Portland Restaurant was opened in January 2015 by Will Lander who co-owns The Quality Chop House teaming up Daniel Morgenthau formally of 10 Greek Street they create a minimal 45 cover dining space with an open kitchen, comes with a seasonal menu, an ever-changing 45 hand picked wine list and is full of charm. Head Chef Merlin Labron-Johnson from Devon, a former sous-chef at destination restuarant Kobe Desramaults at In De Wulf in Belgium’s Ghent region runs the kitchen. Merlin also trained with none other than Michael Caines who holds 2 Michelin stars at his Gidleigh Park establishment. He knows a thing or two around the kitchen – trust me on this as seen in action here:
The menu format is unfussy, 3 choices for starters, mains and sides with 4 ‘snacks’ to choose from too, which come in a amuse bouche style mouthfuls. It’s good to see a good selection of craft beers too.
The Kernel comes with a fruity aroma and is crisp and light, the Duchessa is more bitter sweet and malty – both enjoyable and a nice way to take the edge of the week.
Finca Decero Remilos (£37). Full bodied, elegant – a tasty malbec from Argentina. The Birichino St-Georges from Santa Cruz California was quite light and minerally, I’ve had better pinot noirs though.
I always blether on about how first impressions count and at Portland Restaurant the bread is no exception. There is a real depth of flavour throughout especially in the crust – of course more was ordered to make use of that creamy butter with grated ox heart. The grated ox heart flavour was a mere rumour though and didn’t make an impact.
White truffle and Gruyére macaroons (£3). A very fashionable slate grey hue but looks can be deceiving as these little sandwiches were a master class, you get the sweet textural chew from the macaroon with the cheese kicking in followed by the earthy truffle aroma. Lot’s of layered flavour and obviously addictive.
Lightly smoked trout, fougasse, herbs and flowers (£3). In case you don’t know fougasse is an artisanal bread from Provence – it provided the perfect soft vehicle for that delicious trout.
Warm pumpkin cakes, chestnut, truffle, and aged Mimolette (£7). Mimolette is a cheese from Lille inspired by the traditions of Edam – the pumpkin cake was soft and delicate, the cheese nutty and sweet but the truffle was subdued. This one was ok – not as good as the former two.
Wild rice crackers, Dorset crab, lime and shiso (£6). Sweet crab dotted with salmon roe balanced out the the lime acidity and all lifted by the minty shiso. Every bite retained the nutty crunch from the cracker. Delicious.
Isle of Mull scallop, chantecler apple, green mandarin (£12). This was excellent and a really clever dish, it all seemed to work together. The base was butter whipped with the scallop roe giving it that orange hue, a clever cooking and very rich eaten alone though which is why the extra bread is used to savour the moment.
Chopped Dexter beef, castelfranco, anchovy and cured egg yolk. Castelfranco is part of the radiccio family, kinda like purple chicory but less bitter and sweeter and Dexter beef is the smallest native breed of cattle from the SW of Ireland. This seemed to be Portland’s beef tartare deconstructed and it was a decent rendition.
Denham estate deer, salt baked celeriac, blackberries, and sunflower seeds (£27). Underneath that soft earthy celeriac there was ample amounts of that rich gamey venison which was cooked to a beautiful rare.
Turbot, heritage carrots, lemon verbena (£26). The fish flavour was delicate, distinctive and utterly delicious with those sweet earthy carrots, every mouthful was grand.
Kid goat was an off menu special (£26). Mild in flavour, tender and less gamey than your standard goat – this is down the age of the meat. It was ok but a world away and not as impressive as the other dishes according to my fellow diners.
Purple sprouting broccoli, miso, toasted almonds (£4). This is everything you’d need in a plate of broccoli, charred to a perfect texture retaining all the sweet goodness and doused with the umami miso. As were the waxy new potatoes, smoked butter and chives (£5), probably an unnecessary carbohydrate with such a good bread product available.
Green mandarin tart, meringue, shiso, yogurt (£8). A cleverly put together desert especially with the tubular meringue, perhaps its Portland’s rendition of the classic lemon meringue pie and it’s stage perfect.
Bitter chocolate, baked milk, blackberries (£9). An interesting construction of ingredients and craft but possibly not a desert that appeals to the masses, well not according our table of diners. Lot’s of sour and bitter components and reminiscent of a black forest gateau but not as memorable.
Hazelnut èclair (£6). Decadent hazelnut cream sandwiched with crisp choux pastry glazed with caramel and delicious hazelnuts. We were so seduced another two were ordered and became a redeeming dish and did so with panache.
Warm Tunworth, pear and fruit loaf (£6). If cheese is your thing then don’t let me stop you.
The damage: Expect to pay £80-£100 per head with drinks
The good: A chef and ingredient led agenda which was pitch perfect in most there is substance behind the hype. Laid back and modern with excellent service – Portland is a little gem in Fitzrovia with well executed, well priced food. The hazelnut èclair is a must and so it the turbot and venison. Those little white truffle and Gruyére macaroons with make your mouth gush too.
The bad: It took an age to book a table for 5 as the restaurant is so small.
113 Great Portland Street, London W1W 6QQ
Phone 0207 436 3261