Cheshire Life Luncheon - The Victoria Gin Palace and Dining Room, Altrincham
PUBLISHED: 17:12 27 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:54 20 February 2013
A traditional Altrincham pub has been given a new lease of life, with the emphasis on fine dining and good gin Words by Ray King Photography by John Cocks
The Victoria in Altrincham was once was described as an old mans pub - that is a traditional back street boozer whose heyday was long gone when it, like thousands of others up and down the country, closed down.
The Vic was dead - but not quite buried; and since its reopening in late 2006 by Kevin Choudhary and his partner Rachel Weatherill, the place has enjoyed a remarkable and much deserved reincarnation. Some might describe the remodelled Victoria as a gastropub, for it ticks all the boxes demanded by the proper meaning of that much overworked expression.
It remains very much a pub, for the bar, though tastefully decorated in keeping with tradition - down to the wood stove in the fireplace - is still a place designed for drinking while the food served in the adjoining dining room is fit to grace the menu of a high class restaurant.
Kevin and Rachel, however, shy away from the term gastropub and have dubbed the Victoria a Gin Palace and Dining Room. Gin Palace? Didnt that used to mean an old womans pub?
Far from it. As guests discovered when they arrived at the Stamford Street hostelry - its facade now painted in a striking shade of lime green - for Cheshire Lifes October luncheon, theres nothing fusty about the Victoria.
The gin and tonics offered as welcoming drinks featured top notch, premium Hendricks Gin and were garnished, quite properly, with cucumber. About time sugary vodka cocktails got a run for their money from a grown-up aperitif. Chin chin, gin gin.
The canaps alone were worth the train ride (one of the great joys of the Victoria is its location 50 yards from Altrincham railway station and Metrolink terminus, enabling one to appreciate the GnTs to the full) and provided an early indication of what the food here is all about.
Perfect miniature Scotch eggs with the sausage meat enlivened by a touch of chorizo; rabbit and raisin spring rolls; Blacksticks Blue cheese and broad bean pasties: phew! Kevin, former sous chef at Manchester city centres Sams Chop House, in the forefront of the renaissance of traditional British cooking, is the first to admit its influence of that institution in Back Pool Fold.
But at the Victoria theres an additional touch of daring, no better illustrated than by the starter proper, which combined a dill-flavoured melt-in-the-mouth warm scone topped with Cheshire Smokehouse smoked salmon and served with a strawberry and cracked black pepper salsa.
Smoked salmon with strawberries? A cream tea with smoked salmon? This was brave and innovative gastronomy and it worked, for the clever connections for these tip-top but apparently disparate ingredients were provided by the dill and the black pepper. The accompanying wine from Maisons Marques & Domaines Ltd was Attitude; an apt name for this elegant new wave sauvignon blanc from one of the top producers in Sancerre, providing notes of lime, green apple and grapefruit.
The main course was another delicious array of harmonious flavours: succulent pink slices of lamb rump were served on a sweet-sour damson and red onion tart with rocket dressed with cumin and Cheshire yoghurt.
The red wine accompaniment was another young French cracker supplied by Thorman Hunt, again via Portland Wine - La Sabournet from the Rhone, supple and juicy with vibrant hints of redcurrant and raspberry.
Baked raspberry custard tart with raspberry compote provided a real dish of nostalgic British comfort for pudding, splendidly executed and presented, alongside a delightfully floral and intense dessert wine, Chivite Gran Fuedo Moscatel.
Cheshire Life Luncheon Menu
Smoked Salmon Scone, Strawberry and Black Pepper Salsa
Attitude, Pascal Jolivet, Loire, France
Lake District Farmers' Rump of Lamb, Damson & Red Onion Tart
Le Sabounet, Roger Sabon, Rhone, France
Baked Raspberry Custard Tart, Raspberry Compote
Chivite Gran Fuedo Moscatel, Navarra, Spain
The Victoria Gin Palace and Dining Room, 29 Stamford Street, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 1EX. 0161 613 1855
Food served Mon-Sat noon-3pm and 6pm-10pm; Sun noon-4pm. Starters 4.50 - 7.25; Mains 12.95 - 16.95; Sides from 2.50; Puddings 4.95. Early dinner offer Mon-Thu before 7pm and Fri before 6.30pm: 12.95 for two courses, 15.95 for three.