Restaurant review

The Victoria, Oxshott: A near perfect Sunday lunch in England’s most expensive village

The Victoria’s appeal has as much to do with the quaintness of Oxshott, the charming staff and serendipitous weather, as it does the food, writes Hannah Twiggs

Friday 15 July 2022 15:10 BST
Warning: you’re about to enter posh pub territory
Warning: you’re about to enter posh pub territory (Hannah Twiggs)

I’ve been desperate to escape the claustrophobia of working from home recently. Last week, it was a day trip to the Isle of Wight for reasonably priced seafood at The Hut. This week, it’s posh pub grub in a sleepy Surrey suburb. The Victoria in Oxshott actually has a lot in common with The Hut: at first, it seems like just another ostentatious destination restaurant, this time in a very British village where the average house price is no less than £2m. It also takes just as long to drive to Surrey from the northernmost end of the Piccadilly line as it does to take a train to Southampton and cross the Solent. But, like The Hut, my snobbery turns out to be at least a little misplaced. A Sunday road trip out of London, my boyfriend and 10-month-old puppy in tow, for a spot of lunch and a countryside stroll is just the panacea for soul-sapping city life.

The fact is, The Victoria is quite lovely. This has as much to do with the locale, charming staff and balmy weather on the day, as it does the food, which is seasonal, local and all those good things. Taking a stroll around Oxshott is a bit like nonchalantly flipping through a mansion catalogue for the absurdly wealthy – I won’t embarrass myself by attempting to name a single footballer but a fair few of them have apparently set up shop here, as has the Crown Estate. Any impending imposter syndrome quickly abates once we arrive, though. The staff are welcoming and friendly – more than you’d expect for somewhere that was literally dubbed the “most expensive village in England” – and escort us to a quiet corner where we sit and quietly watch the Oxshott elite go about their Sundays like the well-behaved riff raff that we are, half expecting a B-list celeb to pop in.

I jest. It’s definitely posh pub territory – all exposed brickwork, big fireplaces and wooden panelling – but in a homely, self-effacing way. I’m intrigued to see how The Victoria’s well-credentialed founders Simon King (not the Hairy Biker, but ex-Ramsay Restaurants operations guru) and Matt Larcombe (former head chef at Heston Blumenthal’s gastropub) will deliver their promised “exceptional food in a classic pub setting”. A glance at the menu tells me it’s more Ramsay than Blumenthal, but I suppose there’s only so much you can get away with in Oxshott.

The starters didn’t offer much for picky eaters, but our writer was quite content keeping it raw (Hannah Twiggs)

I’m immediately baffled at the starter selection, which is half raw, half vegetarian, leaving few options for any diners remotely sceptical of vegetables or uncooked meat (Boyfriend, unsurprisingly, is both). I’m quite content tucking into the salmon with avocado and caper berries (the caper’s more mature and crunchier sibling). Generous ribbons of buttery salmon, delicately balanced by strands of bitter frisee and radicchio, sharp pops from the berries and blobs of creamy avo: the definition of a simple but effective dish. They don’t skimp on portion sizes here. Despite my love of both cauliflower and mushrooms, I cannot be swayed by the cauliflower soup or the mushroom parfait, nor do I blame veg sceptics for feeling the same either: on paper, it sounds like a lot of beige and grey ambiguous mush. We also swerve the boring tomato salad in favour of the salt chamber-aged beef tartare, dotted with delicate little hen egg yolks. I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.

It would have been criminal not to take the roast dinner for a spin, so Boyfriend was appointed the beef, which was so alarmingly pink he loudly reiterated his distaste for meat that isn’t charred to within an inch of its life. While, true, it was on the rarer side, it was as delicious as its reputation claimed it to be, served with an acceptably sized Yorkshire pudding, a single, enormous glazed carrot and, obviously, roast potatoes, which were sadly a bit dry. The serve-yourself jug of gravy on the side was most appreciated. If anything, it was all served a bit too simply given there’s a Blumenthal chef in the kitchen. I couldn’t help but feel that the boiled seasonal veg on the side should have been jazzed up a bit – though, the dog didn’t complain when a couple of florets of broccoli were sneaked under the table. (Disclaimer: I have an exceptionally high standard for roast dinners, which I firmly believe can never be as good as your mum’s, but I do accept that there is a spectrum of passable roast dinners served at restaurants. Boring broccoli aside, this one ranks respectably.)

A perfectly servicable roast, left; the dish of summer 2022, right (Hannah Twiggs)

As I generally find it difficult to say no to fish or anything that comes with beurre noisette (that’s brown butter to you plebs), I order the roasted plaice – which is sadly swapped for sea bream. It comes bathed in that warm, melt-in-the-mouth sauce and a veritable heap of capers, pickled cucumber and the age-old fishy friend samphire. This dish must be having a moment: it’s on every menu and all over Instagram. If this is the dish of summer 2022, it is welcome to stay as long as it likes. The Victoria’s take on it is like a box-ticking exercise: fall-apart fish with an ASMR crispy skin? Check. Something sour, something salty? Check, check. A rich, lip-smacking sauce that’s just as at home with savoury as it is with sweet? Check. If they’d served the beurre noisette in a mug, I would have drunk it through a straw. That’s a Blumenthal twist, if I ever heard one.

Learn from my mistakes and don’t choose an apple-based dessert out of season (Hannah Twiggs)

For dessert, I went against my better judgement and chose a face-puckeringly sweet apple crumble with custard and ice cream (just one or the other would have sufficed) that I couldn’t finish due to said unbearable tartness. Fool me for picking apples out of season. Boyfriend’s sticky toffee pudding was demolished before I’d managed to open my eyes, so I guess that was the better choice. The neighbouring table was canny enough to go for the banana souffle, which looked wobbly and impressive and the waiter dramatically doused in a caramel-rum sauce tableside. Let’s just agree that you shouldn’t come to me for dessert reviews.

Perhaps name-dropping their ex-bosses at the start of this review does King and Larcombe a disservice – they set out to revamp a neighbourhood pub offering “elevated” (let’s blacklist that word) British classics, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Part of me wishes it was a bit more adventurous given the wealth of expertise at their disposal, but that’s just one stuck–up journalist’s opinion. Perhaps I did myself a disservice by going on a Sunday and not midweek. I like the sound and the look of the beer-battered oyster with seaweed mayonnaise on the a la carte, and Boyfriend took one look at a picture of their steak and went off in a huff. But at two courses for £35, four for £40, you can’t really go wrong with Sunday’s menu. There’s more Oxshott-appropriate prices midweek, with a whole plaice for £75 and a tomahawk for £215. Whinging aside, it was a near-perfectly executed Sunday lunch in my book, made even sweeter by a dog walk around Copse Lake nearby. Huge houses – nay, mansions – backed onto it, each with a show-home garden, individual jetty and rowboat. Unfortunately, at £2m a pop, it’s a bit out of budget.

The Victoria Oxshott, High Street, Oxshott, Leatherhead, KT22 0JR | 01372 238 308 |

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