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Portland in London

Rating: 88.
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In January 2015 restaurateurs Daniel Morgenthau (previously of 10 Greek Street) and Will Lander (co-owner of the Quality Chop House and son of food and wine power couple Nick Lander and Jancis Robinson) opened Portland on Great Portland Street in London's West End. Behind the stove of this 45-cover restaurant is Merlin Labron-Johnson, previously sous chef at Kobe Desramaults' In De Wulf in Dranouter, Belgium. 

Portland is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and the restaurant offers a regularly changing a la carte menu, depending on what's seasonal and there's a specials board. Snacks/starters are priced at £2 - £12, mains at £14 - £26 and desserts at £6 - £9.

We began with some lovely house-cured (with Juniper berries) lardo and Ventricina, a deliciously meaty salami seasoned with chilli and paprika, and freshly-baked bread served with smoked butter topped with grated dried beef heart. 


From the snack section we ordered "Dairy cow croquettes". Lovely crunchy croquettes with a soft and flavoursome filling and topped with some horseradish mayonnaise, grilled shallot and freshly grated horseradish. This was followed by "Szechuan aubergine", gorgeous grilled, almost blackened aubergine with a sweet and sticky szechuan sauce and garnished with sliced spring onions and crunchy toasted buckwheat. A wonderful combination and well-judged use of the szechuan, which delivered a hint fruity spiciness.


Next up was seabream ceviche, liberally covered with chopped red chilli, hazelnuts, coriander, and finished with some olive oil. A good dish with lovely briny and fresh seabream flavours coming through, and a nice touch of heat in the aftertaste. 

The main act was a generous serving of beautifully cooked Barbary duck (from Yorkshire) with a delicious BBQ sauce and served on a large rainbow chard leaf. Truly wonderful duck breast, rich and perfectly tender, but since the Barbary duck is quite a large breed, there was a whole lotta duck and I couldn't finish it. Besides that, I didn't realise the duck would be served with hardly any vegetables, so I regretted ordering just one side dish, a nice but slightly underseasoned potato millefeuille.

Dessert was a tartelette with vanilla cream and (wild) strawberries. An elegant and light dessert that tasted as good as it looks; however, because of thick bottom of the pastry case, the filling/pastry ratio was unbalanced.

Overall I had a good meal at Portland. Service was great, prices are good, and the cooking, if not flawless, is solid. The flavours worked and at Portland they clearly care about sourcing good ingredients, the duck being a excellent example. I did feel however, that a bit more finesse in the execution and presentation could take some of the dishes to higher level. The versatile wine list is (mostly) reasonably priced and make sure to have a look at the interesting but quite expensive "single bottle list". I'll be back, that means if I can still get in, because in September 2015 Portland was awarded a Michelin star. 

Posted 12-10-2015


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