For Paul Merrett’s food, travel to the end of the earth. Outside Zone 1

Scallops, Mushroom Wonton, Pea & Wasabi Purée
Scallops, Mushroom Wonton, Pea & Wasabi Purée

I daren’t say this too loudly but it was refreshing to be out of the Soho dining cordon last night. It was enlivening to eat a restaurant that the bloggerati should be talking about but aren’t. It was comforting being in a pub in the leafy west London suburbs away from the city chaos. Ordering a sherry, I was silently thankful that I could book, and had a reservation, because the place was full.

We only appreciate sherry now because we’re getting old.” I nodded knowing the futility of disagreeing with Paul Merrett’s philosophy. We spoke like mildly enthusiastic teenagers about a new found love for sherry. Taking my empty glass with him he returned to the kitchen to prepare the tasting menu with matching wines that was a prize won previously, on my first visit to The Victoria.

The earlier visit to The Victoria was attending the Dingley Dell Pork extravaganza in April 2012 where Chef/Patron Paul Merrett was one of the five chefs each cooking a course using Dingley Dell Pork. That night, Paul’s dish was a flawless trio of African-Oriental-inspired pork bites influenced by his East-African upbringing. His dish that night was flawless and it was, for the other chefs, embarrassingly superior.

Paul’s talent had been awarded Michelin stars at L’interlude and The Greenhouse yet, ultimately, he preferred a quieter existence away from the Michelin pressures and nonsense. Divisive as the Michelin system is in the food scene, earning its accolades is certain of one thing, the chef can cook. In Merrett’s case earning them consistently and repeatedly it says much more than that.

Merrett’s cooking is delightful, decadent and heady. He creates flavours, textures and aromas no one else could easily replicate. This is not a case of technique – it’s more experienced than that, it’s a raw talent that has been honed and finessed.  Imagine a street-hip-hop dancer given some classical training and nuance and you’re close enough.

Tasting menus are vexed and anxious in surrendering control to the kitchen. Without even a menu, what came and what kept on coming was surprise after nervously anticipated surprise:

Course 1: Espresso cup bearing mushroom and watercress soup with truffle oil. A light creamed froth texture – (Crémant de Limoux Brut ‘Selection’ Non Vintage: Domaine Collin, France)

Course 2: Shared board of Serrano ham, figs, feta, kalamata olives and thyme-honey drizzle. (Loupart, Sauvignon Blanc de Touraine 2010, Loire, France)

Course 3: Tartar of red snapper with peppered lemon dressing and a black olive crostini . (Mahi Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand)

Course 4: Scallops with a deep fried mushroom wonton, grilled broccoli. Bed of pea and wasabi purée. (Jean d’Alibert Sept Saisons Viognier 2010, Languedoc – Roussillon, France)

Course 5: Slow roasted breast of lamb, crispy artichoke, capers, tomato, anchovies & potato (Lanzado Crianza, Bodegas Martinez La Orden 2006 , Rioja, Spain)

Course 6: Pecan & walnut baklava with roasted plums & honey ice cream (L’Ancienne Cure 2007, Monbazillac, France)

If the Victoria was situated in Soho, I probably wouldn’t go. It would be over-crowded, over-subscribed with mile-long queues, smaller plates only for sharing and would not take reservations. Don’t be afraid to travel to The Victoria in Sheen. Travel is acceptable in this instance, abandoning the central London bubble and all its dining-out hype and rules. Michelin inspectors would do well to stay away too.

The Victoria – 10 West Temple Sheen, London, SW14 7RT. Telephone 0208 876 4238.

The tasting menu was a competition prize, but the menu with matching wines is approximately £65 per head.

Published by Brett

Brett is an experienced lawyer and business executive who focuses on commercial outcomes. He has worked across three sectors in England & Australia advising and leading initiatives in digital, media and technology

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