Are Asian flavours and South American tortillas a match made in heaven? Victory Mansion think so. Full disclosure, Shekha then made a repeat visit to try the tacos we couldn’t manage the first time around…
Date night couples, weekend brunchers, large and small parties, hipsters (probably), Lost Generation enthusiasts, bookworms, seekers of rare and interesting spirits, nostalgia-heads
In a Word
The entrance to Victory Mansion is so unassuming, I walked past it twice before realising it was there. Once inside, the impressively-stocked bar is a focal point, along with the emerald walls and retro yet vogueish palm print wallpaper.
The eclectic repurposed artwork on the walls, Denton and Brown silverware and dark wood furniture is steeped in kind of lost generation’ Parisian nostalgia – or wouldn’t be out of place in Mark Twain’s library. However contemporary flairs like vintage images superimposed with Star Wars characters, and fun funk covers of well-known songs, belie a quintessentially Hackney vibe.
Food here is the brainchild of TA-KO chef Tim Yates who delivers Asian-inspired tacos and small plates to hungry punters. The tacos are served atop 12cm gluten free corn tortillas, perfect for sharing, with a brilliant 2-for-1 (with £5 cocktails) deal on the weekends – an offer so tempting that we did in fact return for a second round to experience the brunch specials.
The first visit….
The cocktail menu, expectedly is a vast treasure trove of delights, with all the drinks named after famous characters or themes in literature – further emphasising the 1920s Hemingway-in-Europe-esque atmosphere. We start with a Negroni which is bolshie but a little bit sweet for our tastes. The Atticus Finch, a blend of wild turkey bourbon, plum sake, lychee, lime, chilli and peach bitters is a refreshing palate prepper – citrusy and fruity with a sweet roundness of mint.
Our first dish is pieces of corn on the cob which come gorgeously charred, with lime, feta and topped with puffed quinoa. The corn and accompanying quinoa are beautifully smoky and hot, while the saltiness of the feta and the zesty lime elevate the dish so that each mouthful is a vibrant, addictive experience. For someone who is ambivalent about both corn and quinoa, it is a revelation.
Next comes the torched sea bream taco which is wrapped in a blue cornflour tortilla. This is delicious; delicate white fish complements the pungent hit from accompanying mackerel pate and umami ketchup – the savoury handmade tortilla and sharp pickles cut through the strong paté for a wonderfully balanced bite.
A charred broccoli taco with salted duck egg relish and spring onions is also a surprise. The crunchy sweetness of the broccoli is a perfect paring for the rich, creamy relish – while the aftertaste of spring onion adds a little spark to the taco.
The red pepper pork neck taco comes on a white corn tortilla. It is rich and meaty with a liver pate and bundles of pork floss but slivers of cucumber again work to lift the porkiness which make for a delicious, if slightly heavy plate.
The cauliflower and black bean taco is great fun to eat, with a brilliant flavour. The textual variety with crispy battered cauliflower, squishy black beans, creamy avocado and tart tamarind is like a little mouth-disco. I am surprised at how much I enjoy it, not being overly enthused about cauliflower, I have vowed to now look at it a different way.
Next comes the beef short rib taco, chunks of meat with pickled watermelon and wild blackberry siracha, this is perhaps my least favourite of the bunch – merely because I want the beef to fall away in tendrils but it is a little on the tough side. Pickled watermelon however is very good, with a nice punch from the blackberry siracha.
I would also like to take a moment to talk about this blackberry siracha. As a brand new flavour we have never experienced before, we are incredibly excited by this. The earthy sweetness and occasionally tart berries are an amazing foil to the vinegary, spicy flavour of siracha and being introduced to this as a condiment is probably the highlight of the meal for me.
We round off the mains with the cheekily-named MSG fries, which are in fact thick medallions of crispy potato in a nori batter and dusted with salt and vinegar powder. They are amazing, the powder really giving a lip-smacking tang.
Dessert is a slight let down. The chocolate and orange madelines which are served with a thick cream and are not on the menu on our visit (though I believe they are now). We had ordered apple and coconut fritters instead. But the madelines are decent, if a little dry. A dessert cocktail of chocolate wine with tequila and banana called the Patrick Bateman, together with an edible paper business card, is much more enjoyable.
The second visit…
As I mentioned, I return to check out the brunch tacos and to try a couple from the regular menu we did not have room to eat the first time. We start with a Victory Coffee, an enjoyable play on an espresso martini with added cherry and hazelnut and something called a Bloody Defoe. This version of a Bloody Mary is served with Guinness and marmite syrup which adds a hearty savoury note to the drink.
The Viking taco is a blue corn tortilla warm with thick slices of salmon and a delicious apple and radish coleslaw. It is more of the tasty morsels I have come to expect from Victory Mansion’s creative menu.
The bacon taco is no different, thick meaty bacon, with a tartness from a pomegranate glaze and creamy avocado it has an extra dimension with the salted duck egg relish. Next, a sausage and bean taco is similarly solid, with shavings of halloumi giving a wonderful saltiness.
From the main menu we try the nahm jim chicken with peppers, liver pate, pickles and kampot pepper mayo. While this is good, I find the pate slightly overpowers the chicken so the overall effect is slightly cloying.
The blackened river trout taco, on the other hand, with smoked aubergine nahm prik, lime labneh and pickled cucumber, works well. While it is an unusual choice of ingredients, with the diary and the muddy river fish being unlikely bedfellows, the delicate flavour of the fish stands out nicely.
Victory Mansion is the perfect neighbourhood spot. It is one of those places you can dive into quickly to satisfy a craving – and some of those tacos and sides do inspire ridiculous cravings! But it is also the kind of place you can while away the hours – either sipping on a Patrick Bateman, bemoaning existence – or enjoying with friends, slowly eating yourself into a food coma, one small plate at a time.
I personally really enjoyed this place, both for doing something rare in introducing me to a brand-new concept and flavour in blackberry siracha, but also for its consistency. Both visits resulted in good food and it was interesting to see the evening ambience vs the brunch crowd but experiencing both made the restaurant all the more charming.
18 Stoke Newington High St,
020 344 16900