THE PRINCESS VICTORIA: IMPERIAL GRUB
Sometimes it’s the small things that impress. I’d just had my Pork Board (how could you not order something called a Pork Board) when the friendly server asked me if I’d enjoyed it. I said I had, but there weren’t enough Pork Scratchings. She went away and returned soon after with a bowl of freshly cooked crisp piggy goodness. Things like that make me inclined to like a place.
I also liked the ale which, as anyone who drinks in the capital’s pubs will know, can be a bit crap. Here it was well kept and had that wonderfully fresh aroma and thirst- quenching ability that the best beers have. I’d especially recommend the Harvey’s Sussex Best if it’s on which was as good as I’ve had in Sussex itself.
Back to that Pork Board (yes we must). There were other porcine delights too: a little croquette of Pig’s Cheek with a tart sauce gribiche; a dense meaty GOS Pate with piccalilli; proper Ham; Salami and some rolled Pork Belly which spread easily onto excellent homemade Brown Bread. Speaking of which, that bread made a better match than the flat variety on the plate. There was nothing especially wrong with it or the almonds or the stuffed guindillas which all added a little Moro-esque touch to the dish, but to be honest I would have given them all up for another fried pig’s cheek. How ever would this dish be shared ?
Surprisingly, the only disappointment came with my main course. I’d heard the triple-cooked (yes, those again) chips here were the best in show. They certainly looked the part with a golden brown colour that said: eat me. The problem was they didn’t have those extra layers of crunch that the best examples have - I’m thinking of the Bull and Last here. In the end they were just superior fat chips and you all know what Dos Hermanos think of those.
The rest of the plate was textbook stuff – not surprising given co-owner and chef James McLean’s CV. Rib Eye, although not the Gigantor-like specimens DH are used to was notably good meat and had the taste of the grill (mmmm…grill). There was a fine Béarnaise to dip my fat chips into, some neatly trimmed, squeaky green beans and some dried Tomatoes that had a very intense taste of, get this, Tomato. Whatever next ?
Affogato (Italian for drowned) is an espresso with a scoop of Ice Cream in it. Sounds like an interesting way to combine pud and coffee if you’re in a hurry but next time I think I’ll stick to a bowl of the stuff, ice cream that is, and a coffee to follow.
The Bull and Last is our current standard when it comes to Gastropubs, or pubs with restaurants as we should probably call them to separate them from the chaff, but in many ways the dining experience is more enjoyable at The Princess Victoria.
I’ve already talked about the beer but the wine list, from other owner and ex-sommelier of The Capital, Matt Wilkin is better, there’s a proper dining room in which to eat and the atmosphere on a Saturday lunchtime is less hectic. Crucially though, you won’t get Giles Coren coming in on spec and nabbing your seat.
That said, the B&L with its bar snacks (Black Pudding studded Sausage Roll anyone ?), its wider range of dishes and its two types of chips wins out in the all-important food category. If I lived anywhere in West London though (and not a day goes by when I thank my own personal god that I don’t) I’d be more than happy to have the Princess Victoria on my doorstep. Now, all they need to do is to fix those chips.