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The Beach Gourmet: The Victorian: A Dickensian Feast

The Victorian on Main Street in Santa Monica is one of the most easily identifiable buildings in the area, but in many ways has been one of the most mysterious to local residents.

Situated near the California Heritage Museum, in what is often referred to as the Victorian quarter of Santa Monica, this impressive example of classic 19th century California architecture was originally constructed in 1894 in downtown L.A. and was known as Kyte House. It was moved to its present location in 1973 under a historical building preservation order.

The Victorian has for many years been the desired setting for weddings, private functions and corporate events. Now, this local landmark has availed itself, and its culinary wizards, to the hoi polloi so that the common man (or woman or child) can enjoy a breakfast or lunch in a genuinely historical environment.

Although the building itself is gloriously rooted in the past, the facilities and menu are decidedly “now,” with a menu that suggests a fresh geographical culinary fusion with a focus on freshness and assiduous presentation. There is also an in-house bakery that produces a myriad of the finest pastries, cookies and gateaux that one can indulge in for a lighter, perhaps more “on the go” breakfast, lunch or snack.

I recently visited this time machine for lunch, and had the pleasure of tasting a quartet of dishes from their robust and varied menu.

The patio is divided into two sections at the Victorian, one being the self-serve bakery option and the other being the more languid serviced part. I took a comfortable table in the latter section and enjoyed being caressed by a light breeze on a warm autumn day.

I started with the soup of the day, which on this occasion was a classic minestrone ($4). No quirky variations on a theme here, simply a tasty, good-sized cup of the traditional recipe with a plethora of vegetables and elbow pasta (the right kind) bathing in a well-seasoned stock and topped with a bull’s-eye of finely grated cheese. Very good indeed.

From this Italian chef d’ouevre I ventured northwest a few hundred miles (figuratively speaking), and sampled the quiche of the day (clearly, it was a du jour day) and was served with a Mediterranean interpretation of the famous flan ($7.95). Slightly browned on top and dressed with a mini green salad, this slice boasted cheese, olives and yellow peppers. It was firm, well-presented and scrumptious. If this were a testament to their other du jour offerings then I would highly recommend this daily rotation as a very good light luncheon choice.

Still staying with a French theme, (well an ex-pat New Orleans version to be precise), I was presented with the fried shrimp po’ boy sandwich ($10.95). This was a gargantuan feast all on its own. A huge slab of French bread housing a battalion of slightly spicy, breadcrumb-coated shrimp, dressed with tomato, shredded lettuce, mayo and tartar sauce. This was a totally satisfying plate, well presented, and very, very tasty. I could very easily overeat with this entrée, and had plenty left to go.

Although I was more than adequately satiated upon perusing the sweets menu, my inner (gluttonous) voice was calling for an encore and this was rewarded by a very large (again, I had a memento to take with me) slice of their very own baked Red Velvet Cake ($4). After tasting this I truly believe that heaven really could be a place on Earth!

As Mr. Dickens himself wrote in Nicholas Nickleby: “The dinner was as remarkable for the splendor and completeness of its appointments as the mansion itself.”

I concur.

The Victorian, 2640 Main Street, 310.314.3250.

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