Tuesday 12 April 2016

Portland, Fitzrovia

Tuna tartare with salmon roe & seaweed crisps
It's not often I visit somewhere four times without writing it up; I obviously like it a lot to keep going back, especially with the number of restaurants in London that I have yet to try. Portland, situated just north of Oxford Circus, has quietly impressed and fed me for a couple of years now. I've been there for many occasions; my father's birthday dinner, a boozy leaving lunch, a work lunch, and a lunch just 'cos. One must lunch.

Truffle & Gruyère macarons
Razor clams
The menu starts with snacks, usually irresistible, and often a little startling in flavour; a true amuse bouche, really. On my most recent visit even before the snacks we had cheesy gougère pastries, warm from the oven, which popped in the mouth to reveal molten, luxurious cheese. White truffle and Gruyère macarons are really clever; mushroomy, sweet, balanced into savoury by the cheese. Raw razor clams are chopped up and drizzled with kimchi and wild garlic oil, to be slurped down in one. It's never nothing short of a delight. 

Lobster sabayon
Beautiful crockery showcases the most incredible ingredients, treated just with the slightest teasing of complementary flavours. Last Autumn, a creamy, cheesy, almost a carbonara-like dish of salsify with crisp cured ham comforted us, like a soothing hug on a plate, carbonara-like in flavour. Now that we're coming into Spring, lobster in a sabayon-like sauce, light and luxurious, was heaving with al denté verdant vegetables. Their menu changes daily, reflecting the seasons and the produce that comes with it. 

Portland is pretty much perfect to visit as a party of 3, since they offer 3 choices per course. I'm not one to opt for the vegetarian offering though, especially not if the Specials board lists Challans duck glazed with maple syrup, confit duck, foie gras and grilled pear. It was £30, which isn't a trifling amount, but also came with the most stunning salad I've had, and unfortunately did not document pictorially, I was enjoying it so much. It was made up of crisp vegetables, fresh peas and finely shaved pear all tumbled together, to shine through the richness of the duck. If I'm honest I'd have done away with the confit duck; it didn't add much to the party. 

Sides are often superfluous but I usually enjoy them; on our latest occasion roasted cauliflower was far too cooked, and fell apart into a mush. But I've had gorgeous cheesy potatoes in a fluffy, creamy sauce which made me glad I had the space for them. Desserts are always inventive; pumpkin, blood orange, and meringue I originally veto'd but our server was horrified for us to miss it, and he was quite right. Look how pretty it is! A hazelnut eclair was light as air, pretty as a picture. Chocolate with beetroot and blackberries last year was the absolute epitome of Autumn, deep and earthy, lightened by sweet chocolate mousse. 

I'm a great fan of Portland. I never fail to have a really lovely time there; they make me feel like a grown-up, and on a special treat. The prices do too - it's not cheap, or affordable enough to be done regularly, but it is good value for the level of cooking and the quality of the produce. Quite an important distinction, that. The service is helpful, especially with the wine list which I'm told is rather special, and warm and welcoming. On the second time I visited I was startled into wide-eyes when my waiter chimed "welcome back!". It felt nice to be remembered, homely even. 

113 Great Portland Street
London W1W 6QQ

Tel: 0207 436 3261

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