110 Great Portland Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 6PQ (map)
Picture Restaurant is a venture between three ex-Arbitus group employees. Ex-Head Chef of Arbutus, Alan Christie, ex-Head Chef of Wild Honey, Colin Kelly, and restaurant manager, Tom Slegg. Their new venue is nestled in Great Portland Street, the heart of Fitzrovia.
Looking at the pedigree of the joint owners of Picture Restaurant, this new restaurant promises to be a fairly impressive venue. Situated in Fitzrovia I certainly expect them to attract the media crowd who dwell in the area.
The decor of the venue is very clean and understated. I overhear Tom Slegg enthusiastically announcing that the bar top is made from “reclaimed parquet flooring” to other lunchtime diners. A brief conversation with him reveals that the wall lights were reclaimed for a hotel in Prague and a designer friend of his was responsible for the lighting above the bar. Certainly the whole venue looks minimalistic with a ‘wire mesh’ theme which is echoed in the seating.
This ‘Modern European’ style restaurant is based on the former site of “La Vigna Restaurant”.
The menu offers a choice of 5 nibbles, 16 small plates, 5 desserts and surprisingly only 2 large plates. Asking the serving staff, all of them make similar recommendations, all of them within the small plates. I choose the “Lamb Bites”; “Lebanese Friend Chicken”; “Soused Silver Darlings”; and the “Slow Poached Egg, Mushroom Marmalade”
The “Lamb bites” were presented as three fried croquette-style cubes with lovely moist lamb morsels inside, extremely ‘moorish’ and well worth trying. The Sourdough Bread is damn tasty, complimentary and elegantly served warm with a smear of soft butter on a wooden board.
“Soused Silver Darlings” are described by Tom as pickled herrings and called “Silver Darlings” as that’s how the chef knows it from his local area. If you like strongly flavoured fish, this is a lovely dish. The strong herring flavour is offset by the vinegar dressing and some lettuce provides a nice crunch served with little silverskin onions. The dish was excellent, however the first few times I bit into a crunchy part, which made me worry that I had bit into a bone! However this turned out to be eel skin.
“Slow poached soft egg, mushroom marmalade” is an interesting dish. Served in a relatively deep bowl with a flatbread supporting a mound of thin mushrooms slices. The egg white is incredibly soft and the yolk an extremely vibrant yellow! An intense mushroom flavour and crunch given by the mushrooms slices. It’s a very interesting dish but probably my least favourite.
“Lebanese fried chicken, yoghurt, sumac” is served with 4 pieces on a plate with brushed with a green sauce and a serving of yogurt decorated with pomegranate. This is not just a simple fried chicken, it has a mysterious tasty coating. I thought I detected a whiff of garam masala, but (if I recall correctly) I am told that fenugreek has also been used which seems to combine to give a lovely unique ‘spice plus zest’ flavour. Highly recommend these, but be warned they are very addictive!
Chatting to the bartender, Anett, I am informed that they have been open for just 2 weeks and that lunchtime trade has been brisk. On my Tuesday midday visit approx 70% of the 67 seater venue was full when I left. Seating is arranged for 50 covers in the main dining area at 17 covers at the bar. Unlike many new venues in the West End, you CAN make reservations. Maybe this will be a good alternative venue to those who have been complaining to me about the trend for “no booking” restaurants in London. In any case, the food here is excellent, fantastic little plates, if you like the bàcaro style of dining (a la Polpo) but hate to queue this is definitely a venue to try.