bloomer loaf for making toast. The home-made preserves are fantastic.
Our cooked choices are great too; Monsieur 2 keeps it simple with poached Clarence Court eggs on granary toast, but I go for the ‘Very Full English’ which is brilliant, especially the Norfolk bacon and Old Spot Cumberland sausage. With all the newspapers available we linger for a good while, making it a lovely leisurely start to the day – and the weekend.
We requested a late check out time (it’s usually 10am), and so we’ve feel happy and relaxed when it’s time to hand in our key and settle up. We’ve really enjoyed our gastronomic mini-break; both meals have been outstanding, the staff enormously friendly, and our room, albeit fairly basic, has been a comfortable and reasonably-priced base for the night. With our time spent in the park and the tranquility of East Sheen, it’s actually felt like a much longer break than just one night; it’s an experience we’re sure to repeat.
Our rating: The Victoria is without a doubt fantastic for its food – and give it a 3.5 star rating as a boutique gay friendly hotel in Richmond.
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