The Princess Victoria is a pub with history dating back to 1829, and has recently been restored sympathetically. The dining room has a high ceiling with two skylights, bring lots of natural light. There is a masculine feel to the room, with rugged wooden tables and floors and blue/grey walls, with the odd antique mirror and Victorian portrait as a reminder of its origins. The pub no longer has the strippers it used to, being now firmly in gastropub territory, leaving display simply to the food on the plates. Chef James Maclean used to cook at the Greenhouse, and the menu is a short, simple list of British dishes. The wine list is terrific, with some wines literally around the retail price (especially at the high end of the list) and mark-ups generally kindly.
What follows are notes from a February 2012 meal.
The wine list here is remarkable for a pub. There are around 240 wines, ranging from £15.90 to £890, with an average price of £44. Mark-ups are very fair by London standards, averaging around 2.7 times retail price. Wines at the higher end of the list have kinder mark-ups than the average, with a few bargains tucked away. In one case I noticed a wine £110 below its retail price. Example wines were Muscadet Sur Lie, Chantegrolle Domaine Poiron Dabin 2008 at £21.50 for a wine that retails at around £4.60, Fernand Laurent Pillot Chass Montrachet Cote De Beaune 2008 at £60 for a wine that you can find in the shops for £22, and Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, Didier Dagueneau 2004 at £70 for a wine that will set you back £36 to buy.
Potted crab was served with a salad of frisee lettuce, green beans and shallots, with toast on the side (2/10). I tried jugged hare and ceps on sourdough toast (3/10). Stone bass was pan-fried and served with saffron linguine, spinach and bisque flavoured with crab. The bass was a little (though not grossly) over-cooked, but the sauce had good flavour and the linguine pleasant texture (3/10). I liked Tamworth pork, which had been slow-cooked and was very tender, served with a gratin of potato and sweet potato, bacon, spinach and a jus of the cooking sauces flavoured with marjoram. The gratin had become a little soggy, but the sauce had plenty of flavour (3/10).
Eccles cakes were served warm and were very good, the pastry soft and the raisin filling good (3/10). This was served with a slab of blue cheese, which I gather is traditional in the north of England but still seemed an odd idea. Sticky toffee pudding was a little heavy but enjoyable (2/10). Coffee was rather rough, but service was friendly and capable. Bread was from the nearby Boulangerie de Paris, and was excellent (5/10).
Below are notes from a 2011 meal.
The bread here is from Boulangerie de Paris. What was interesting is that I tried bread from the same bakery this morning at another restaurant, and yet the bread tonight tasted much better. I think the key difference is that tonight they served the bread without reheating, unlike at my lunch venue; the reheating process definitely had a detrimental effect on the texture of the bread, but here the crust was very good (5/10 bread). A pork board had assorted pork elements, such as a paté with peppercorns, fried pig’s cheek, scratchings and ham, served on a wooden board with piccalilli (3/10). This was served, rather oddly with some pitta bread that had been grilled and had taken on a burnt taste, which was not pleasant.
My main course of tagliatelle of mushrooms had pasta with decent texture though it was under-seasoned (2/10). A grilled steak also lacked seasoning, and although the meat was of reasonable quality the grill had imparted a burnt note to the meat, which detracted from the dish. On the positive side there were triple cooked chips, crisp and, in this case, nicely salted (6/10 chips). The wine list here is one of the very best in London, and we had a superb Coche Dury Chardonnay that was only a little more than its retail price of around £60. Such bargains are rare indeed in the capital. Despite the place being packed out, service was good throughout.
Below are notes from a meal in May 2009.
I had, green asparagus from Kent was seasonal and was grilled very nicely, the flavour of the asparagus coming through well; this was served with goat’s cheese croute and tarragon dressing (4/10). I had a plate of Gloucester Old Spot pork in several forms: pate with peppercorns, confit of pork belly, fried pig’s cheek, pork scratchings and, in addition Bayonne ham; this was served with piccalilli and flatbread (3/10).
A main course of sea bass was pan-fried nicely, was properly seasoned and served with pink fur new potatoes, a thick slab of nice bacon, poached egg, pea shots as garnish and, an odd touch cold Hollandaise; I enjoyed the unannounced pea puree it was served with (4/10). A risotto of green peas, feta and wild garlic was garnished with baby artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, and a little lemon oil. This was pleasant, though I think it is hard for a risotto to shine without a meat stock (2/10). At a previous meal a winter soup of ceps and parsnips had a generous amount of ceps, the combination with the sweetness of the parsnips working well, the soup well seasoned (3/10). Jerusalem artichoke risotto was excellent, the rice having absorbed the stock well, served with wild mushrooms and baby spinach (3/10).
Below are notes from a meal in September 2008.
Sourdough bread is made from scratch each day, rustic and served warm (5/10). Spiced butternut squash soup (£5.50) was suitably thick and full of flavour, the natural sweetness of the soup balanced by good seasoning, a little yoghurt and coriander (4/10). Potted Dorset crab (£8.50) was simple but enjoyable, with a rather oddly tiny side salad (more a garnish) of green beans and frisee leaves, with a little toast (2/10).
Roast belly of pork (Gloucester Old Spot) was nicely cooked (£10.50), served with firm crackling and well cooked roast carrots, a little apple sauce, nicely made roast potatoes and some of the cooking juices (4/10). Also good was manouri cheese served with black figs, a salad of artichoke and endive and a peppery lemon dressing (£10.50) with ingredients that worked well together (3/10). A jelly of summer fruits (£5) had excellent texture and clean fruit flavour, served with good vanilla ice cream (4/10). This was better than a rather soggy klafoutis of rhubarb (£5) that needed more fruit flavour but came with good strawberry ice cream (1/10).
One of the owners, Matt Wilkin, was head sommelier at the Capital, and this shows in the wines on offer. The wine list is exceptional for a pub, and indeed would be for most restaurants, 11 pages of carefully chosen growers, at tolerable mark-ups. Kientzler Pinot Gris 2006 is listed at £32 for a wine that retails at around £9. Felton Road Riesling 2007 costs £40.50 compared to a shop price of around £14. Saintsbury Pinot Noir 2006 is £44.50 for a wine costing around £20 retail. Service was friendly but chaotic, with our wine not being brought until our starter was almost finished.
Overall this is a very good addition to an area with limited restaurant offerings, and I will certainly come back to try other aspects of the menu, which changes twice a week.