Stoke House in Victoria
Ushering in a new era of egalitarian eating, Stoke House offers a self service-style dining experience with a twist. Dragging the Great British carvery kicking and screaming back from the 70s, the concept is grab-and-go with a focus on affordability.
But fear not. Gone are the days of greying slithers of unappealing meat, here you pay-per-weight for prime cuts of UK-sourced beef, lamb, pork and whole chicken, all cooked in the restaurant’s eponymous wood-fired smoker – simply head up to the kitchen counter and take your pick. Staff are friendly and more than happy to recommend the best cuts; this level of interaction lifts the veil and pleasantly bridges the gap between kitchen and customer.
A dramatic departure from acclaimed chef Will Ricker’s previous ventures that include La Bodega Negra and E&O, Stoke House’s pocket-friendly vibe offers a knee-jerk reaction to stuffy fine-dining. Head chef Pete Denhart, formerly of Fitzrovia’s Newman Arms, ensures the kitchen is in good hands too.
Service is quick and presentation is simple with your chosen meats arriving on rustic wooden boards. The Slow-cooked Beef Short Rib, adorned with pickled red onions and fiery chillis is pull-apart tender inside, with a sweet, sticky exterior. A dish that can so often be disappointingly dry or unpleasantly moist, the Pork Collar thankfully does not disappoint, carefully walking the line between the two. It arrives in a delicately shredded mound paired with crisp fennel slaw and burnt apple sauce with the option of a pillowy brioche bun. Light and refreshing, the Turbo with Wild Garlic and Lemon perfectly counters the richness of so much heavy meat, pairing well with a zingy chimichurri. Needless to say, it’s all very good, but the Roasted Cornish Lamb Belly steals the show. Juicy strips of meat lie nestled up to the thinnest layer of fat, keeping the lamb wonderfully tender, yet crisp – definitely not to be missed.
A small range of sides include smoked cauliflower cheese and roasted carrots with not a chip in sight. In an effort to leave more room for meat, we opt for a trio of rainbow-hued seasonal salads: giant couscous and roasted vegetables; cucumber and poppy seed; and a roasted balsamic beets with feta. So often an afterthought, these stray as far as possible from “boring veggie option”, offering a satisfying variation of texture and colour.
In an unfortunate echo of carvery glory days, the Brownie Sundae is gratuitously decorated with all the paraphernalia of a heart attack: smarties, sprinkles and honeycomb litter the mountain of brownie and ice cream, jutting out at odd angles like so many climbers left to the mercy of Everest. For something lighter, choose the Lemon Posset with a handful of raspberries and a single crisp biscotti – a perfect way to end an evening of carefree carnivorous abandon.
An easygoing atmosphere is furthered by communal tables and bench seating, whilst modern interiors prevent things from erring on the side of canteen. In the vein of classics with a twist, a kaleidoscopic wall of Brewdog cans adorns one wall, it’s undulating form providing quite the talking point. Above our heads, an LED cow looms, casting a synthetic glow over diners.
Wine snobs may wince at the prospect of straight-from-the-barrel options served in a tumbler, but the carefully thought-out range of classic cocktails and craft beers are sure to ease the pain. A smoked negroni makes the perfect aperitif whilst you mull over the menu and feels more than fitting for such an occasion. On the other end of the spectrum, the Lady G is crisp and bright, with aromatic lemongrass and notes of pineapple.
Yet another in a long line of vintage resurgences, Stoke House takes the best of a golden oldie and spins it into, well, gold. Expect generous prices and even more generous portion sizes – just don’t bring your vegetarian pals.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Daniel Donovan
To book a table at Stoke House, Nova Building 81 Buckingham Palace Road London SW1W 0AJ, call 020 7485 2112 or visit here.