Picture and the affordable fine-dining formula
It’s not easy to find a quality restaurant to eat in Great Portland Street; set in between Fitrovia and Marylebone, it lacks a heart where devoted chefs and merchants set up independent businesses.
Chefs Alan Christie and Colin Kelly, and manager Tom Slegg come from the Arbutus-Wild Honey Michelin-starred restaurants group and decided to bring their expertise and cohesion of their previous experiences to this new project.
Opened in June, Picture embodies perfectly the concept of one of the most popular trends of contemporary cuisine: making fine dining accessible serving small dishes – not tapas but complete dishes, just on a smaller scale. Every course is made of a cooked main ingredient and cooked sides.
It’s difficult to say where else in London you can eat 28-day-aged meat or slow cooked venison for £8, this is what makes this new restaurant unique and successful.
Arranged over a classic deep high-street floor layout, the bar area dominates the entrance where customers can comfortably eat or have a cocktail. The back of the restaurant is cosy and the friendly staff make you feel comfortable.
The menu is divided into four sections: vegetable, fish, meat and dessert. The vegetable can be treated as a starter due to the lighter content, fish and meat as a main. Since the size of the dishes is reduced, three savoury ones is the suggested choice.
We opt for the well recommended Ravioli of Italian Greens and Ricotta, Chilli, Soft Herbs and the Slow Poached Hen’s Egg, Chestnut Mushrooms, Tender Cabbage; both of them are delightful but the ravioli clearly has a more defined and authentic taste, with the appropriate thickness and cooking point for its pasta.
Wines do not dominate on the drinks menu and the lack of structure and character of the glass of white Bordeaux I’m drinking does not surprise me.
For the following course we try the lovely Slow Cooked Cornish Squid, Spiced Chickpeas, Coriander and a classic Seared Salmon, Charlotte Potatoes, Fennel, Mustard Seeds. There’s no fine dining magic here, the fish is good but neither of them stand out for complexity or tastefulness. Not that the spirit of the cuisine here is to serve something particularly sophisticated but the average home cook can easily come up with the same result.
The quality and richness of the third set of courses is a completely different matter, and the same could be said for the wine. The 28-Day Aged Beef, Roast Carrot, Autumn Greens may not be the most tender piece of meat you have tried but it’s absolutely delicious and cooked perfectly. Its side vegetables are all savoury and complete the balance between the intensity of the beef and their own light nature. The 2010 Argentinian Malbec of Alpataco is a perfect pairing that adds to that balance.
The Crisp Pork, Salsify, Apple Purée, Hazelnuts does not suffer from a direct comparison with the beef, and what the menu does not say is that it comes with a succelent French sausage – a welcome surprise. Both dishes are good but the overall impression is that they are not too different in terms of aromas you can find in your plate.
When the dessert section doesn’t feature any chocolate courses I feel disappointed, and when there’s one I choose it with the risk of missing out on something really good. The moral of the story? Chocolate is not easy to handle.
The Chocolate Mousse, Pears, Honeycomb looks and tastes good, but if you are after something more corporeal to satisfy not only your palate but also a physical desire, the Apple and Almond Pie, Vanilla Ice Cream will do that wonderfully. Too bad I haven’t enjoyed it with a glass of Sauternes, it would have been sublime.
Picture is a great addition to the London food scene, especially in that price range where money usually can’t buy you a refined experience; don’t expect the creativity of Parisian bistronomie or the technique of a potential 50-Best restaurant, but this is a new competitive player and probably the most affordable. The strong team behind it can only improve the offer – perhaps diversifying the presentation and side content of the dishes – nevertheless what is already there deserves praise.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Laura Denti
To book a table at Picture, 110 Great Portland St London W1W 6PQ, call 020 7637 7892 or visit here.