Last week we visited Portland Restaurant, on Great Portland Street.
Having read gushing reviews in the media since the beginning of the year, we were intrigued and very much looking forward to our trip to a welcomed addition to Fitzrovia’s restaurant landscape. It did not disappoint, at all. Cue gushing review…
We managed to get a late reservation on a Monday evening; weekend dinnertime bookings aren’t available for months. On approach, the simple glazed façade framed the light from within, which illuminates the bustling small space with welcoming warmth.
A couple of diners sat at a high dining ledge on timber stools, looking out to Great Portland Street, next to a large arrangement of flowers. A thin grey awning above has a fine simple font reading ‘Portland’ above the door, the text repeated in a larger but subtle vinyl on the window below.
The restaurant is split into two levels: the ground level, a small but comfortable room allowing 40 covers, with open kitchen to the rear; while downstairs houses a private dining room, wine cellar display and customer toilets.
We were seated in the middle of the space on the deep olive-green, velvet, banquette, with button-details, which runs the entire right hand side of the ground floor. Its cararra marble back adds a touch of luxury to this otherwise clean-cut, minimal space. The walls are simply painted white, interrupted by the use of occasional paintings and blackboards. One large oil painting to the stairwell provides the only real colour burst in the room. The ceiling consists of a grid of rose gold fittings with raw light bulbs, the main design feature here. The floor is an end grain oak timber while light timber table tops and metal-framed timber school chairs give the space a Scandinavian touch. Glass jars of pickles and peppers and sauces line plywood shelves against white square tiles in the kitchen. Very simple, open and honest.
The menus arrived with complimentary still and sparkling water in slender oblong jugs, with brown labels hanging off to title each. We decided we wanted to try it all. Starting with a ‘snack’ of teriyaki quail and first course of salsify, Doddington cheese, spring truffle. The presentation along with flavour and texture was pretty mind-blowing. For mains we chose venison with roast parsnip and oats, with a side of crispy potatoes and kimchi mayonnaise. We also tried the pollock dish with ponzu and mushrooms. To finish, a citrus tart with slender meringue and vanilla cream.
It is difficult to articulate just how wonderful the food was. We still dream daily of the flavours that exploded with every mouthful. Our table struggled to speak to one another for most of the meal. A lot of muffled “incredibles” and “wows”… quieting this table of diners is quite an achievement in itself.
And all at a reasonable price by London’s standards, a pleasant surprise when the bill arrived. We also noticed the private dining area, a softly lit room with impressive glazed wine cellar lining the space. One to remember for future special occasions.
The staff, relaxed and friendly made the experience all the better. On our way out we thanked head chef, Merlin Labron-Johnson, previously from Michelin-starred In De Wulf restaurant in Belgium, and told him we would most certainly be back.