Picture and the affordable fine-dining formula
It’s not easy to find a quality restaurant in Great Portland Street; set in between Fitzrovia and Marylebone, the area lacks a heart in which devoted chefs and merchants can set up independent businesses.
Chefs Alan Christie and Colin Kelly, along with manager Tom Slegg, who come from the Arbutus-Wild Honey Michelin-starred restaurants group, have decided to bring their expertise and their combined previous experience to this new project.
Opened in June, Picture perfectly embodies the concept of one of the most popular trends of contemporary cuisine: making fine dining accessible by serving small dishes – not tapas but complete dishes, just on a smaller scale. Every course is made from 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 so unique and successful.
Arranged over a classic deep high-street floor layout, the bar area dominates the entrance, providing a place where customers can comfortably eat or have a cocktail. The back of the restaurant is cosy and the friendly staff make you feel at home.
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 plates is the suggested choice.
We opt for the 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 in the glass of white Bordeaux doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
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 the dishes stands out for their complexity or sophisticated. Not that the spirit of the cuisine here is to serve something particularly state-of-the-art, 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 can 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 light, well balanced with the intensity of the beef. The 2010 Argentinian Malbec of Alpataco is a perfect pairing that adds to this 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 succulent French sausage – a welcome surprise. Both plates are good but the overall impression is that they are not too different in terms of their aroma.
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 couldn’t enjoy it with a glass of Sauternes, which would have been sublime.
Picture is a great addition to the London food scene, especially given that it sits within a price range that usually can’t buy you a refined experience. Don’t expect the creativity of Parisian bistronomy 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 the venture could perhaps improve by diversifying the presentation and side content of the dishes, but 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.