Published on January 4th, 2016 | by Ben Southwood0
The Portman, Marylebone
Summary: Excellent British dishes including oysters, onglet steak, and lemon sole
I’m going to style my review of The Portman in the form of offering the owners some advice. True, I’m not a restauranteur; I have never worked in the industry except 18 months as a waiter for Pizza Express when I was 17; I know they have experience and detailed contextual knowledge that I will probably never have. But I still think I can help.
The Portman is a nice place to have a meal. Much of the food is decent or better, the menu is fairly well-judged, the room above the pub is very traditional-feeling and well done-up, and it’s in a great location. But if it changed a few things, I think it could be an excellent place to have a meal, something it might need on a street crowded with outstanding restaurants.
The theme is slimming down and purifying its offering. If it focused on what could make it stand out—the fact it’s a lovely British pub with a lovely first floor room for a 20-30 covers restaurant—it could present a much more appealing offering.
The menu needs to be trimmed of all the foreign offerings like crispy squid with spring onion and coriander, crab spring rolls, falafel and houmous, wild mushroom risotto, and chicken curry. No one can do all that well, and if it sticks to such a wide-ranging menu it will look like any other pub with limited pretensions to restaurant-hood.
It should focus instead on what it did particularly well: British dishes like oysters, venison loin, onglet steak, lemon sole, as well as the successful British-tinged experiments like seared scallops with black pudding. No ambitious gastropub has a house burger on the menu, it reeks of laziness. No ambitious gastropub offers so many wide-ranging dishes. The best focus on just a few things they know they can do well, particularly English dishes like pies, beef, and game.
It will never be able to do Basque food as well as Donostia or Lurra, both on the same street (Seymour Place, a few minutes’ walk from Marble Arch and the West end of Oxford Street). It won’t match Vinoteca for Spanish. It won’t match Lockhart for American. It won’t match Bernardi’s for Italian. It won’t match Sandy’s for Corsican pizza—though thankfully it doesn’t try. But it could easily, with a few tweaks and some more focus, be the best British food within half an hour’s walk, and that’s a perfectly reasonably—nay, a pretty impressive—thing to be.
The Portman, 51 Upper Berkeley St, W1H 7QWShare This Post