Birthdays should always involve good restaurants.. Portland for lunch and Frenchie for dinner? Yes Please!

What do you do when you’re tasked with organising a day and night of restaurants for a friend’s birthday? You pick Portland Restaurant of course! I’ve had the pleasure of dining here a couple of times before and it’s brilliant, my previous reviews can be seen here and here. Then get yourself to another trophy restaurant they call Frenchie for the evening in between cocktails and you’re sorted. There isn’t much more you need for a culinary birthday day out.

We kick off at Portland.

We hydrate with a bottle of Dom Rougié Viognier Minervois 2015 £38. It’s beautifully minerally and comes with light fruits on the palate, ‘crisp apricot and white peaches’ is an apt description. I don’t profess to be an expert on wine but that’s what I taste and it was mighty fine.

These crackers with sweet red peppers and almonds slid down nicely with the Dom Rougié.

The funk of Stawley cheese macaroons £3 will be paradise for the cheese lover.

Crispy chicken skins, liver parfait, candied walnuts and pickled grapes £3. These one bite treats are pitch-perfect as always.

That warm sour dough with salted butter is simply bread porn here at Portland. Why? As there’s the lactic tang in the lacy doughy centre and a crust that shouts loudly of crunch and nuttiness.

Challans duck, charred onions, apricot and tarragon £26. It’s a French variety apparently and leaner than most but don’t let that fool you as although the fat content is minimal, the flavour profile is mighty. It has an uncommon tension that develops as you chew it too, delving deeper in flavour.

I loved the charred onions too and the hazelnuts added that all important textural element. In the sauce a wisp of star anise elevates the entire dish.

I wrote this the first time I had the dish and this time it’s not in tasting menu portions ”Longhorn short rib with baby beetroots, aubergine and yogurt. If you ever wondered what 43 hour prepared short rib looks like then look no further! It’s brined for 16hrs, smoked for 12hrs, sous vide for 10hrs and pressed for 5hrs before before being chargrilled and glazed with BBQ sauce! It’s an intense umami bomb! Thank you Portland for such an outstanding plate of food and the knowledgeable front of house for talking me through the process!”. I couldn’t have written it better myself. (Again!)

This time though since we ordered a la carte vs tasting the dish came with perfectly pink steak – the appearance suggested that it was sous-vide before it was seared. It didn’t really matter to me as it was all kinds of delightful.

Birthday boy making a wish with a brownie on the house. What a nice touch.

Chocolate fondant with tonka bean and whipped cream – they were just as good as the first time.

The verdict:

When did I go? Aug 2016
The damage: Expect to pay £60-£80 with a bottle of wine.
The good: It’s my 3rd time here now and the food quality has remained constant – in a good way. That Challans duck was heavenly and the value for money is better than most Michelin restaurants.
The bad: As a said before I wish there were more Michelin starred places like this! And birthday boy seemed to have enjoyed it.
Rating: 4/5
Address: 113 Great Portland St, London, W1W 6QQ
Closest tube: Oxford Circus
Phone: 020 7436 3261

In between meals it is a necessary ritual to have cocktails – this time we visit Scarfs Bar as they’re crafted very well here. 

Bourbon and ginger? Yes please.

A Last Word.

The Bookers Rye Old Fashioned.

A cheeky stop-off directly opposite in London’s largest gin bar in the Holborn Dining Room seems like an elemental thing to do as well pre Frenchie.

And now onto Frenchie which will be my second visit and birthday boy’s first.

Were treated to a cheeky little cocktail and a glass of champagne on the house – this was a special touch and it’s the little things like this that makes a birthday a good one.

Sour dough from Mikael Jonsson’s Hedone Restaurant and Berkeley Farm Dairy organic salted butter £3.5. Bread in my humble opinion needs to make a statement and if it comes from Hedone then it will. I preferred the brown sour dough I had previously though as it imparted more flavour.

Cornish Crab, Black Rice Cracker & Kalamata Lemon £5. I had these one bite wonders during my first visit and I was that enamoured by the taste ordering them again was absolutely necessary.  

Bacon Scones, Maple Syrup & Seasoned Cornish Clotted Cream £4. Small but mighty crumbly scones with jewels of bacon are a must have as they will give you a new outlook on scones. Paired with their house infused maple bacon bourbon Old Fashioned makes them even more sinful and delicious.

Scotch quail egg, gribiche sauce £5. If you like scotch eggs you’ll love these, they are little bites of loveliness that will disappear as quickly as they arrive. My only grumble is that at £5 a pop you’d expect the portion to be twice the size.

Bucchleuch Scotch beef tartare, razor clams, bottarga & seaweed £14. Tartare isn’t my go to choice as I prefer my steak mid-rare, this however I’d order again as it was a well put together dish. The inherent sweetness of the razor clams and umami of the seaweed along with the bottarga (that’s cured fish roe to save you from Googling) made for a hair-raisingly good dish to eat.

Grilled octopus, Sobrasada, Greek yogurt & pickled gherkins £11. Any form of good quality cured sausage, in this case puréed sobrasada would want to be friends with octopus. The pickles provided balance to the brininess of the octopus too.

Scottish Mussels, Fino Sherry, Pickled Carrots, Vadouvan Crumble £10. This dish I had the first time I came here and I love it unreservedly as the flavours hit you with rude health. I hope it remains on the menu forever.

Lamb ragù pappardelle, confit lemon, kalamata olive & espelette £14. I love it the first time I had it and it didn’t taste any less lavish the second time around – it’s food like this that would make a diner like me return.

Onto deserts 

Baba, summer berries, blueberry sorbet £8. The baba, soaked in booze was surrounded by a cluster succulent berries that swam in fridge cooled créme anglaise. The result was intensely rewarding. Then you’re made even happier with a quenelle of blueberry sorbet hidden in the baba adding more layers of flavour. This is proof in the pudding (puns are unintentional) that you do not need chocolate to create a deluxe knock-out desert.

More sorbet on a biscuit crumb for the birthday boy. A nice touch indeed.

Espresso martini a la digestiv on the house. Wonderful work and it certainly gave us that caffeine lick!

The verdict:
When did I go? Aug 2016
The damage: Expect to pay £60-£70 per head with drinks.
The good: Frenchie is a shining example of what good eating should be in London and combined with their excellent hospitality, it’s a real triumph in the already established London dining scene.
The bad: Please bring more of the quail egg scotch eggs!
Rating: 4.5/5
Address: 16 Henrietta St, London, WC2E 8QH
Closest tube: Charing Cross/Covent Garden
Phone: 020 7836 4422

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