Review: Victors, Oxford Westgate Centre, Katherine MacAlister

I HAD misread the situation entirely. I had Victors down as a swish Hamptons-esque, East Coast destination restaurant.

I had envisaged George Clooney in linen, sipping white wine, gentle jazz playing in the background, soft lighting, taupe banquettes, and only the clinking of ice cubes to distract from the heights of sophistication; the perfect place in fact to take my in-laws.

We heard the music as we got to the top of the elevator in the Westgate Centre which takes you up to the roof terrace, and it wasn’t jazz.

The children’s entertainment was just finishing as the evening DJ got started. It was hard to differentiate between Victors and the public arena, through no fault of their own, the tables merging inexplicably.

We were early and as our table inside wasn’t ready, were seated outside, next to a speaker which meant we couldn’t hear ourselves think or speak. This certainly set the tone for the evening.


Our waitress came to explain the small plates concept and take our drinks order, but we couldn’t hear so just nodded and smiled a lot.

Eventually a waitress took pity on us and led us to the other side of the restaurant as far away from throbbing bass line as possible.

As we were led through the vast interior, I realised the entire restaurant was packed with beautiful people half my age. Suddenly the music made sense.

My outfit which minutes before I’d thought pretty cool, was suddenly frumpy. My children would love it here.

But we were committed. We had a babysitter for the younger ones and had dressed up. Plus we were hungry. There was no turning back.

Sat next to a hen party who were twerking energetically as we arrived, my father-in-law thought he’d died and gone to heaven, even if he couldn’t hear anything.

Another waiter approached our table to explain the menu, cue more nodding and smiling, if still non the wiser.

Then the drinks arrived. My gin and tonic smoked. Really.

The bar was packed. This was definitely the place to be. I kept expecting to see my eldest teens on a night out. They would have liked the food; popcorn chicken, crispy duck, salt and pepper duck, tuna tartare taco, cerviche, sushi.

It was basically smart finger food, dressed up with wisteria and steaming cocktails.

Neither did I understand how a sharing menu could include a 16oz rib eye steak for £38 or Chateaubriand for two at £58. That’s some sharing.

We ordered three things each by stabbing at them with our fingers and nodding some more. All the shouting in the world wasn’t going to get us heard.

And then the hen night left and with it my father in-law’s entertainment. It meant we could actually talk for the first time that evening.

More drinks arrived, this time a glass of rosé which was warm. “Could I have a cold rosé,” I asked. “Yes madam, shall I just bring you some ice cubes “ my waiter asked in all seriousness. “No thanks, I’d just like it chilled.”

It was too late to escape. We just had to cling on for dear life and hope for the best. The starters, if that’s what you call them, arrived all orange – popcorn chicken, deep fried cheese, some tempura soft-shell crab in a spicy cocktail sauce and baby gem lettuce. All sort of soft, fried and crispy in various incarnations.

Ad then the larger items – a mushroom and truffle ravioli in an inedible gloopy sauce (£8.50), a grilled avocado, Panko tofu and roasted tomato dish (£6.50) which was just wrong – never should chewy tofu be matched with soft avocado.


We did enjoy the lamb cutlets with Korean barbecue, cucumber, lemon dressing and sesame seeds (£12.50) which you had to eat by hand.

The music had been creeping up imperceptibly and we gave up on conversation altogether. It was also so dark by then it was impossible to see your food, so it became more of a guessing game than a meal.

The dessert arrived blazing with sparklers, giving Guy Fawkes a run for his money; as we shared the selection in the dark.

Only when we were presented with the bill did we realise they had missed out two of our dishes altogether – the Asian crispy duck and the lil’ lobster rolls. “Do you want to try them now?” we were asked. “No thanks,” we replied straight-faced.

By now the music was so deafening it was like eating dinner in a nightclub. The young ‘uns were busy smoothing out their boob tubes and reapplying their eyebrows. We left as soon as possible.

Writing to thank us the next day, my mother-in-law phrased it so wonderfully: “Our evening at Victor’s was interesting and unusual and we both enjoyed the evening despite the blaring music.”

One thing was for sure, George Clooney wasn’t anywhere to be seen. We too should have quit while we were ahead and left it to the youngsters.