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 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. EtnaCoffee opens its doors at 8.30am on weekdays, for Sicilian street food snacks, pastries and your morning espresso needs. Pastry lovers should head to Danish Ole and Steen for cinnamon swirls and their cardamom-studded kløben buns.
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If you’re after a place to spend longer, head a bit further from the station towards Pimlico Fresh on Wilton Road, open from 7am, with granola, porridge and organic options on sourdough.
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. Notes is the spot to quench your thirst for speciality coffee, and if you want to talk provenance — Notes roasts all its own beans in their East London roastery.
This is a sponsored inclusion on behalf of Market Halls Victoria.
Make a real meal of it at Market Halls Victoria
Hit the most important meal of the day in style at Market Halls Victoria, a beautiful new food hall in the Grade II listed Terminus Place. The smoked breakfast naan at carnivore's paradise Flank is the stuff of legends — packed with sausage, bacon, egg, and cheese, then drizzled with bloody mary sambal ketchup.
Market Halls Victoria is the perfect shout whether you're on the go (takeaway is available), or making an occasion of it (hello, boozy weekend brunch). With strong wifi — and stronger coffee — it's also a good spot for local workers to hold meetings, or tick a few items off their to-do lists. Whatever your reason for visiting, you can expect a great range of dishes in a truly unique space.
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 bistro than Italian trattoria. the lunch menu at Grumbles does all the escargots, moules marinières and crème brulée you can handle.
However you feel about the slightly characterless steel-and-glass of Nova Food, the recent arrival to the area's attracted a good mix of food options, with upscale restaurants from world-renowned chefs jostling shoulders with informal takeaway spots. Our pick of them at lunch — Bone Daddies's warming and complex bowls of ramen-with-a-kick, and Ahi Poke's raw fish and veg bowls.
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, and the freshly-baked sourdough pizzas at Franco Manca — decent and reasonably priced.
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. If you're looking for al fresco, the Santini terrace is serving up Italian classics, or head to the Iberica terrace if you'd rather have sangria, cured meats, and tapas.
The arrival of Nova Food court has resulted in the addition of some big name but reliably good brands to the area. Sticks'n'Sushi serve Japanese food with a focus on sushi and grilled yakitori sticks, and Rail House Cafe keeps things simple with a brasserie vibe and a modern international menu. And for a dessert-only pitstop, there's the chunky sourdough doughnuts from Crosstown, open till 8pm or later most days.
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For those occasions where only starched tablecloths and a legion of silverware per person will do, you've got a lot 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.
Head to Hunan for a daily-changing set menu with influences from across Hunan, Szechuan and Taiwan — be warned, this is a walletbusting one — or Ken Lo’s Memories of China, serving a mix of Mandarin and Cantonese dishes in a stereotypically Belgravian — very well-heeled, quite hushed — setting.
On the rowdier end of the spectrum, temporarily closed, but hopefully reopening sometime soon, The Other Naughty Piglet — tucked into a mezzanine at The Other Palace theatre — sports all the welcoming banquettes, shareable snacks, and lovingly chosen wines you could ask for. There's a long table with Family Reunion or Mate's Birthday written all over it, but if it's one-on-one you're there for, Table 22, tucked into a warmly lit corner) is The One.
High on our list in this area for when you're feeling fancy is Lorne — with a careful, seasonal menu, an expansive and interesting drinks list (the wine list starts in the mid-twenties, but can also cater for you if you want to drop serious cash on something special), and a calm, unfussy setting. Low noise levels make it a good option for a parents-visiting-London evening, and the pre theatre menu (okay, still not that cheap, at three courses for £29) makes it a popular pre-Hamilton pitstop.
And beloved of locals and food critics alike, A.Wong serves a tasting menu of epic proportions and precision (set aside hundreds of pounds per person if this is your chosen path), or a slightly less pricey a la carte. It's notable that despite the eyewateringly steep prices, we've never ever heard somebody speak in less than gushingly OTT terms about their A.Wong visit.
Pubs, gastropubs and bars
For food you’re better off at one of the gastropubs, and mostly that means heading further afield from the station. The Phoenix is one exception, just south of Buckingham Palace Gardens, serving up British pub classics in its bright, usually packed dining room.
And good for dinner or a draught beer, try The Orange Public House and Hotel, doing woodfired pizza and good negronis, 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 upstairs dining room.
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For cocktails, drop in to Aster for house signatures, decent classics, and a good range of whisky and digestivi (but we'd recommend sticking to the counter seats and bar menu, rather than the steeply priced and underwhelming restaurant), or descend into the dimly lit decadence of The Forbidden City bar, underneath A.Wong — with intricately elegant cocktails from £12 to £14, it's a less expensive way to get a taste of the precision that the upstairs restaurant's famed for.
And if it's just an afterwork glass of wine you're after, you can choose from the 140 on offer at Vagabond, with stomachlining in the form of cheese platters and light snacks — or if the weather allows, settle in for drinks on the Market Halls roof terrace, for views across Victoria.