Victorian Restaurant in the Great Western Arcade
The walk to the Victorian Restaurant on a bank holiday Monday was eerily quiet. The Colmore Row business district was deserted, and the Great Western Arcade itself was exceptionally empty, with many of the cafes and restaurants within closed for the day. That just gives you a better opportunity to admire the beautiful architecture; the location of the Victorian Restaurant in this luxuriously lovely shopping arcade is one of its greatest strengths.
The Victorian Restaurant itself is unassuming from the outside, with a small counter and a few tables downstairs, but these were roped off today and we headed upstairs to the main restaurant, which can seat 80. We chose a window seat, so we could look down on the Great Western Arcade from above and enjoy the beautiful view. The decoration is in tune with the name; a large portrait of Queen Victoria dominates one wall, and the laminated lace tablecloths, floral carpets and curtains, the dated pictures, china plates on the walls, and mismatched chandelier lights all add up to a cosily dated whole, which feels like it might have stood untouched for years.
Table service is the order of the day here, and the menu is very detailed. An entire A4 page of size 12 font can barely squeeze all the breakfast options in, although everything is classic breakfast food: no surprises here. The food is characterised not so much by especially high quality or fancy ingredients, but by tremendous portions for cheap prices. Two middle aged couples were taking full advantage of the menu, as well as two young men dressed in tracksuits, and a parents/engaged couple foursome eating and wedding planning together. In the corner, a single man nattily dressed in tribly and woolly waistcoat sat alone.
Drinks arrived first: an enormous pot of tea and a glass of orange juice. No coca cola this week; if you order a full English, tea and orange juice are both included in the £5.95 price. Nothing fancy in the presentation, but stainless steel teapots and plain cups and saucers served up three cups of tea each while keeping it piping hot.
The full English was tasty, hot, huge, and very cheap at the price. It barely squashed onto the plate, and toast as a result (included in the price) comes separately.
In the Victorian Restaurant, you can get teacakes, which are my all time favourite breakfast food. They were the ideal version of a teacake: hot, perfectly toasted, butter on the side. Total heaven.
The toilets in the Victorian Restaurant have a very strong ‘school toilets’ vibe. Pink toilets and sinks in the ladies, green in the mens, but otherwise both characterised by a bleak and functional appearance which feels like it could have been unchanged since the 1950s. Atmospheric in its own way.
However, the ladies at least have one unexpected treat: a huge window overlooks the roof of the Great Western Arcade, so even in these uninspiring toilets, you look out onto the beautiful design without.
Price: cheap eats– full English (including tea, orange juice), extra tea, egg on toast, toasted teacake: £11.10
Atmosphere and design: old fashioned, Victorian paraphernalia, cosy
Food: standard quality, but lots for the money
Toilets: dated, reminiscent of old school toilets from the 1950s
Enjoyment: good service, cosy, quiet and sleepy atmosphere