Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Picture, Great Portland Street

I've made a new friend this year. It's quite exciting really, because the difficulty of making new friends in your 30s and 40s is conventional wisdom. Anyway, she's recently moved to the UK and posted in one of the dance groups on Facebook that she wanted someone to jam with and I had the time to do it. Of course, we've ended up spending much more time gossiping and drinking coffee than actually dancing, but never mind.

It meant that when I received an invitation to join a group of bloggers at Picture, on Great Portland St, a five minute walk from her house, on a day that we'd planned a jam, there was no earthly reason to turn it down. Serendipity!
Photo courtesy of Picture restaurant
Of course, with the gossiping and drinking coffee, I ended up having to rush that five minute walk, so I arrived a bit warm and out of breath, making the welcoming glass of prosecco with elderflower very refreshing. And I don't even like elderflower.
We were experiencing Picture's six-course tasting menu, which comes in at an exceptionally reasonable £35. Manager Tom and chefs Alan and Colin had previously worked together at the highly regarded Arbutus group of restaurants (I've only been to Le Deux Salons, but one day I will get to the others!) so I was reasonably confident that we were in good hands. The excellent sourdough bread with whipped butter confirmed that belief.
The first course was a squash veloute. I was disproportionately thrilled by this, because one of the (few) laments I have about living in the UK is that people here don't really seem to understand the winter squash family. It isn't a staple the way it is in Australia. Fortunately there was a fellow Antipodean at my end of the table, Emma from Adventures of a London Kiwi, who agreed with me that butternut or pumpkin soup is one of life's great pleasures and a winter essential. The veloute was very good, with a nice bite of cumin, if not the most exciting bowl of soup I've drunk.
Grilled tenderstem broccoli, with fresh goats curd was better, although I could have done without the broccoli and just smeared the goats curd on some more of the lovely bread. Not that there was anything wrong with the broccoli, I just really like goats curd, especially with good bread.
Picture used with permission of Kavita of Kavey Eats
Pork cheek was up next. With celery, celeriac and hazelnuts. I don't know if it is because of the current ubiquity of pulled pork, or I am at an age where I appreciate having all my own teeth, but I am getting a bit tired of spoon-soft meat. I like to chew! So this was a bit of a disappointment because the meat was as tender and sticky as can be. If "melt-in-the-mouth" is your measure of success, this was a winner. It was quite a large portion for a tasting menu too, and I honestly don't think I could have eaten more of it - particularly knowing there were still three courses to come.

The fish course was my dish of the day. Perfectly cooked sea bream with chard and a scattering of lentils: it was beautifully fresh and deliciously seasoned. I'd been a bit confused by the menu moving from veg to pork to fish, but it was a very intelligent decision - the pork was so rich that to go from that straight to the beef wouldn't have shown either of them to advantage. As it was, the bream was almost a palate cleanser.

28 day aged beef with kale, sweet potato and salsify was quite heavily smoked, to the point where it almost tasted like bacon, but the meat had a lovely (chewable) texture. I always like eating salsify when other people prepare it too. The sweet potato and kale made it all taste very autumnal, which seemed a little incongruous two weeks ago when the weather was lovely and warm, but now seems like just the right thing.
The photos haven't done it justice, but the crockery at Picture is beautiful. The only bum note was the dessert plate - a brown plate just doesn't show a lovely chocolate mousse to its best advantage. And it was a lovely chocolate mousse, if a little sweeter than I usually like it. That extra sweetness did the blackberries a bit of a disservice, making them taste a little sharp by comparison. The peanut cream also didn't entirely float my boat - taken in a bite with the mousse and a bit of blackberry, it was a balanced mouthful, but by itself it was a bit flat. Of course, I was very full by this stage of the evening, so being pickier than I would otherwise have been.

So, overall verdict? A fantastic neighbourhood restaurant, which I would happily frequent even if I had to pay for it myself. I will have to maintain my new friendship in order to provide opportunities to do just that. Maybe on a Monday night, when they offer free corkage for BYO? With any luck, our husbands will even get along.

 Many thanks to Picture restaurant and Sarah and Jenny at Salt PR for a lovely evening.


The Cat's Mother said...

What a lovely meal and convenient for visits as well.

Barbara said...

Tasting menus are always fun, if a bit pricey. Looks like you had a good cross section of food, nicely presented. Sorry you weren't crazy about everything, but it must have been fun with blog friends and the fish does look delicious. I think it takes great courage from chefs to make a meal for bloggers! :)

grace said...

i'll bet you were more than a little bit stuffed by the time dessert came around! nice place. :)


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