Can you book? Yes
Price per person: £40
I once read that Giles Coren disagrees with serving bread before a meal. I don’t have a Times subscription so can’t read his review of Portland but I imagine he retracted that comment after trying Portland’s warm crusty bread served with ox heart butter. I didn’t know what to expect but suffice to say it will now be difficult, albeit more practical, to go back to butter that hasn’t been adorned with shavings of ox heart.
I had been trying to get a table at Portland for weeks and finally managed to for yesterday evening at 6.45pm. The early finish time meant that not only could I get a much needed early night but I would be able to rush home and write this review while everything was still fresh in my mind.
There was one other table eating when we arrived, but the restaurant rapidly filled up. The room is fairly small, with elegant lighting, simple tableware and a trendy buzz about it, and is named appropriately, if not very imaginatively, given its location on Great Portland Street. The waitresses were very friendly and attentive and didn’t tire of our questions regarding the menu, which is limited and quite meat heavy. There are six or so small “snacks” (smaller than a starter) and then just a few starters, mains and desserts plus two specials. This tends to be a signal that all dishes will be of a high standard.
Between five of us, we shared the Montgomery cracker, brandade (a mixture of salt cod and olive oil) served with potato crisps, and hay smoked cow’s curd with heritage beetroot and pickled shallots. Hiding under the blanket of cheddar was a delightful chutney that bonded the cheese to the cracker and I really enjoyed the saltiness of the brandade. The strong smokiness of the beetroot added a pleasant element of surprise.
For main course I had a sensational BBQ duck, with pistacios, grilled peach and fennel. The duck was generously portioned, tender, fleshy and exciting being paired with peach. Our sides of ratte potato with Montgomery cheddar and courgettes in a mint and shallot dressing were also superb.
We were served little macaroons at the end of the meal. I’m still not sure what flavour they were (perhaps lemon?) but they were refreshing and who doesn’t enjoy a going home present.