Matthew Bay­ley vis­its Lorne in Victoria

On the hunt for an ex­cit­ing but un­com­pli­cated lunch in Lon­don’s Victoria

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Sim­ple food, done well. That’s what the bloke i’m sit­ting op­po­site at din­ner says he wants. ‘it’s not too much to ask, is it?’

what he re­ally means is no more miche­lin-star chas­ing. no more dishes so pretty you feel bad about st ick­ing your knife and fork into them. noth­ing primped and preened and teased and tweez­ered. Just sim­ple food, done well.

As mis­sion state­ments go, it’s not quite Take Back Con­trol or make Amer­ica Great Again. But when you’re out look­ing for some­thing to eat and some­where to eat it, it’s hard to beat. That said, the same man who is es­pous­ing this phi­los­o­phy once de­scribed some cro­quet as we share data cel­e­brated tapas bar as ‘cheesy ba­con balls’, so his opin­ion might best be dis­counted.

nev­er­the­less, it’s an ap­proach that the own­ers of lorne, close to Victoria train sta­tion, seem to have adopted.

eat­ing any­where near a Bri­tish rail­way sta­tion is, for the most part, a dis­mal propo­si­tion. we lack the french t ra­dit ion of g ra nd st at ion brasser ies and seem to have re­signed our­selves to scof f ing £5 past ies while st a r ing up bale­fully at the de­par­tures board.

Un­til re­cently, Victoria and its im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings were no ex­cep­tion to this r ule. But in the past few years the area has un­der­gone a re­nais­sance of sorts. And this is im­por­tant and very wel­come. The Te­leg raph has its of­fice t here, and it’s of ten been felt t hat we had more chance of be­ing run over by a tour ist wit h a 19-stone suit­case t han

of find­ing some­thing de­cent to eat.

But now we have the Nova de­vel­op­ment, just a stone’ s throw from the main sta­tion en­trance, where lux­ury apart­ments sit above a col­lec­tion of new restau­rants and bars, all packed since open­ing a few months back. And on the eastern side, we have Wil­ton Road.

Once home only to a Nando’s and a Sains­bury’s, this Pim­lico thor­ough­fare is now quite an in­ter­est­ing case study in restau­rant-based re­gen­er­a­tion, al­beit one that rev­els in its barely dis­guised scruffi­ness. First we got the spec­tac­u­lar A Wong, which since it opened four years ago has laid claim to the ti­tle of Lon­don’ s most in­ven­tive Chi­nese restau­rant. Then we got a lob­ster-roll place, some gourmet cafés and a Rosa’s Thai. Now we’ve got Lorne.

On the site of a for­mer In­dian restau­rant, it has the fa­mil­iar nar­row di­men­sions of an urban curry house with a slightly cramped en­trance lead­ing to a main din­ing a rea at t he back. But t here all sim­i­lar it ies end. The whole place has been kit­ted out in a modern Scandi style so com­pre­hen­sively – pale wood on the floors, ta­bles, chairs and shelves – I half ex­pected Sarah Lund to be de­mol­ish­ing an open her ring sand­wich at the next ta­ble. But it’s not un­com­fort­able. Low-lit and with cush­ions on the benches, Lorne feels cosy and in­ti­mate.

A suc­cess­ful in­de­pen­dent neigh­bour­hood restau­rant–that keeps the same cus­tomers com­ing back – is a dif­fi­cult nee­dle to thread, par­tic­u­larly in an area not known for them. It needs to be wel­com­ing and fa­mil­iar, yet in­ter­est­ing enough to bring a smile to your face at the thought of re­turn­ing. Does t hat mean sim­ple food done well? A glance at the menu sug­gests that, at Lorne, it does.

In the modern tra­di­tion, what you see on its menu are dishes con­sist­ing of in­gre­di­ents sep­a­rated by comm as (of­fer­ing no clue as to how any of them

I was left won­der­ing if the re­cent tsunami of Asian and US bar­be­cue culi­nary trends has as­saulted our palates

have been cooked). So we ate pork ter­rine, pis­ta­chio, mus­tard, turnip, ap­ple, sor­rel (£9) and quail, moun­tain yam, barley, but­ter­nut squash (£11). And we fol­lowed them with cod, hispi cab­bage, mus­sels, potato, es­pelette, and sir­loin, ox heart, onion, beef fat hol­landaise (both in the low £20s).

Ev­ery dish that ar­rived was ac­com­plished, pre­cise and han­dled with a light and el­e­gant touch. Ser­vice was quick, smil­ing and at­ten­tive. But I have to ad­mit that what we ate left us both feel­ing un­der­whelmed. Noth­ing sur­prised or amazed us; noth­ing left us hop­ing for more.

The del­i­cate roasted quail leg rested pret­tily and pinkly next to a brightor­ange squash purée. But it didn’t sing. The chunky terri ne felt sim­i­larly un­der­pow­ered. The cod was bet­ter – there was a fiery edge to the es­pelette pep­per-en­hanced sauce, crunch in the cab­bage, and the mus­sels brought both salt and sweet to the party. But the beef dish–which on paper looked in­trigu­ing– blended on the plate into a col­lec­tion of mild and for­get­table flavours.

I was left won­der­ing whether the re­cent tsunami of Asian and US bar­be­cue culi­nary trends has as­saulted our palates with so much chilli and soy and salt and sugar that per­fectly ex­e­cuted French-style dishes just don’t cut it.

Hap­pily the meal ended on a high note. Thinly shaved spiced pineap­ple and mango sprin­kled with a lime granita was a great blast of icy re­fresh­ment. And a thick wedge of ap­ple and al­mond tart looked pretty un­der lay­ered ic­ing, and tasted even bet­ter.

There is no doubt that Lorne is try­ing to of­fer a sin­gu­lar ex­pe­ri­ence for this part of town: high-end yet com­fort­able, re­as­sur­ing yet out of the or­di­nary. The cou­ple be­hind it, chef Peter Hall and som­me­lier Kate Ex­ton, both have se­ri­ous form–at May­fair’ s The Square and The River Café. There is ob­vi­ous tal­ent here and they de­serve to suc­ceed. If only so Tele­graph staff can get a good lunch.

Be­low Cod, hispi cab­bage, mus­sels, potato, es­pelette

Above Quail, moun­tain yam, barley, but­ter­nut squash.

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