The Victoria – Sheen
Tuesday 22nd April 2014
‘Is Paul in this evening?’ I asked.
‘No, Paul went home at about six-thirty’.
I had thought as much.
The Victoria (West Temple, Sheen) is the charming public gastro-house owned by restaurateur Greg Bellamy and chef Paul Merrett, of TV renown.
I had been here on two previous occasions, and having very much enjoyed those evenings, The Victoria seemed a great shout for an impromptu celebration.
It was to my perplexity that I was to regret this.
The setting is striking, a feature-packed traditional pub leading into a conservatory, which overlooks a well-maintained patio garden. The food has always been fantastic here. And good value also. The menu includes well-sourced and sustainable fish, tasty, robust steaks and a changing variety of seasonable veg. This is matched with an equally diverse and bulky wine list.
You would be inclined to foresee a great night ahead. I certainly did.
Um…Not so. Not this time.
A Tuesday night meant just two waiting staff. This was fine as the restaurant was by no means busy. The attentiveness, however, seemed slightly irregular; although we were left happy simply by the charm and smile of the girl.
The food however deserved no such apologies.
To say that it was dire would have been both unfair and fictional. It simply was not up to the expectation garnered by my previous stopovers. Each dish had strong aspects and yet, as a whole, none seemed to stand up to the test of quality. Excellence that I’m sure Paul Merrett would himself envisage – nay, demand.
We both started with the ‘Pea Soup, goats cheese, amaranth and crushed pea crostini’. Our expectations were not dispelled on its arrival. The soups vibrancy was offset by the dainty crostini resting across the rim; a plethora of micro-herbs and tiny goats cheese crumbs sat on top. It was beautiful and we wasted no time in scarfing it down. Regrettably, however, the crostini itself quickly became soggy under the steam of the soup; and once gone it left merely the pea soup itself, or rather: pea stock. It was short on character and wanting in one key flavour: sadly it lacked the punch of pea.
Next came our mains. The verdict: middle-of-the-road, perhaps. A ‘Corn chicken roasted in Serrano ham, pappardelle pasta, roasted sweet garlic cream, chives and Parmesan’: hardly a monosyllabic entry; which is fine…except its’ grand title didn’t quite translate to the plate. It simply lacked the remarkability that might have been expected.
The 28 day aged South Devon rib eye – however, was another matter. The thrice-cooked chips were fantastic, the béarnaise was balanced, luxurious; the steak itself though was a calamity. It seemed to have been rested appropriately, it was the requested medium-rare – and yet it was under-seasoned and chewy: two major unfortunates when considering the centrepiece to a twenty quid dish. It is extremely scarce that this carnivore does not wolf down his cow. I left half…it was a tragedy of Shakespearean ilk.
The saving grace was dessert. And yet it is with commiseration and sorrow that our meal was rescued not by Paul Merrett and his kitchen, nor by the waiting staff or restaurant ambiance. It was chocolatier William Curley: for his truffles are both legendary and superlative. The coffee alongside it must also be given its dues.
All finished; we left disappointed. The staff were friendly and the chocolates great; but the starters and mains all had frailties. I was left crestfallen, though this could have been due to the high hopes I had entered with; ones given to me only by Paul Merrett and his team on preceding visits.
Will I return? No. Was this a one off? Who knows?
The word for the night? Underwhelming.
Approx. £35 per head without booze.
Tastecard accepted: Monday – Thursday. Two for one.