Spring at Portland Restaurant

London – May 2021

Portland Restaurant possesses all the elements that make a restaurant good: great ambiance, great service, great food and great wines. Co-owned and managed by Will Lander, son of the queen of wine Jancis Robinson and restaurateur and critic Nick Lander, we expected no less.

The restaurant is small, giving a homely modern and pleasant atmosphere, stripped off the unnecessary vestigial props from the traditional French cuisine. The paintings – with a neo-fauvist style, or perhaps akin to Raoul Dufy’s work – bring a touch of colour that brighten up the room, which is otherwise dominated by dark wood and cream walls.

Being the first day open in six months, certain stress or confusion could be felt. In this haste, the wines and dishes were served with no introduction a couple of times. Nonetheless, despite these lapsi the service was kind and attentive.

And the food was delivered as expected. Truly seasonal products at their peak, all cooked with the right techniques. This mid-spring period brought dishes of intense and vivid colours and fresh flavours. We admired the ability to produce exciting and visually attractive dishes while remaining casual and unpretentious. This is food to enjoy, food that doesn’t have the intention to be the star of the show, but to make the whole meal a memorable experience.

The wine list is excellent, including the great classics, but also intriguing, less known offerings. The idea of an additional single bottle list is clever, proposing one-off bottles that they acquire in auctions. The sommelier will reserve them for you if notified in advance. Yet, we encourage you to have the tasting menu with the wine pairing. Pairing wine and food is a difficult art that Portland executes admirably, please see below for some examples. All wines came in Jancis’ The One glass, which happens to be our favourite wine glass. It tends to accentuate the savoury and mineral notes of most wines.

The tasting menu, six courses for £75, starts with a set of snacks or bites. 

The Miso-glazed aubergine, sesame and pickled radish successfully attempted to bring sushi and aubergines together with success, whereas the Parmesan and mushroom macaron delivered the pleasure of a savoury mushroom cream on a sweet macaron shell. The sweetness intensifies the flavours; it made this bite one to remember. The Chicken liver parfait, brioche, date & yuzu provided a rich and indulgent snack, but nothing more.

Next came a beautiful Buckwheat galette, with peas, broad beans and herbs. The fresh peas and broad beans were cooked masterfully to the right bite and tenderness. To their sweetness a roasted buckwheat cracker gave texture and nuttiness, while the microleaves of mint and dill lifted the fragrancy of the dish. A spread of pea purée maintained the whole structure together while eating. Excellent balance of textures, flavours. All with an elegant presentation.

The second starter was Cornish mackerel in a tomato dashi and radishes. Roast tomato and dashi make the most perfect and addictive umami consomé. The fish notes pair superbly with the intense flavours of grilled mackerel, flaky and beautifully caramelised. A clever dish.

Gigha halibut with sea herbs, sambaizu butter and trout roe
Honey-glazed Sladesdown duck young turnips, black cardamom and lemon

First, the Gigha halibut with sea herbs, sambaizu butter & trout roe and then the Honey-glazed Sladesdown duck young turnips, black cardamom & lemon. Both dishes were built on classic concepts, yet refined with some offbeat twists. The halibut was slightly over for our liking, but the buttery sauce served alongside saved the dish. We particularly liked the idea of fish roe, which balanced well the richness of the sauce and added some salinity while elevating the umami taste. Shortly after we finished the fish course, we could observe the chefs in the foreground fine-tuning the second main. The duck breast was cooked to perfection. A juicy, tender and flavoursome bird accompanied with duck kidneys and a savory jus. A surprising element of this dish was the potato purée. Initially we were very intrigued by its smoky but mint or dill-like aroma. It took us a few days to realise that it was black cardamom that provided such flavour. A very clever move. The proposed pairing for the duck with Xinomavro from Naoussa (Dalamara) also proved to be outstanding. The archetypal olive notes of Xinomavro blend very well with those of the offal, while the sharp acidity and soft tannins cut through the richness of the duck breast with elegance.

At last, the headliner of the evening arrived – Sorrel granita with wild strawberries and chamomile & yoghurt sorbet. We were already excited about this dessert when we checked Portland’s menu a week before dinner. The first time that we tried a sorrel granita was in their sister restaurant Clipstone almost two years ago and since then we fell in love with it. This time, the granita was as good or even better. The citrus aroma works very well with the tart strawberries. This combination was uplifted by a delicious yoghurt sorbet infused with toasted chamomile. With the yoghut providing richness, the subtle sweetness was provided by small batons of julienned meringue. Beautifully presented, complex with harmonised flavours, this was the most remarkable course of the evening. Sadly wild strawberries aren’t very common on restaurant’s menus, perhaps for a good reason… But for us, their unique taste is a very comforting throwback to our childhood memories of foraging wild strawberries during summer. Every chance to have them once again is just delightful. Oh, we are digressing again… Sorry, great dishes really excite us!   

The closure of this pleasant meal came in the form of a chocolate ganache mignardise and an affordable bill. We left with the sensation of having tasted the best produce that May in the UK can offer. This kind of seasonal focus has a positive effect on customers like us. The curiosity to see what will be served next months makes the next visit more compelling.


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