The Victoria – Stamford Street, Altrincham
This issue, we'll be ditching the glitz and glamour of Tapas at the church of commercialism for the delights of hearty English fare in deepest Altrincham. Somewhat surprisingly, this is a new experience for both L and myself, as the only English food we've eaten from a restaurant* is Chicken Tikka Masala.
There's no such subcontinental spice on the menu at The Victoria, just a menu that'd make Gordon Ramsey* weep tears of joy - fresh, locally sourced, seasonal food. Despite liking the look of the Black Pudding Scotch Egg* we both plumped for the Smoked Duck Pikelet with apple and walnut chutney (£6.45). We had slightly mixed feelings about this. The chutney was excellent, adding a great sour note to the dish, but the duck was smoked to the point it took on a bacon flavour and the pikelet didn't add much to the flavour. That's not to say it wasn't a very enjoyable starter, as the smoky duck and sour chutney tasted great together.
For the main course, L took the vegetarian option – Goat's Cheese and Butternut Squash Ravioli with a cheese and chive sauce on a bed of roasted tomato and red onion (£11.50. The verdict was generally good – well cooked al dente pasta, with a rich sauce perfectly complimented by the sharp balsamic drizzle and the sweetness of the butternut and goat's cheese. At least until she spilt her drink into it in a wondrous feat of ham-fistedness. "Still" she says, "I'd have something else next time, probably with meat in."
No such restraint on the flesh front for me, as I tucked into a steaming plate of organically-reared, barn-dwelling "As Seen on TV!" veal*. A Steamed Pink Veal Pudding with onion rings, thick-cut chips and home-made onion gravy (£13.95) to be precise. This is without doubt the star of the show. Tender, tasty, melt-in-the mouth veal in a rich, crumbly pastry would have been fantastic on its own, but the thin, beer-battered onion rings and the huge, perfectly-fried chips turned a great dish into a fantastic one – especially once the wonderfully meaty onion gravy was added.
For dessert, we split a White Chocolate and Ginger Nut Cheesecake with dark fruit compote and a Vanilla and Walnut Crème Brûlée (both £4.50). The cheesecake was superb, very rich, spicy ginger and not overly sweet, although I wasn't impressed with the Brûlée. Then again, I'm not overly-enamoured with the concept of Crème Brûlée, which is just a posh custard tart without the pastry, so I can't mark them down for that. Overall, the food was great. A solid starter, fantastic veal, well-cooked pasta and two nice desserts. My only disappointment was the lack of game on the winter menu, and the fact that I couldn't find the room for the cheeseboard. 8/10
A converted "old-man" pub, The Victoria is wonderfully cosy, with a roaring log fire and a well stocked bar. We didn't take a look at the wine list as L was driving and I don't drink the stuff, but with Hoegaarden and Leffe on tap, I was more than happy with the beverages on offer. The music was un-intrusive, and even better, no kids were around! The only thing I can find to criticise is the candles, which managed to stay right in my eye line during every conversation and the fact that the gaggle of girls to my right were close enough to assault me with cheap perfume. 4/5
The service was brilliant. Only two staff front of house, the place was packed to the rafters, and at no point did we feel neglected. Despite the crowd, one of the duo found time to have a laugh with us when L couldn't work out how much to tip. Speedy, attentive, friendly – or as I see it, a full-marks performance. 5/5
Great, fresh, seasonal British food isn't something we see too often when we're out, let alone eat, and this makes a great change from the Indian, Chinese, Italian and French food we tend to see in restaurants. The food was by no means flawless, but it was well worth the sixty pounds we laid out for three courses each plus drinks and tip. We'll definitely be visiting The Victoria again, when they switch to the summer menu – if only so I can see just what will go on the sadly empty "Game of the Day" board. If you should find yourself in Greater Manchester, it's only a few minutes walk from the Altrincham tram station, and it comes highly recommended. 8.5/10Scale: 10 – Tom Baker, 9/8 – David Tennant, 7/6 – Peter Davison, 5/4 – John Pertwee, 3/2 – Sylvester McCoy, 1 – Colin Baker
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