You can always tell if I like somewhere, as I’ll be planning my return visit before I’ve even gotten home. I must get that trait off my parents, who were sat during dinner last Wednesday, making plans to bring back their friends to The Victoria Inn in Barnt Green (and I’m tempted to come back to celebrate my birthday next month!). It’s recently undergone a beautiful refurbishment, and it was an absolute treat to spend the evening there earlier this week with LPD (Little Pickle’s Dad), my Mum and my Dad to preview the new look and sample the Autumn/Winter menu.
Having worked at a pub before, during and after a refurbishment, I know what the excitement is like. To see your place of work undergo a transformation is weirdly thrilling and the sense of new beginnings and a fresh start means everyone ups their game. As soon as we walked in, to the smell of freshly painted walls, and were greeted by the Victoria Inn staff, I got the feeling that they were willing us to like it as much as they did – and guess what? We did.
I hadn’t visited The Victoria Inn before, so I didn’t really know what to compare it to – but my parents had. I think they’d had a meet up there with their Guide Dog pals (my Mum and Dad look after Guide Dog puppies and take them all sorts of places as part of their training, including trips on the train to nice local pubs… it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!).
We each grabbed a drink at the bar (gin and tonics for three of us, it would have been rude not to with the gorgeous gin station at the end of the bar to pimp up our Tanquerays) and took a seat in the bar to familiarise ourselves with the new decor. My Dad was very happy to see that the fire place was still there, and I think he’s quite looking forward to returning for a cosy drink on a wintry afternoon.
Whilst we sipped our gins and chatted about our respective days, the Victoria Inn team brought us over a couple of sample plates of different starters (sharing plates of food are always my favourite!). We tried duck parfait, salt and szechuan pepper squid (SO GOOD!), deep fried brie, a lobster and prawn creme fraiche delight and some gorgeous beef.
They definitely whetted our appetite for the meal to come, and as we took our seats at our table, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the menu. Usually, I look up menus online before we visit anywhere but I refrained this time which meant it took me longer than usual to peruse the options and decide what to go for. Thankfully, our waitress was able to help me choose (I always trust staff recommendations!).
Although I think all four of us chose quite meaty dishes, it was impressive to see a whole vegan menu (I was quite tempted by the Spiced Coconut Curry, but I’ve been choosing a lot of rice dishes when eating out recently so wanted to try something a bit different this time).
As we waited for our starters to arrive, we tried a bit of this really unique chili mango and pineapple. I made sure to try a mango piece as I’m not a huge pineapple fan, and it had quite a kick to it! Something a little bit different. I’d love to try and recreate that at home.
I think I’m just going to let these photos do the talking because… well, they tasted as gorgeous as they all looked. There were a couple of choices on the menu that were flagged as being calorie-friendly, so seeing as I was having an indulgent evening, I thought I’d try and least do some damage control with my starter and so went for the Sweet Chilli King Prawn Roll: king prawns with julienne vegetables wrapped in rice paper. LPD went for the Scallops of the Day, served with bacon and black pudding, my Mum went for Portobello Mushrooms and my Dad went for the Carrot and Coriander Soup.
We’d asked for some wine recommendations to go with our food, going for a bottle of red and a bottle of white and the waitress didn’t even need to hesitate before offering some suggestions. My Mum and Dad can be a bit fussy with their red wine (they’ve got expensive tastes!) but I’m generally quite happy with any white wine as long as it’s not Chardonnay. We were all pleased with the choices though, and my white wine in particular went so well with my Pork dish main.
As the Victoria Inn wasn’t open to the public during our preview meal on Wednesday, it meant I didn’t feel like a complete idiot for getting my big camera out. Usually, when we’re out for a restaurant review, I feel really silly using my camera and just try to quickly take a few sneaky shots before anyone really notices and other customers question what on earth I’m doing. Thank goodness that I had a bit more freedom this week as when our main courses arrived, the dishes all looked so beautiful.
First up: LPD went for the Chicken and Leek pie, topped with a ham hock crumb, mash and greens…
My Dad opted for pan-fried Sea Bass fillets with parmentier potatoes, pancetta, olives (which he didn’t eat!), spinach and a white wine voloute:
I went for the Pork Belly, served with Seared Scallops, dauphinoise potatoes, butternut squash puree, green beans, crackling and a red wine jus. I’m a sucker for pork so had high hopes – it did not disappoint! Next time, I’d probably order it without the Scallops just for portion size reasons, but it all came together beautifully and was absolutely divine:
And the award for the most drool inducing plate of food goes to my Mum’s choice – the Roasted Rack of Lamb, with aubergine, roasted sweet peppers, dauphinoise potatoes and a red wine jus:
Looking back, I’m a bit gutted I didn’t think to ask my fellow diners for a taste of their dishes (for research purposes, obviously) – I was just so enjoying my own that the thought didn’t cross my mind. The Victoria Inn also has pizzas, burgers and steaks on the menu – and if the little taster we had was anything to go by, the Stir Fried Beef Fillet Salad would be a delicious choice too.
I think my eyes might’ve been bigger than my belly as even though I felt so full, I couldn’t resist ordering pudding too. Although I’m usually a sucker for a crumble (and the menu boasts a lovely sounding Apple & Blackberry one), I trusted another recommendation from our waitress and went for the Chocolate Bomb. I mean, it’s not every day you get to try a rich chocolate shell filled with sticky toffee pudding, peanut cream and served with a hot salted caramel sauce.
It was ABSOLUTELY delicious, and I love a pudding with a bit of drama (the waitress poured the hot sauce over the chocolate bomb to reveal it’s sticky toffee contents). Chocolate bombs are always a dessert menu highlight, aren’t they? But for those wanting a bit more of a home comfort, my Dad went for a mini version of the Apple & Blackberry Crumble with a hot drink.
It’s only been recently that I’ve really appreciated hot drinks at the end of a meal when dining out. I used to think it was a bit of a waste of money when you could just go home for a cuppa instead, but actually, there’s something really luxurious about taking the time to let your meal go down and just bask in that lovely post-food glow and enjoy the atmosphere. It helps when the decor surrounding you is gorgeous!
All in all, it was such a delightful evening. One I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. It was an extra little treat to bump into Jen from Rice Cakes and Raisins who was enjoying a meal with her Mum – I can’t wait to read what she thought of the new look too.
If you’re looking for a local restaurant that offers stunning decor, a friendly atmosphere and guarantees gastronomical satisfaction – you’re onto a winner with The Victoria Inn. Hop onto the train if you want to enjoy a cocktail or two (it’s two for £10 from 12pm – 7pm Monday to Friday) or do what we did, and drive there, leave the car overnight and grab a taxi home.
From the four of us, we wish the team at The Victoria Inn all the very best in the coming weeks as they show off the new refurbishment, and we’ll be back soon to devour your gorgeous food again. Thank you for having us, and a big cheers to new beginnings and gorgeous interiors.
If you’d like to see a bit more from our meal at the Victoria Inn, I’ve added my Instastories from the evening to a new Dining Out highlight. It’s worth a watch as it includes a slightly inebriated Grandpark Pickle (my Dad) sharing some very enthusiastic feedback on the toilet hand-dryers.
Disclaimer: we were invited guests of the Victoria Inn, Barnt Green on 10 October to preview their new refurbishment. Our meal and drinks were offered to us in exchange for an honestly written review. All content, views and opinions remain my own.