Fitzrovia is that place you pass through in a taxi. Unless you work for one of the trendy companies in the area, there really is no other reason to go. So it’s hardly the first destination you think of for dinner. Of course there’s a handful of great places to eat in the area, like Roka and Lima, but they’re all grouped together over by Charlotte Street. Picture stands alone on Great Portland St, and at 7.15 on a Friday night, we arrived to a fairly quiet restaurant, and I was worried that it wasn’t going to be an evening sort of place. For the first 45 minutes we were one of only a handful of tables in there, but thankfully by 8 the place had filled up and had a lively buzz.
First up credit needs to go to the team behind this place. Three young guys who started out at the Arbutus Group have obviously really learnt their trade. Everything about the restaurant has the feel of a place owned by people who know the industry well. From the reasonably priced menu, to the exceptionally warm staff, this really is a crowd pleaser of a restaurant. From the moment we entered we were warmly greeted by the front of house, who is one of the three owners, and he set the tone for a relaxed and enjoyable meal. The way the staff casually chat to the customers really fits the informal vibe of the place and it has has a similar feel to 10 Greek Street. It was a shame not to find it absolutely packed, because no doubt with a better Soho location this would be a place you’d happily queue for.
The menu is focused on seasonal ingredients with modern European touches. We were told the best way to do things is to choose one from each of the vegetable, fish and meat sections. And with 4 to choose from on each there was just the right amount to get excited by. It’s quite an interesting concept which invites you to share. All of the dishes are at the £7-£9 mark, and so it’s like having three starters. There’s also a 6 course tasting menu for £35, which we were told we could mix and match to make it more to our liking.
We decided to stick with the main menu, and started with a couple of the Lamb bites (£1 each) which are about the best little bites of food I’ve had in London. They are right up there with the arancini at Cafe Murano. With a good dollop of ailoi these are little bites you’d happily snack on all night. A mini warm baguette to mop things up made this a strong start.
From the vegetable section I had the Ravioli of Italian greens, ricotta and chilli (£7). This was a beautifully fresh and light dish with a lovely tang to it. The chilli was lost on me though.
My partner had the Risotto of chestnut mushrooms, Pecornio and soft herbs (£7) and again it was a lovely starter with shavings of fresh mushroom. The scent alone was intoxicating. It could have done with a couple of extra dollops of the risotto though.
From the fish course I had the Lightly cured Scottish salmon, cucumber, sea lettuce, creme fraiche (£9). It was beautifully presented, almost like the sea floor, and there was a range of textures that made it exciting to eat. But it was just a tiny bit bland. The slamon didn’t have a strong enough flavour to stand up to the rest of the ingredients and the creme fraiche didn’t bring the dish together in the way I was expecting. It could do with taking a leaf from Jason Atherton’s book and adding an extra hit of flavour, maybe some citrus or horseradish, just to bring the dish together and make it more interesting than just a range of textures.
The squid with peppers and a romesco sauce (£9) was appearing on the menu for the first time. The squid had been slow cooked which kept it tender but there wasn’t a great deal of it. This just felt like a dish that hasn’t quite find it’s final execution yet. It still needs something to bring it to that next level.
Now to the meat. I had the Crisp pork cheek, celery, apple and hazelnuts (£8) on the reccomendation of the waiter and it really was good. At this price it represents great value, as I remember having a very similar dish at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Claridge’s last year for almost three times this pirce. The pork was perfectly tender with a crisp outer crust, and the crunch from the different textures of apple and hazelnuts only enhanced this. It really was a lovely small plate of food.
My partner had the 28 day aged beef, roast onion, curly kale, salsify (£9). Again a dish with each component cooked to perfecting, and everything just worked. I just would have happily paid a bit more to have some more of the beef.
To finish a Vanilla panna cotta with Champagne rhubarb, gingerbread (£4) cleansed the palate.
The Spiced fruit and almond pie, frozen yoghurt (£5) had the flavour of a Christmas pudding, but the sharpness of the yoghurt freshened it up and made it a comfortable but still fairly light pudding.
The bill came to £125, which sounds a lot, but we did basically have 2 bottles of wine (Chenin blanc at £22 a bottle) and a 4 course meal. It could easily have been around the £40 a head mark, and for that price it is great value for money. And although the fish courses were a bit of a miss, it was still a very enjoyable experience, that was really helped by the excellent staff.
Picture has a great deal going for it, and more people really should hear about it and give it a try because the kitchen is serving up interesting dishes at reasonable prices. They seem to be confidently getting on with their business, and I feel that after a couple more years of refining what they already have here, that they could easily up the stakes with a better location and have a huge hit on there hands. I know I’d certainly be queuing up.
110 Great Portland St, London W1W 6PQ