I LIVE in a town now where there is no Pret, or EAT. Imagine.
For a city girl in need of a snack this can be quite distressing. Harrogate does have its scenery perks, but culinary choices are a bit thin on the ground. An evening meal can often mean a toss-up between the loaded tourist-trap of a fixed menu, or a laborious, heavy and over-faffy dinner that takes an age to arrive.
"We were told Victus will one day become famous for its meatball sliders. They definitely tasted better than your average Subway marinara."
When Jenson Button opened his new eatery, Victus, on Beulah Street last month, ripples resonated through the genteel streets. The biggest throng of people that has ever been recorded in North Yorkshire – around 85 - gathered in the rain to watch our racing champ cut the ribbon on this funky new café-restaurant. But is it any good?
It promised to offer a little something for everyone, from pastries and wraps to evening platters. It’s trendy duck-egg blue and motif décor smacks of pop-art and sugary fun. My partner and I chose to pop in on a chilly Sunday evening, on the premise of a quick bite to end the weekend, leaving enough time to catch Downton Abbey (that bit was purely my decision).
The menu was startlingly skinny for a dinner service, though we were told we’d get plates (daytime food is served in boxes, and one lady really had an issue with this). There is a choice of half a dozen sharing dishes, a hot dog, a salad or a burger. The waitress explained that the sharing dishes are a bit like a cross between tapas and a kids’ portion. If we ordered three, plus flatbread and humous, we’d honestly be ok. So we ordered pretty much all of them.
What Victus was lacking in choice was made up for in taste. Each offering had its own style and plenty of thought had gone into the design of the dishes as had been given to the kitsch surroundings. The chicken teriyaki (£5.50) was deeply flavoured without the sickliness of too much sauce. My partner said it was like all the best bits of a takeaway - the fiery chillis, the not-so gloopy noodles and toasted sesame.
We were told Victus will one day become famous for its meatball sliders (£4.35): A trio of baked meatballs with smoked cheese and a slice of pickle. They definitely tasted better than your average Subway marinara, though you might not want to try and eat them on a first date, unless you’d brought a bib.
Other pleasing morsels brought to us included very meaty BBQ ribs (£4.50) and a fiery pork chilli bowl (£4.50) with enough rice to make the whole arrangement feel like a substantial meal.
Needless to say, we were stuffed after ordering what turned out to be 70 per cent of the menu. We did find room for a slice of baked cheesecake (£2.35) - thin oatmeal base, doughy consistency, just how it should be - and a damn fine cup of fresh-bean decaf: Ideal for an overly full pregnant lady wanting to wallow for a while longer and listen to the 80s music compilation they’d chosen for the evening.
I missed the start of Downton Abbey and ended up watching Spooks (just so you know). It was worth it though, and it also proved that ITV+1 is a worthy invention.
Victus had a lovely casual approach to dining, and whilst it may not be everyone’s bag (or box) for a sit-down meal, the lazy sharing approach certainly appealed to me.
Jenson may be on to another winner here. Certainly a podium finish, if not the chequered flag itself.
ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.
11 Beulah Street, Harrogate. HG1 1QQ, 01423 529060
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