There are so many places to eat across the road from Victoria Station these days the choice is almost too much. The redevelopment in the area has been astonishing. Where once were somewhat rundown looking buildings, in their place now is sleek, modern, chrome and glass.
And it was in one of these restaurants in the new Nova building that a friend and I met for lunch; to be more precise The Stoke House.
First impressions count, they say. And my first impression was ‘gosh, how vibrant’. Music, possibly a tad too loud, was playing in a large modern room a cocktail bar at its centre; against one wall the kitchen and its carvery service counter plus a highly original and colourful salad wall; the other wall decorated with goodness knows how many multi-coloured beer cans.
Close by a functional display case containing logs, and lingering on the air a slight hint of smoke. Jazzy geometric cube flooring and a wooden bench - surprisingly comfortable - snaking its way round the room added to the modern feel. As my friend rather aptly described it - modern industrial chic meets cocktail bar.
Tom explains about Stoke House
The welcome was friendly and we were quickly settled at a table whilst our delightful waiter Tom explained the menu to us whilst telling us about the Stoke House concept and its food.
The Stoke House is open Monday – Saturday 12pm – 11pm and on Sunday 12pm – 9pm (the restaurant prides itself on its Sunday roasts.) Food is served all day - including some well-filled looking sandwiches for anybody not wanting a whole meal.
Prices of the meals vary according to portion size. Wine, served by the glass or in carafes, is from casks; craft beer is also available, and the menu includes some pretty delicious sounding cocktails.
Terrific food from a talented chef
When the Stoke House originally opened it was as a traditional carvery. But today, much to my delight the terrific food is waiter-served. Nevertheless we headed for the kitchen area to see what was going on and it was here that we met the unassuming but very talented Head Chef Pete Denhart.
Pete pointed out the two enormous smoke ovens where the fabulous quality meat supplied by butcher Philip Warren from Cornwall is carefully roasted and smoked. The wood incidentally comes from English trees grown in Oxfordshire, and is displayed in a rack near the kitchen.
Pete, and indeed Tom and his fellow waiters are all supremely proud of the provenance of meat served to diners. The menu choice is small – but no complaints from us.
The starters looked good so we shared a soft, oozing burrata with tomato, olive oil and crispbread , and the slices of the smokehouse salmon with dill crème fraiche and crunchy seeded crackers. The salt used is Cornish sea salt.
We were bowled over by the meltingly soft and fabulous flavour of the ribs served with pickled chilli and red onions and the lamb belly with its salsa verde. Out of pure greed we shared a slice of the perfectly cooked roast beef. (Smoked beer can roast chicken and wood roasted salmon also appear on the menu.)
The large bowls of imaginative salads and invitingly fresh and crisp vegetables looked wonderful too – but we were more tempted by the Hot Bits on the Side and shared a bowl of tiny roasted new potatoes, honey roasted heritage carrots and a smoked cauliflower cheese.
A limited dessert menu – Tom was a little disappointed that we didn’t choose one of the ice cream sundaes. Obviously his favourite the Mr Whippy baked Alaska sundae – chocolate brownie, Mr Whippy ice cream, Italian meringue along with a chocolate flake . The lemon posset with raspberries looked tempting, but in the end we shared a yummy chocolate mousse served with honeycomb.
With its convenient location so close to Victoria Station, its delightful staff who made us so welcome and told us we could stay as long as we liked, plus the terrific food the Stoke House is destined to become one of our favourite meeting places and restaurant. thestokehouse.com