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, thanks to pizzerias, gastropubs, tapas bars and the new Nova Food court, both locals and commuters are becoming spoilt for choice when it comes to drinking and dining in Victoria.
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 while the café selection is strong in the art of takeaway coffee, there are also a growing number of places to enjoy a drawn-out breakfast and newspaper morning. For the takeaway side of things, the branch of Leon on Victoria Place is a good bet and open from 6.30am on weekdays. Etna Coffee opens its doors at 7am for Sicilian street food snacks, pastries and — an early morning must — coffee. Pastry lovers should head to Danish Ole and Steen for cinnamon swirls and their cardamom-studded kløben bun.
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. Sourced Market in the Nova Food court on Buckingham Palace Road is your best bet for chunky farm-style breakfast rolls, trendy vegan pots and naughty pastries, says Londonist's Ruth Hargreaves.
When you say "a quick bite for breakfast" do you really mean "all-day bottomless brunch where we can gorge for hours"? Then get yourself to Timmy Green where Aussie-style brunches consisting of smashed avo, buttermilk pancakes and endless mimosas rule the roost. You don't even have to wait for "brunch-time", as it's open from 7.30am Monday to Saturday.
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, moules marinières and crème brulée you can handle.
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When a one-stop-shop is in order, Londonist's Ruth Hargreaves suggests a trip to Nova Food court, where upscale restaurants from world-renowned chefs sit side-by-side with street food style snacks-to-go. For lunch, the mighty fine ramen at Bone Daddies is all sorts of tasty; warming and complex just as ramen should be. Ahi Poke is another popular choice for lovers of fresh, raw fish, while G'rilla serves up all manner of topped cheese toasties from a humble kiosk right next to the centre.
For a rush-job, the burritos at Tortilla inside Victoria Place Shopping Centre (that's the one attached to the station) are a solid bet, 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 style Cambridge Street Kitchen with its seasonal fare.
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, if a bit stuffy — setting.
For an equally Belgravian vibe, and a crossover of Asian and Latin American influences, there’s UNI on Ebury Street — we recommend the tiradito, a ceviche-sashimi hybrid. Or if succulent steaks in sleek surrounds are more up your street, Londonist's Ruth Hargreaves recommends you opt for M Restaurant where you can dine on prime chateaubriand or wagyu in style.
The arrival of Nova Food court has resulted in the welcome addition of a few big-name, on-trend brands that veer away from the city-slicker stereotype, says Londonist writer Ruth Hargreaves. Sticks'n'Sushi serve upmarket Japanese fare with a focus on sushi and grilled yakitori sticks, the freshly-baked sourdough pizzas at Franco Manca are excellent and reasonably priced (not always an easy find in Victoria), and Rail House Cafe — from the same team behind the popular Riding House Cafe in Fitzrovia — keeps things simple with a brasserie vibe and a modern international menu. For dessert, it has to be Crosstown Donuts (usually open until 8/9pm).
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.
Londonist writer Ruth Hargreaves suggests Notes for anyone with a thirst for speciality coffee and a desire to know precisely how their single-origin brews have been roasted (Notes roasts all its own beans in their East London roastery). Meanwhile Sourced Market get their beans in from a variety of London roasters — including Workshop — and grind to order.
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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 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.
If it's just a decent glass of plonk you're after, Londonist's Ruth Hargreaves recommends one (or two!) of the 140 wines on offer at Vagabond. Team it with a cheese platter and all your woes will be forgotten. For when size matters, the two floors at Greenwood should hit the mark with a pub, restaurant, bars, a sports lounge, pool tables and even its own barber shop.
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.