Cheshire Life lunch at The Victoria, Altrincham

A traditional Altrincham pub has been given a new lease of life, with the emphasis on fine dining and good gin

The Victoria in Altrincham was once was described as ‘an old man’s 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? Didn’t that used to mean an old woman’s 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 Life’s October luncheon, there’s nothing fusty about the Victoria. The gin and tonics offered as welcoming drinks featured top notch, premium Hendrick’s 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 canap�s 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 G‘n’Ts 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 centre’s Sam’s 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 there’s 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 MenuSmoked Salmon Scone, Strawberry and Black Pepper SalsaAttitude, Pascal Jolivet, Loire, FranceLake District Farmers' Rump of Lamb, Damson & Red Onion TartLe Sabounet, Roger Sabon, Rhone, FranceBaked Raspberry Custard Tart, Raspberry CompoteChivite Gran Fuedo Moscatel, Navarra, Spain

The Victoria Gin Palace and Dining Room, 29 Stamford Street, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 1EX. 0161 613 1855Food 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.

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