As neighbourhoods go, Victoria resembles the sibling who was awkward, difficult, and mostly unlikeable as a child, who grew up to be still awkward and difficult, but now you might give them a ring every few months to grab a pint.
That isn’t to do with a new theatre, or the fact that the constant construction around the station is finishing any time soon - it’s do with the fact that when we’re in the neighbourhood, there are now enough restaurants to keep us distracted that we can practically overlook everything else.
Here’s our pick of where to eat in Victoria.
Every group of mates has a designated ‘fit one’, and in Victoria, Lorne is it. The decor almost makes you feel like you could be in a garden in the South of France, and they also happen to do some of the best food you’ll come across in this part of town. The menu skews British with some Mediterranean influences - think a nice piece of smoked eel with new potatoes and Sicilian cucumbers, or a cracking chocolate pavé with praline that would rival anything in France. The wines are also excellent and even though it’s more grown-up than a lot of the other options in the area, it’s undoubtedly worth checking out for a relaxed lunch that’ll set you right.
Timmy Green feels like an evolved version of every Aussie coffee shop you’ve ever stepped into. It’s kind of like the restaurant version of that incredibly chiseled fitness guy or girl you follow on Instagram, and having brunch here makes you feel like you could also be ridiculously good-looking one day, or you could just order the coconut French toast. And a side of bacon. The coffee’s good, and they also do Australian-sounding things like popcorn shrimp sandwiches and things called ‘salad’ (which are actually really good). But really you’re here for that brunch, which they have every day until the mid-afternoon - that’ll give you plenty of time to pick out your #outfitoftheday.
Theatre restaurants are usually a bit hit and miss, but The Other Naughty Piglet is definitely an exception to that rule. Hidden at the top of the stairs above The Other Palace theatre, it’s a lovely space to dig in for the evening and catch up with a mate over a couple of glasses of natural wine. The creative French food is excellent and far and away some of the most interesting stuff to eat in SW1. The burrata and croquettes are good, but the XO linguine is the standout dish - it’s a riff on a classic carbonara with an egg yolk on top that’ll remind you of a savoury Asian noodle dish, but in a good way.
This is the best burger in London. Bleecker started as a market stall, but this is their first real brick-and-mortar operation, and all of London is grateful that they made Victoria about 100 times better by choosing to open here. You can’t really go wrong with your order - we love the double cheeseburger, which is so simple yet absolutely perfect, and the Bleecker Black has a slice of black pudding thrown in, just in case you really hate your cardiologist. They have good milkshakes, a few good craft beers in the fridge, and a couple of counters for you to sit and eat at. Simples.
This is the sister restaurant to the Riding House Cafe, an Infatuation staple in central London for its all day, any day menu of tasty brasserie-style small plates, coffees and cocktails. Likewise, the Rail House Cafe is an excellent restaurant Swiss army knife for Victoria, and can make a good brunch spot as well as a casual spot for drinks or a group dinner in a snip. It’s a massive space with a trendy feel that fills with with an up-for-it crowd in the evenings, and there’s a pretty bar, as well as lots of sofas to sprawl on. Life is short - get the cheesecake.
You might wonder why on earth Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut pastry, decided to open close to Victoria bus station, until you clock that the shop’s a few minutes away from the massive townhouses of Belgravia. It’s essentially a Greggs for oligarchs then, but it has plenty for us plebs to enjoy too. Skip the famous Cronut and cookie shot and stick to classics, which they do very, very well here. The plain croissant is as good as you’ll get in London, and the mini Madeleines and croque monsieur are also excellent. It’s good for takeaways but it’s also a calming spot to sit and eat in.
Hunan is one of the ultimate ‘if you know, you know’ restaurants in London. It’s essentially a Chinese fine dining restaurant that’s discretely located on the Belgravia side, with a ‘trust me’ tasting menu that changes every day. You don’t have the option of choosing what you eat, but you should definitely trust the chefs, as they know what they’re doing. The kitchen sends out whatever’s good that day in a succession of small, immaculate courses, and we’ve tried incredible prawn toast and crispy duck here, along with some brilliant seafood. While the food’s excellent, the atmosphere’s strangely absent - come here for the food, and you’ll be fine. It’s a lovely spot for lunch - ask for the seats closest to the window, as the back of the restaurant can feel a bit cramped.
That the majority of Victoria’s eating options are concentrated in a couple of mostly unattractive, soulless developments should be an indication that you’re not going to find a ton of indie cafes and organic matcha bars here. While 11 Pimlico Road’s vanilla look and vibe (it looks like a Pinterest board desecrated a pub) would feel basic elsewhere, in Victoria it’s a godsend. You can get a nice plate of banana and coconut pancakes for brunch, and it’s a chilled, airy spot to kick back with an Aperol Spritz on a sunny day.
A short walk from the station, modern Chinese restaurant A Wong is idolised with a fervour normally reserved for religious figures, or Beyonce. However for us, each visit has been pleasant, if somewhat short of the promised magic. That isn’t to say it isn’t a good restaurant - the dim sum at lunch is good value, and the evening dishes like dong po pork belly and kung pao chicken are interesting and delicious takes on classics. And though the food’s creative and borders on fine dining in places, the smart dining room never feels uptight. Hit it up for a posh lunch, or a dinner with a few friends in the evening.
Victoria Street isn’t exactly loaded with interesting options for coffee, but if you peek behind House of Fraser, you’ll find Iris and June. It’s a sleek, modern-looking Kiwi coffee shop dishing out perfect flat whites and lattes, and it’s a good spot spot for the usual coffee shop activities, like obsessively checking your Instagram feed, or pretending to care about whatever your co-worker is babbling about. They do sandwiches and salads to go, and there’s also a brunch menu where you can get a posh mushrooms on toast or bacon sarnie.
True, Bleecker Burger is across the street, but sometimes you don’t want eight ounces of beef and a slab of black pudding lodged at the bottom of your stomach all afternoon. Shake Shack’s lighter double cheeseburger won’t leave you with the same gross feeling, but the burger’s still pretty damn good. Cheesy crinkle-cut chips as standard? Yes please. The apple pie custard dessert is worth the queue alone.
Say you’re meeting a relative or friend, and said person has booked a hotel in Victoria. That’s right - this person actually thinks Victoria is still nice enough to pay actual money to stay here. They may also think that Queen Victoria herself is still alive and that the Empire is still a thing, god help you. Make it a little easier on yourself and book dinner at The Goring Dining Room, a fine dining restaurant inside the very posh Goring hotel close to the station. The pretty British food’s very good (if predictably expensive), and you and your dining companion will get fine service with all the bells and whistles that’ll help keep the old-world illusion. The set lunch is also good value, and the lobster omelette’s as ridiculously opulent as you’d hope it would be.
Quality over novelty are wise words to live by, and even though Franco Manca is as ubiquitous in London as moose knuckle on the typical lycra-clad cyclist, there’s a reason we keep going back to them. The Neapolitan pizzas are still as simple and as excellent as they’ve ever been, and it’s the kind of food that’ll put you in a happy place - even if you’re eating it in what’s essentially a block of luxury flats. The pizzas are also far better than those at Hai Cenato across the road, in case you were wondering.