Portland: Modern British at its best (May 2015)

The Great Portland Street area of central London is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for lovers of good food. In addition to the successful openings of the nearby Riding House Cafe and Picture restaurants in the last couple of years, along comes (the unoriginally named) Portland. A group of four of us recently dined here and were impressed with every aspect, from the decor to the price via the food and the service. The place itself is relatively small (45 covers) and the menu brief (three starters and mains along with some daily-changing specials), but this formula allows the restaurant really to deliver in terms of what it promises, namely great British food, prepared using only the best ingredients. Sometimes simplicity does work. The venue itself pleases, with a light and airy feel and modern art on the wall. Food-wise, things certainly got off to a good a start. Often, I believe the success of the bread can be a good indicator of what is to come. At Portland, it was clearly homemade, warm, fluffy and flavoursome. While waiting for our starters, we were also brought some snacks, again ordered off a brief list, and the pig's head croquette was divine, tasty and incredibly moreish. Indeed all our dishes could be described using the above adjectives and in addition to scoring highly in this respect, presentation throughout was superb. My asparagus starter, for example, saw the spears cut into smaller pieces and stacked almost like toast soldiers around a small lake of Hollandaise decorated beautifully with white truffle shavings. The wine list also deserves mention, changing on a monthly basis and featuring a well-above average share of eclectic wines including several natural (unfiltered) varieties. Service throughout was friendly; staff were enthusiastic and knowledgeable but in no sense overbearing. Great stuff all round.