Victoria used to be more of a necessary evil in your commute than an actual neighbourhood, with nearby Pimlico and Sloane Square the closest places you could hit for a concentration of good pubs or brunch options. But these days, pizzerias, gastropubs and tapas bars are sprouting up everywhere, with both locals and commuters spoilt for choice now when it comes to craft beers and Italian coffeeshops.
Note: for the purposes of this piece we’re defining Victoria as the area of mostly SW1W postcode, running as far north as Buckingham Palace Gardens, almost to Pimlico tube station at its southern edge, the western side running along Elizabeth Street and Eccleston Square, and with Greycoat Street along its eastern side.
This is commuter central and the café selection close to the station is tailored to that – strong in the art of the takeaway coffee, not so good at places to sit for a drawn-out breakfast and newspaper morning. For the takeaway side of things, the branch of Leon on Victoria Place and Etna Coffee are the best bets in the area. The latter is a Sicilian streetfood merchant, so grab a cannoli to go with your cappuccino.
If you’re after a place to spend longer, head a bit further from the station towards Pimlico Fresh on Wilton Road, open from 7.30am on weekdays with granola, porridge and organic options on sourdough.
For a good-value lunch, try the takeaway wraps from Kazan Kitchen, or if you have time to sit in, the mezze platters and soups are worth a try.
The pizzas at Il Posto, along with the dimly-lit, wooden-beamed feel, make it a great place for a pitstop. If you’re more in the mood for French-style bistro than Italian trattoria. the lunch menu at Grumbles does all the escargots, tartare and béarnaise you can handle.
For a rush-job, the Tortilla burritos are pretty good, and easily the best lunch on the run you’ll find from among the station concession stands.
Restaurants in Victoria tend towards the formal, with the gastropubs in the area being a good bet if you’re after something more relaxed. Other more informal options are the dim t Malaysian and Japanese noodle bar, or the neighbourhood restaurant feel style Cambridge Street Kitchen with its burger menu.
For those occasions where only starched tablecloths and a legion of silverware per person will do, you’ve got lots to choose from. The Olivo Restaurants franchise has tentacles all over this area, all at the more formal end of the scale, including Olivomare's Sardinian seafood, and Olivocarne with a meat-heavy menu and slightly trippy décor. Also Mediterranean and with outside space that’s too rare in Victoria, try the Santini terrace for Italian classics, or if you’d rather have cured meats and Spanish tapas, the Iberica terrace.
Head to Hunan for a daily-changing set menu with influences from across Hunan, Szechuan and Taiwan, or Ken Lo’s Memories of China, serving a mix of Mandarin and Cantonese dishes in a very Belgravian – very well-heeled, a bit stuffy – setting.
For an equally Belgravian vibe, and a crossover of Asian and Latin American influences, there’s the nikkei menu at UNI on Ebury Street – we recommend the tiradito, a ceviche-sashimi hybrid.
For Ottoman dining with an emphasis on Anatolian food - try the Arnavut Cigeri, calf’s liver fried with parsley and sumac – head to Kazan on Wilton Road. A far shout from the Turkish café culture in Dalston and Green Lanes, this is fairly formal and opulent in the silk-hangings, antique-lamps mould.
Tomtom on Elizabeth Street fills that odd niche of artisan bean-grower, coffee roasters and cigar merchants. You can take over one of the outside tables and order anything from coffee and eggs to a beer and a Cuban Havana from the nearby cigar shop.
La Bottega does all the things you’d hope for from an Italian café, and for a French slant, Café Mignon (41a, Warwick Way, SW1V 1QS) has you covered.
Pubs, gastropubs and bars
For food you’re better off at one of the gastropubs, though, and mostly that means heading further afield from the station. The Phoenix in Victoria is one exception, just south of Buckingham Palace Gardens and beloved of locals for its British pub standards and bright, usually packed-out dining room.
Good for either dinner or just for a draught ale or expert Negroni, try The Orange Public House and Hotel, less stiff and standoffish than the name makes it sound, or The Thomas Cubitt on Elizabeth Street, serving up slick, pricey cocktails and bar snacks in the ground-floor bar and a very British restaurant menu in the first floor dining room.
This isn’t the most nocturnal of zones, with most streets just closed doors and tumbleweed by midnight. But thanks to Boisdale of Belgravia you can still get a nightcap – hit the famous Scotch whisky selection – and some live jazz into the small hours.