I was recently invited to check out The Victoria Pub in Mile End, East London. “It’s just a pub” I thought, beforehand. “How interesting can it really be?”
Well, in fact, it was pretty special.
The Victoria has been taken over by the Yummy Pub Co– a ’boutique’ pub company in London (who used to own the delightful Somerstown Coffee House just a stone’s throw from my first ever flat in London). I agreed to check out their latest venture then, mostly out of nostalgic curiosity, and the rest because their lovely PR lady told me that the pub was thinking of raising chickens on the roof. Nice!
First impressions were…okay. I mean, it wasn’t the pretty, old English, gentrified building I had for some reason imagined in my head. But then I remembered that this is East London, not Wimbledon.
Once inside, we were met with a mix of wood, leather, and industrial influences. I loved it. See those metal-mesh panels? They slide closed to transform that little area of the pub into a mornings-only coffee shop serving coffee from the Gentleman Baristas, then slide back to reveal the rest of the pub at midday. Pretty cool, huh?
After a quick flick through the morning papers, we were shown around the rest of the building. That’s where things got really interesting…
Every corner of this quirky pub revealed something unexpected; the cocktail bar in the basement was hidden behind a fake wall-panel, the chef’s table was positioned in it’s own little room and can be hired for private groups, and in the beer garden, an old trailer has been spruced up to create a private booth that would be perfect for summer drinking. On the roof, plans are afoot to begin growing veg in old filing cabinets, and to keep a couple of chickens. It’s gimmicky (as there will never be enough to sustain the busy kitchen) but I like it anyway.
Back in the main bar, we made the most of the ‘build your own’ Bloody Mary station – mine with extra Tabasco to blow away the hangover cobwebs. Then it was on to the most important part of our visit: the food. Unfortunately, the meat on The Victoria’s menu is not high-welfare, organic or free range, although I am assured that it is all sourced from the UK, within the surrounding counties. That being said, they do have a very good selection of vegetarian dishes which is always appreciated, a few of which I tried for myself.
We feasted on a selection of ‘British Tapas’ – mini-meals that can be shared with friends and eaten anytime. The brie in breadcrumbs was probably the highlight for me, followed by the light and crispy battered haddock. On the board above you can also see their sweet potato dumplings, pork meatballs in gravy, and a slightly-weird-but-still-yummy cod scotch egg. All in all, a very good lunch.
The Victoria is the kind of place I would love to have as my local – plenty of craft beer on tap, decent grub, and stacks of character. With plans afoot to install a cinema room in the basement in early 2015, this rabbit-hole of a boozer is destined to get even better.