The welcome: It is not clear at first sight whether Victory Mansion is a cocktail bar or a restaurant, and no waiter appeared as we stepped inside, but before long one of the bartenders emerged from behind the bar and we were happily perusing the food menu.
The room: The feel is more bar than restaurant, and the bar itself dominates the room. The décor errs on just the right side of twee: antique cocktail shakers by the dozen adorn the bar; tropical wallpaper and green leather clash pleasantly with dark wood and subdued lighting. The overall atmosphere is jovial and warm.
The food: The food menu comprises a list of small plates, each the perfect size for sharing. Some were excellent; the baby artichokes fried in buttermilk batter with a confit duck yolk and Parmesan is moreishly crisp and unctuous without being greasy or heavy, and the heritage tomato salad is smartly dressed with, among other things, capers and garlic honey.
Sadly, some dishes are less exciting than they sound. Mussels are stuffed with spinach, coconut and turmeric, which is a tasty combination but leaves the mussels somewhat overpowered, and the lamb rump with green tomato, apricot and sour cream is underwhelming; though it is nicely pink, the meat is not as tender as the dish calls for.
The puddings are much better. Liquorice walnuts add crunch and a dash of herbal darkness to poached peaches in vanilla custard, and the cookie dough madeleines constitute a powerful argument for taking cookie dough more seriously.
The cocktail menu is where Victory Mansion really shines. The Catch-22, a variation on the classic Sazerac (a New Orleans whisky and absinthe cocktail), boasts 22 separate ingredients, yet remains balanced and subtle. There is more than a hint of kitsch in The Rye, The Rich and the Wardrobe, a concoction of biscuit-infused rye whiskey and dry vermouth served in a miniature wardrobe complete with a rich tea biscuit. The garnish isn’t just a gimmick though: it cuts right through the cocktail’s sweetness.
After the cocktails, a glass of the house red is something of a let down; this is possibly symptomatic of a restaurant trying to do too much; as a cocktail bar with a solid range of small plates, Victory Mansion is excellent, but as a destination for a leisurely dinner and perhaps a bottle of wine, it is less exciting.
Would we go again? For dinner, perhaps not. For cocktails and nibbles? Absolutely.
|What||Victory Mansion restaurant review, Stoke Newington|
|Where||Victory Mansion, 18 Stoke Newington High St, London, N16 7PL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Dalston Kingsland (overground)|
01 Oct 15 – 01 Oct 22, 12:00 AM