Picture Marylebone: If it ain’t broke… (August 2016)

Three years is a long time in the London restaurant scene, but it is all credit to the team at Picture that such has been the success of their original Fitzrovia venture (which opened in 2013), now comes their second offering, located in Marylebone. There is no shortage of nearby competition in either area, but Picture undoubtedly can hold its own. The model emphasises simplicity, but what they do, they do very well, perhaps no surprise given the Arbutus/ Wild Honey-trained background of the owners. In terms of the venue, the room itself is an improvement on the Fitzrovia location, which I felt suffered from very poor acoustics and a slight sense of claustrophobia. By contrast, Marylebone felt positively calm, both in terms of décor and ambience. This was despite the fact that when a comrade and I recently visited on a mid-week night, the place was probably 80% full. Staff were friendly, engaging and enthusiastic. In terms of the food, the menu is conveniently divided into three sections of vegetables, fish and meat and it is suggested that diners partake in one item from each category, although it is clearly possible to mix-and-match in any permutation one might care. Moreover, a well-priced 6-course ‘summer menu’ is also available, at the competitive price of £40/head. We opted for the conventional approach and were not disappointed in any of our choices, which displayed a broad yet clear nod to seasonal English ingredients across the board. Before our selections appeared, however, we enjoyed a ‘beef bite’ with our aperitif. It is what it says: beef brisket, lightly fried in breadcrumbs and then flavoured with chilli. Dipped in alioli sauce, it was divine – and an absolute steal at just £1 per bite. This set the tone well for the rest of the experience. Stand-out for me was the hake brandade, smoked haddock, hispi cabbage and red onion fish main. Recently, I have rarely had such delicate fish, so well-flavoured and also perfectly balanced. This praise, however, does something of a disservice to the other dishes – from vegetables to meat – none of which could really be faulted. Throughout, presentation was first-class. The wine list bears mention in terms of its range: our initial dishes were paired with a Hungarian Furmint, a noteworthy contrast to the more conventional white varieties. Meanwhile, I also rated the organic South African Bordeaux blend which sat very well with my lamb neck. If there were one quibble, then it would be that the cheese selection enjoyed for dessert (admittedly sourced from the nearby Fromagerie) was rather bland, but this at least is easily fixable. Overall, Picture looks set to build on its already strong success story.