IThey’ve been desperate to escape their claustrophobia to work from home lately. Last week it was a day trip to the Isle of Wight to eat affordable seafood at The Hut. This week, it’s the flavor of a posh pub in a quiet suburb of Surrey. Victoria in Oxshott and The Hut have a lot in common: at first, it appears to be just another splurge destination restaurant, this time in a very British village where the average home price is at least £2 million. Driving into Surrey from the northern end of the Piccadilly Line is as time-consuming as taking the train to Southampton and crossing the Solent. But, like The Hut, my rudeness turned out to be at least misplaced. A Sunday road trip out of London, with my boyfriend and a 10 month old puppy, to lunch and a picnic in the country is just the panacea for the bustling city life.
The truth is that Victoria is absolutely beautiful. This has as much to do with the place, the charming staff and the mild weather in the day as it has for the seasonal, local food and all that good stuff. Taking a stroll around Oxshott is a bit like carelessly flipping through the mansion’s catalog of the absurdly wealthy—I wouldn’t embarrass myself trying to name a single footballer, but a few seem to have set up shop here, as did the Crown. Property. However, any impending impostor syndrome quickly fades once we arrive. The staff are welcoming and friendly – more than you’d expect in a place that has literally been called ‘the most expensive village in England’ – and escort us to a quiet corner where we sit and quietly watch the Oxshott elite walk on Sundays like we’re well-behaved lifters, half expecting a B-list celebrity to appear.
I’m kidding. It’s definitely a posh pub area – all exposed brickwork, big fireplaces and wood paneling – but in a homely, self-styled way. I am happy to see how well-accredited founders of The Victoria, Simon King (not a Hairy Biker operations expert, but former Ramsay restaurant operations expert) and Matt Larcombe (former chef at Heston Blumenthal’s gastropub) will deliver what they promise “exceptional food in a classic pub setting” “. A quick look at the list tells me that Ramsay is more than Blumenthal, but I suppose there’s a lot you can get away with in Oxshott.
I was instantly baffled by the choice of starter, which is half raw and half vegan, leaving quite a few options for any diners who are remotely skeptical about raw vegetables or meat (boyfriend, not surprisingly, both). I am completely satisfied with the salmon with avocado and capers (more ripe and crunchier brother). Generous strips of buttery salmon, delicately balanced by strands of bitter frisbee and radicchio, sharp pops of berries and creamy blobs that you avoid: the definition of a simple but effective dish. They don’t skimp on the portion sizes here. Despite my love of both broccoli and mushrooms, I can’t stand cauliflower soup or mushroom parfait, nor blame veggie skeptics for feeling the same either: On paper, it looks like a lot of fuzzy beige-and-gray mush. We’re also transforming a boring tomato salad in favor of a salt-chamber-aged beef tartare, with fluffy chicken egg yolks. I had better, I had worse.
It was a criminal not to have roast dinner, so Boyfriend was assigned beef, which was so alarmingly pink that he loudly reiterated his hatred for meat that had not been roasted within an inch of his life. Whilst, true, it was rare, it was as tasty as its reputation claimed, and served with an acceptable size Yorkshire pudding, and one huge glazed carrot, and obviously roasted potato, which was unfortunately a bit dry. The pitcher of gravy served on the side was much appreciated. If anything, it was all very simply presented due to the presence of Blumenthal’s chef in the kitchen. I can’t help feeling that the boiled seasonal veggies on the side should have been a bit cut – although the dog didn’t complain when a few broccoli florets were spilled under the table. (Disclaimer: I have an exceptionally high standard for roast dinner, which I firmly believe can’t be as good as your mom’s, but I accept that there are a variety of roast dinners served in restaurants. Aside from boring broccoli, this rated respectfully.)
Since I generally find it hard to say no to fish or anything that comes with beurre noisette (that’s brown butter for you plebs), I ordered grilled salmon – which unfortunately is replaced by bream. Comes drenched in that warm, melt-in-your-mouth sauce and a real pile of capers, pickled cucumbers, and old-fashioned fishy friend Samphire. This dish should have a moment: It’s on every menu and all over Instagram. If this is your summer 2022 platter, you are welcome to stay as long as you wish. Victoria’s take on her is like a box exercise: a crumbly fish with crunchy skin from ASMR? examines. Something sour something salty? Check, check. Rich, plump, lip-smacking sauce as at home with savory as it is with desserts? examines. If they had served the noise of beer in a glass, I would have drunk it through a straw. This is a Blumenthal twist, if you’ve heard one before.
For dessert, I went against my best judgment and chose a sweet apple crumble with custard And the Ice cream (it was enough one or the other) which I couldn’t finish due to the unbearable lack of acidity. Trick me to pick apples out of season. His friend’s sticky toffee pudding was torn down before I could open my eyes, so I think that was the best option. The table next door was subtle enough to go for the banana souffle, which looked wobbly and impressive, and the waiter was dunking it in the rum caramel sauce. Let’s just agree that you shouldn’t come to me for candy reviews.
Dropping the name of their former bosses at the start of this parade might be doing King and Larcomb’s damage – they set out to renovate a neighborhood pub serving “high” British classics (let’s blacklist that word), and that’s exactly what they did. Part of me wishes it was more adventurous given the abundance of experiences they have, but that’s just one journalist’s opinion that stuck. I may have offended myself by going on a Sunday and not the middle of the week. Love the sound and shape of beer-dipped oysters with seaweed mayonnaise on the a la carte menu, and Boyfriend took one look at a photo of their steak and exploded in a storm. But at two courses for £35, and four for £40, you really can’t go wrong with their Sunday menu. There are more affordable Oxshott midweek prices, with a full plate for £75 and a Tomahawk for £215. Regardless, Sunday brunch was almost perfectly prepared in my book, made even sweeter by a dog walk around nearby Cobbs Lake. Huge houses – nope, palaces – are propped up on them, and each has a home garden, a small pier, and a rowboat. Unfortunately, at £2m, it’s a bit of a budget.
Victoria Oxshott, High Street, Oxshott, Leatherhead, KT22 0JR | 01372238 308 | thevictoriaoxshott.com