Sunday 6 December 2015

The Portland, Great Portland Street, Central London

A small, but smart, modern European restaurant, The Portland is popular with discerning diners and it can be hard to get a table. The decor is modern and minimalist, as is the menu. There is a choice of three dishes per course, supplemented by a handful of specials, but they may sell out quickly. As an alternative to a starter, the snacks are imaginative and full of novel flavours. They may include white truffle and gruyere macarons (£3), crispy chicken skins with liver parfait, candied walnuts and grapes (£3), wild rice crackers, crab, lime and sorrel (£6) and warm pumpkin cakes, chestnut, truffle and aged Mimolette (£7). The latter conjures up a particularly rich and sophisticated mix of flavours. Among the three main courses, there will probably be a meat dish, a fish dish and a vegetarian dish. The Gressingham duck (£24), served with onions and kale, is earthy and nourishing, but reviews of the turbot (£27), served with carrots and lemon verbena, aren't quite as good. The sides are expensive - five pounds for some new potatoes or an autumn salad - but there is generally enough for two. On the whole, the food is both beautifully presented and precisely cooked: this is posh nosh. The very cosmopolitan wine list starts at about £20 a bottle, rising to over a £100. Fortunately, it features very helpful descriptive notes. The Bisceglia, 'Terre di Vuloano' Falanghina, Campania 2014 is crisp and drinkable, but not quite worth £27 a bottle. The service can be impeccable, while the ambiance is pleasant. Your fellow diners are likely to be middle-aged and middle class, rather than hip young things. 8/10