You might have seen my recent post all about Dan’s birthday meal at Paris House and I’ve got more fine dining foodie delights for you! For my birthday present, Dan took me down to London for the evening to be wined and dined at Portland Restaurant, a Michelin star spot on Great Portland Street. I’ve fallen in love with fine dining this year, so I was really, really excited about this.
Portland won it’s Michelin star in September 2015, after being open just eight months. They promise the best produce cooked simply but with ‘imagination and plenty of care.’ In 2016 they also opened a sister restaurant just down the road called Clipstone which is next to a very cool cocktail bar called The Lucky Pig - I highly recommend this for pre or post dinner drinks if you dine at Portland!
The interior of Portland Restaurant is very modern, chic and minimalist. So much so that you almost don’t feel like you are about to sit down to a Michelin star masterpiece. The front of the restaurant is completely glass, giving you a glimpse of what’s inside.
On arrival, we were greeted by the really friendly staff who showed us to our table. The service was impeccable throughout and we felt so welcome. They had even left me a birthday card that each member of staff had signed, which was a lovely touch. We opted for the tasting menu which showcases some of their best dishes. This started off with a selection of bar snacks, followed by four courses and a dessert.
To get things started we were served an amuse bouche of ricotta cheese, honey and almonds wrapped in a strawberry leaf. This little parcel was really fragrant and fresh with the sweetness of the honey coming through nicely. Next came some soda bread with infused olive oil. The bread was beautifully light with a crispy crust and a slightly savoury flavour, almost like a sourdough.
Next, an array of bar snacks and canapes arrived at our table to start our feast. The pickled and preserved vegetables were an unexpected favourite! The flavours of shiitake mushrooms, radishes, onions, cucumber and carrot were transformed but maintained their natural sweetness and crispness with a level of acidity. My favourite was the shiitake mushroom - it had a texture like velvet.
Oysters were on the menu, but I am really, really not a fan of oysters so we asked if they would mind swapping out for something else they recommended. We had calabrian black pig sausage, which was a little like chorizo. It was peppery and tender and was a nice accompaniment to the pickled vegetables.
The crispy chicken skins topped with liver parfait and candied walnuts also went down a treat. The skins were crisp like a cracker which added a nice crunch to the really smooth parfait. The candied walnuts were chewy and sweet so this provided a real texture party in the mouth. My favourite of them all was the steamed cornish squid buns. The squid ink steamed bun was so soft and fluffy and was much like a bao bun. The squid inside was gorgeous. I’ve never tasted squid that has that much of flavour before, I could have eaten at least four of those!
To accompany our snacks, we sipped on an aperitif. Dan had a Malt Coast IPA and I had a peach and lemon thyme bellini which was really fresh and sweet, with a little tartness. We also ordered a bottle of wine to go with our meal. Portland offers wine pairing but we decided on a good all rounder red. Portland gives their wine menu as much attention as their food and it showcases lesser-known varieties and regions. We opted for a German Pinot Noir which was light yet punchy with ripe, dark flavours. It went nicely with every course.
What followed was hands down the best meal I have ever had. Everything was cooked to perfection and I don’t think we had one criticism for the food. The first course was a sweet starter in the form of London Stracciatella (a creamy cheese) with sweet baby beetroots, kombu (an edible kelp) and billberries. Everything worked in perfect harmony; the cheese was light and had a really smooth texture and the baby beetroots were tender and sweet, complimenting the cheese. The kombu added some earthiness whilst the bilberries added a little sharpness.
Next up was a slow boiled Wooley Park duck egg on a bed of semolina with grilled sweetcorn which was a sharing dish. This was gorgeous. The duck egg had been cooked for 60 minutes so that the yolk was soft and creamy, and the white turned to a light jelly. The grilled sweet corn had a lovely nutty flavour which paired perfectly with the egg and semolina. Genius!
The fish dish comprised of Cornish Pollock, charred courgettes, puree broccoli and squid ink topped with a nasturtium - a herbaceous flower. This was a great summery dish and looked beautiful on the plate. The fish was tender and matched well with the squid ink and fresh flavours of the broccolli. The charred courgettes added a nice smokiness to the dish which married the flavours together.
Our final main course was Herdwick lamb two ways - a tender, sweet shoulder and a smoky thigh. This was accompanied by roasted onions which were tender and sweet and a rosemary potato mille-feuille (like a crispy potato fondant). The potato was really smooth inside with a nice crisp crust. I absolutely adore lamb and I always gravitate towards ordering it on the menu so this went down an absolute treat with me.
The waitress asked if we would like the cheese course which was an added extra to the tasting menu. We were served a soft, nutty goats cheese with plum jam and crackers. The crackers were packed with seeds and were paper thin, providing a nice base for the cheese and sweet jam to sit on.
The dessert course was sweet honeymoon melon, with olive oil cake and pineapple weed (also known as wild chamomile!) ice cream. This was exactly what I wanted to finish my meal on - it was light and sweet and they even brought it out with a birthday candle.
We were then served two very cute little strawberry and pink pepper sponges with cream cheese frosting, and lavender caramels. The sponge was sweet and spicy which was not what you always expect from a cake! The caramels were delicately flavoured with lavender and there was a nice balance of sweetness. The caramels were smooth and buttery - so delicious. They also presented me with a little box which had some dried ingredients inside and a recipe for lavender cookies which was really sweet!
I’m sure you can gauge from my review that our meal at Portland was the best meal we have ever had. Every course made us smile when we ate it and it was all beautifully presented with balanced flavours. and the flavours were just so balanced. Combined with the excellent service we received, it’s clear to see why Portland has a Michelin star. It’s very unassuming and not fussy or fancy inside at all, which I think only adds to the experience. Simplicity meets innovation and great food and flavour, and you will not be disappointed if you make a trip.
We won’t forget this meal in a hurry!
Book a table and view sample menus via their website: www.portlandrestaurant.co.uk
Exterior image from portlandrestaurant.co.uk