Portland Restaurant – Review (Fitzrovia) Michelin Got It Right

Portland Restaurant was opened in January 2015 by Will Lander, he also co-owns The Quality Chop House, he teams up with the talented Daniel Morgenthau, a former chef of 10 Greek Street. They create a 45 cover dining space with an open kitchen, a seasonal menu, with an ever-changing hand picked wine list to keep things interesting. At the stove you’ll get Head Chef Merlin Labron-Johnson from Devon, former sous-chef at destination restaurant Kobe Desramaults at In De Wulf in Belgium’s Ghent region. Merlin also trained with none other than Michael Caines who holds 2 Michelin stars of his own at his Gidleigh Park establishment – a restaurant I’m eager to visit!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I always blether on about how the bread is the first impression, and first impressions always count, at Portland Restaurant the bread is no exception. There is a real depth of flavour throughout the loaf here, especially in the crust – of course more was ordered to make use of that creamy butter with grated ox heart. Annoyingly, the latter’s flavour was a mere rumour and didn’t make an impact.

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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 a whack of earthy truffle. Lot’s of layered flavour and obviously addictive.

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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.

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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.

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Wild rice crackers, Dorset crab, lime and shiso (£6). Sweet crab dotted with salmon roe balanced out by the citric kick of lime which was lifted by minty shiso. Every bite retained the nutty crunch from the cracker. Delicious.

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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 pastel orange hued butter which is whipped with the scallop roe, it’s clever cooking and very rich eaten alone, it’s made for slathering on that lush bread.

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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. The 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.

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Denham estate deer, salt baked celeriac, blackberries, and sunflower seeds (£27). Underneath that soft earthy celeriac, there was ample amounts of rich gamey venison, cooked to a beautiful rare.

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Turbot, heritage carrots, lemon verbena (£26). The fish flavour was delicate, distinctive and utterly delicious with those sweet earthy carrots, every mouthful was grand.

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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 I assume. It was ok but a world away and from the other dishes according to my fellow diners.

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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, but let’s call it a wonderful accessory. 

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Desert time:

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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 utterly brilliant.

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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 my table of diners. Lot’s of sour and bitter components hits the palate, it’s reminiscent of a black forest gateau I felt, but was the weak link in the trio of deserts we tasted.  

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Hazelnut èclair (£6). Decadent hazelnut cream sandwiched with crisp choux pastry, glazed with caramel and delicious hazelnuts. We were so seduced by it, another two were ordered in quick succession and became the desert of the year, let alone the night. 

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Warm Tunworth, pear and fruit loaf (£6). If cheese is your thing then don’t let me stop you.

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The verdict:

When did I go? Nov 2015  
The damage: Expect to pay £60-£70 per head with drinks
The good: What we got was a chef and ingredient led agenda, with precise food that was pitch perfect in most, there’s definitely substance behind the hype. It felt laid back and modern with excellent service, a true little gem in Fitzrovia with well executed, well priced food. The hazelnut èclair is a must and so is the turbot and venison. (Things will probably be different by the time you have read this though). Those little white truffle and Gruyére macaroons will make your mouth gush too.
The bad: It took an age to book a table for 5 as the restaurant is so small
Rating: 4/5
Would I go again? Definitely  
Address: 113 Great Portland Street, London W1W 6QQ 
Web:http://www.portlandrestaurant.co.uk


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