The Portman: Not a recipe for success (December 2015)

What London really doesn’t need is yet another generic high-end pub posing as a restaurant. The Portman, in its former incarnation as the Mason’s Arms, used to be a traditional London boozer with lovely wood panelling and a decent atmosphere. ‘Reinvented’, the walls are now whitewashed, multiple TVs show rolling BBC news from almost every seating location and the lights are turned up to an excessively high level of brightness. Atmosphere? Forget it. This is not a recipe for success. The suits and their corporate credit cards now dominate. I had dropped in for the odd beer since I live in the area, but recently came here to eat for the first time, a friend having suggested the location. Breakfast may not show a kitchen at its best, or certainly it is not the meal where chefs would typically most excel, but our experience here was frankly depressing. At 8.30am, beyond our table, just one other was occupied. Our server seemed broadly unenthused about being there (and who wouldn’t be?) and the main activity seemed to be suppliers arriving with food for use later in the day. The coffee was lukewarm and a curiously disquieting muddy brown. My smoked salmon and scrambled eggs was unpleasantly salty and I really did not expect it to be served with just one piece of unbuttered flabby white bread – especially not when I was paying over £10 for said choice. My comrade’s Eggs Benedict looked similarly uninspiring, plonked on the plate with zero love or attention to detail. Based on our breakfast experience and with so much other, better, choice nearby, I have no desire to return to see the Portman’s attempts at either lunch or dinner.