Honey and
food and travel

Monday, 15 June 2015

Portland, W1

When maman and papa said we were going to Will Lander, of Quality Chop House fame's new place, I was expecting red-meat-focused, proper British fodder, served up in a dark, wood-clad room. I smiled when I saw the glass-fronted, light-filled room on Great Portland Street, with clean-lined furniture and a quiet open-kitchen, serving the freshest, zippiest, prettiest plates of food, on the most beautiful bowls and dishes.

A pomegranate mimosa drank outside while we waited for the earlier sitting to remove themselves from our table was a fabulously way to celebrate a weekday evening spent with M & P. 

Inside, we did our best at ordering everything from the menu. A mixture of British, of French, of Japanese, of Korean... It all sat together beautifully - powerful flavours highlighted delicate ones, pastel colours were decorated with bright splashes, and a wonderful wine menu was thoroughly enjoyed.

Bread was served with freshly churned butter and deeply-flavoured smoked beef heart. We got over our squirmish-ness when we'd had a couple of bites of bread smothered in this super soft butter.

Pig's head croquettes were the most beautiful start to a meal. The splodge of bright orange chilli paste, the crisp exterior hiding the soft, melting inside, and the sweetest flowers balanced on top.

Salty spears of asparagus. We grabbed one each, and picked up any fallen scraps after all the green stems had gone.

Quail with kohlrabi received mixed reviews: too underdone for me, perfect for B and papa, and kohlrabi is maman's enemy (but she was a happy bunny once she'd flicked the crunchy white vegetable off the top).

Maman and papa weren't convinced by my sudden order for some kimchi. But then the plate of fermented cabbage disappeared before I could snap a photo. This kimchi didn't taste stale and smelly: it was bright, spicy and salty. This kind of kimchi needs to be in my life a lot more.

Maman's buttery fish with white asparagus and chives was rich, but spring like. Creamy, with plenty of zing. Just add sea, sunshine and a crisp glass of wine, and all your summer dreams have come true.

B raved about his mangalitsa with beets. No mouthful for me, so you'll have to take his word for it.

I (for those who know me, this was an obvious choice) went for monkfish, champignon de Paris, miso sauce. The miso sauce was packed full of umami; it was salty and rich; it did all the magical things to a dish that miso tends to do.

Papa's plate was fantastically bright; swirls of courgette, pink strips of veal, sweetbreads decorating the sides. This is why you're paying that little bit of extra at Portland - this food is made to be eaten first with your eyes, with oohs and aaahs of admiration, before you dig in with knife and fork.

But the one that trumped them all was the bowl of Szechaun aubergine. The spice and oil levels had been toned down, but the aubergine was soft, with a touch of char, while the ginger, chilli paste and spring onions, decorated every lice. We fought over the last piece.

Pudding were perhaps the most obvious range of cuisines, of flavours, of ingredients. An opera cake showed off the classic French patisserie skills, with a skinny chocolate shard balancing on top of hazelnuts on the thin, layered slice.

Strawberries with sorrel ice-cream were pretty, but a little confusing. We couldn't make our minds up on that one.

Yuzu mousse with green tea ice-cream won the beauty contest. It looked like it had been taken straight out of Chelsea Flower Show.

The special was cherries with ginger crumbs and cow's milk curd. It may not look the best, but I was more than happy with my bowlful of cherries melded into this deconstructed cheesecake.

The next special occasion that we need to celebrate, Portland will definitely be a frontrunner. Fingers crossed we can get a table.

Highlight: Pretty plates and powerful flavours
Lowlight: The food was so wonderful I ate too much and so couldn't sleep

Portland, 113 Great Portland Street, W1W 6QQ

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