Pimlico and Victoria are hard work. While Victoria is bustling, busy and commercialised, Pimlico is in a transitory state and still feels a little unloved. To most, Victoria Station’s walls are imprisoning, and the food experience peaks at an M&S sandwich. But step out without a traveller’s agenda to find some of the best dim sum in London, alongside crowd-pleasing modern British, and a charming neighbourhood spot of joyous homemade pasta. This list eschews The Goring hotel — by far the area’s most famous location — but it gets a quick mention here for the glorious indulgence that is the glazed lobster omelette. Just don’t ask for a Hemingway: they never have any Maraschino.Read More
15 Great Places to Eat in Victoria and Pimlico
Including two of London’s very best Chinese restaurants
1. The Other Naughty Piglet
A local Brixton favourite, the Naughty Piglets didn’t let the sleek surrounds of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Other Palace theatre dull their sense of mischief when they took over the refurbished first floor restaurant space. The menu is that en vogue small plates modern British thing, but it’s a masterful exercise in creative simplicity, with competing flavours and textures making dishes like their signature linguine with house-made XO sauce and cured egg yolk a series of genre and cuisine-defying delights. So good that not even their (fantastic, by the way) carefully curated list of natural wines could make Jay Rayner stop gushing.
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2. Mango Tree
Reportedly Harry Potter author J.K Rowling’s favourite restaurant in London: Mango Tree delivers both familiar and exploratory experiences. Like a lot of Thai restaurants, the menu is exhaustive; from spring rolls, chicken satay and pad Thai, to things even seasoned visitors to the country won’t recognise. Mango Tree is Rowling’s favourite for a reason. Alongside the classics of light, crispy prawns and fiery tom yum, there are real treasures here. The food is hot and powerful, the service worthy of esteem.
3. Hai Cenato
London SW1E 5DJ, UK
Hai Cenato is the best of Victoria’s expansive new Nova development, which also features London favourites Shake Shack and Franco Manca. While Nova also includes some duds — it is no Bloomberg Arcade — Hai Cenato puts up a fight. The a la carte menu is very Jason Atherton: not cheap, but difficult to fault. The pizza, however, is standout, and the confit lamb offering has been making waves since their opening. Another, topped with mozzarella, smoked pancetta, Cacklebean egg yolk, and confit yukon potato is well worth trying. Note, too, the 4-9pm happy hour: a margherita and a drink for £9.
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4. Shake Shack Victoria Nova
Ok, so this is a rapidly expanding American mega chain. Somehow, though, that doesn’t stop it from serving one of the best burgers available in the city. One just needs to know what to order, or rather, how to order the trademark Shack Burger. It’s pretty simple (if emulating classic fast food burgers is the goal.) To best complement the beautifully and aggressively griddled American cheese-covered patty, which is sandwiched between a sliced, squidgy Martin’s potato roll, order sliced raw onion and add pickles. (Tomato should be optional.)
5. Bleecker Victoria
Created by lawyer-turned-burger maestro Zan Kaufman, Bleecker’s cheeseburger is, by most connoisseurs’ reckoning, the best burger in London. Why? Because it tastes almost exactly like a McDonald’s 99p cheeseburger. Except better, thanks to impeccable free-range meat sourced from The Butchery in Bermondsey. To be improved only by doubling the patty, or adding soft, crumbly black pudding.
6. Market Hall Victoria
London’s best new food market features three vendors that have transformed the dining options in Victoria: Koya, London’s outstanding udon noodle specialist; Bunshop, savoury buns — beef and barley, bacon, welsh rarebit — from the owners of London’s preeminent modern gastropub, the Marksman; and Gopal’s Corner, the second site for the cult-favourite Malaysian roti canai legend, Roti King. There are nine others, of which BaoziInn’s dumplings and Monty’s Deli’s salt beef are commendable.
7. Vincent Rooms
The Vincent Rooms is a lunch-only pitstop, housed in a catering college which counts Ainsley Harriott, Sophie Wright, and Jamie Oliver among its alumni. Whether that is encouraging or off-putting is a personal matter, but it’s undeniably good value — an elegant main course of poached halibut in a beurre blanc is just £13, while starters won’t cost over £6, and the service is charming. These chefs are the future and should be supported.
8. Rosa's Thai Cafe Victoria
One of London’s best-known small chain restaurants has its place in the streets of Pimlico. Rosa’s Thai helped democratise good Thai cuisine in the capital (and has recently added Laotian cuisine to it’s resume with a new opening in Covent Garden), and the brand keeps things simple and accessible. The spring rolls are plump, the papaya salad hot and punchy, and the ‘drunken noodles’ are nourishing on a hangover — a familiar combination for anyone who’s been out on Bangkok’s infamous Khao San road.
9. A. Wong
£2 at A Wong will buy a pork and prawn dumpling topped with pork crackling, or a clear shrimp dumpling, which comes with the most piquant of sweet chilli sauces. Both are impeccably soft and flavourful, both an education. This restaurant is serious fun, and despite A. Wong’s remarkable affordability, it’s easy to get carried away here. Even the prawn crackers are enlightening. It’s worth stretching to the £70 ‘Taste of China’ menu if possible. If not, settle for a custard bun.
10. Lorne Restaurant
Lorne, a relatively new addition to Pimlico, was much needed — its entry provides the neighbourhood with the modern British and European food for which everyone now yearns. Lorne does the woody, airy feel superbly well: understated, though fashionable. The food makes Lorne not just a great local restaurant, but a reason to travel: neat fish dishes — likely paired with interesting pickles, beautiful vegetables and leaves — are followed by rich, nutty and (seasonally) truffled game dishes, all beautifully prepared.
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11. Cacio e Pepe
Another established Italian restaurant in the neighbourhood, Cacio e Pepe is suave and sophisticated. Pasta is the new pizza in London, and there’s a growing gap between established local joints, and new, crazy affordable places like Pastaio and Padella. There might be an argument to suggest those in the middle are in danger of becoming obsolete. Long live Cacio e Pepe and its methodical, formal menu and homemade pappardelle, then. It’s not just pasta, though, there are other traditional dishes such as involtini di pancetta, and carpaccio con fungi. Some of this is dated in modern London, no doubt, but consistent, quality cookery will always be relevant.
12. La Poule Au Pot
The transportive French restaurant with candles and hanging baskets; so provincial, so literary, so risky. Except it’s not at all risky, because Le Poule au Pot nails brasserie like Nemirovsky nails prose. The braising quality of the coq au vin creates a dish that’s rich and deep, while the rabbit with mustard hums with heat, and the bourguignon is majestic. It’s easy to get swept up and order an unaffordable Pauillac, but given this is the kind of place to dine with aged, frivolous relatives, odds are someone else is footing the bill. For Francophiles, Le Poule au Pot will replenish the soul.
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13. The Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britain
London SW1P 4JU, UK
Strolls around galleries are too often supplemented only by dry sponge cake and overpriced cups of tea, so the near-£30 two-course menu at Tate Britain’s Rex Whistler restaurant has the potential to be uncommonly nourishing. No, it’s not cheap, and yes, former Guardian critic Marina O’Loughlin thought little of the food when she visited a few years ago, but there remains a romanticism to a lunch here — the 1927 mural The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats, which covers every wall, makes for an iconic dining space. Back then, the wine list saved O’Loughlin’s experience, and it’s still a strength; these days sommelier Gustavo Medina will even decant wine prior to arrival if pre-arranged.
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‘Institution’ is a word bandied about too often in the restaurant industry but, having been around since 1982, Hunan is deserving of the label. The food focuses predominantly on Taiwanese, but delves into other regions, too — those who understand the complexities of Chinese cooking will know what is going on, everyone else can enjoy travelling through a world of tastes; sweet, sour, umami all over the place. The broths are powerful, the ferments pungent and mysterious. The wine list is probably the most baffling thing of all. Hunan is an enchanting restaurant. This is not hyperbole.
15. Dominique Ansel Bakery London
There was a great deal of fuss when New York bakery Dominique Ansel arrived in London. Long established in the U.S., the bakery is famous not just for its avant-garde — and, digitally speaking, viral — creations such as the cronut, but its classic French pastries. From buttery croissants to fine quiches, they are meticulous in design. For France native Ansel, bringing his eponymous chain to London wasn’t quite a homecoming, but the streets of Victoria are far closer to his native Beauvais. Celebrate Europe with a croque monsieur and a galette de rois.