113 Great Portland St, W1W 6QQ
WLC Rank : 85
Glass from : £ 4 (125 ml)
BEST FORThe Single Bottle list
Good value tasting menu
Clean lines and low lighting
Expect all sorts of off-list goodies and one-off bottles at Portland, brought to you by co-owner, William Lander, son of restaurant critic, Nicholas Lander and Jancis Robinson OBE.
“Lockdown allowed us to take a breath and reassess our place in London’s dining scene,” says Canadian born, New Zealand raised, James Fryer, a web developer turned wine buyer for Woodhead, a restaurant group comprising Portland, the nearby Clipstone and Farringdon’s The Quality Chop House and neighbouring Quality Wines.
Fryer previously worked at Melbourne’s Florentino under the guidance of head sommelier, Mark Protheroe, “where I immersed myself in the local wine scene and even managed to produce a couple of bottles – nothing of great note, I was always just happy to have not made vinegar!” He also worked at Hammersmith’s River Café “with the wonderful Katie Exton, now of Lorne.”
Fryer spent “almost all” of the lockdown running a delivery operation from the Quality Chop House, “and I’d like to say I’ve become a dab hand and packaging and logistics.” Post lockdown, the dazzling single bottle list at Portland has become more important than ever, notes Fryer. “We are very lucky to have some wonderful sources still providing us exciting, world-class wines at fair prices.” These might include: 1988 Dom Pérignon Oenotheque, 1966 Cheval Blanc, 1984 Dom. M. Niellon Chevalier-Montrachet and 1972 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet. And from the main list, expect such curios as a Xinomavro from Naoussa which is entering its third decade, and skin contact, barrel-aged Chenin Blanc from Cahors.
Dishes by head chef, Theo Clench, previously of Bonhams Restaurant and The Clove Club, could include “clean, fresh” starter of cured mackerel with almond, gooseberry and cucumber matched with Bruno Lupin’s Roussette Frangy, “a standout pairing of late, waxy and alpine – but still ripe and textural,” observes Fryer. Note the very fairly-priced, six-course tasting menu which comes in at £100 including a glass of Krug.
To delight Fryer, and earn a place on the list, a wine must first excite him. “I understand that’s a very non-specific and un-definable thing to say, but there’s always that light-bulb moment.” Secondly, a wine must have the best chance of selling. “There’s a lot of value to recognising your crowd and trying to provide for their tastes. After all, it’s going to be them who foots the bill!”
Portland has worked hard to exceed the required standards for operation post-lockdown, bringing in “hospital-grade HyperHEPA filters.” Fryer says his aim in relation to maintaining vigilance against Covid, “is to provide confidence to our guests whilst not losing the much-needed warmth and joy that a great meal out can bring.”
By Douglas Blyde.
‘There’s all sorts of off-list goodies and one-off bottles being opened to compliment our tasting menu offer,’ says Canadian born, New Zealand raised, James Fryer, a web developer, restaurant manager and fanatic of wine history.
Begin, within the long minimalist, but cosily lit room, with a glass of artisan Cava, Llopart at the Michelin starred Portland, then choose, from the ‘Textbook’ section, an ‘off-dry Riesling with serious power’ in the form of Andreas Bender’s Dajoar Zenit from the Mosel, or from the ‘Special’ selection, with ‘beeswax and ripe apricots’ the ‘irreproachably classy’ Clos St. Anne’ Chenin Blanc from Gisborne, or ‘meaty’, with ‘dark plums and ferrous earth’, Lebanese Ksara from the millennium vintage, all available by the glass from the core, one page list.
Alternatively, noting fortune favours the bold, ask to see the seriously enticing single bottle list upon which you might encounter a 1966 Cheval Blanc, 1995 Montus from Madiran, 20+ year old Catena Zapata, or 1959 sweet Huet…
Portland takes special care with other beverages, too, including reasonably priced fine teas, such as the umami rich, shade grown Sai Midori Kabusecha raised by Lalani & Co, and Workshop coffee.
Dishes may include snack of crispy chicken skins, followed by hay smoked trout smoked with trout roe, duck with apple and honey, then bergamot custard Douglas fir ice-cream and burnt meringue.
Before Portland and sister restaurants, the nearby Clipstone and Farringdon’s The Quality Chop House, Fryer became professionally smitten with wine at Melbourne’s Florentino under the guidance of head sommelier, Mark Protheroe. ’From there, I tried to immerse myself in the local wine scene and even managed to produce a couple of bottles – nothing of great note, I was always just happy to have not made vinegar!’ he says. Fryer also worked at Hammersmith’s River Café ‘with the wonderful Katie Exton (now of Lorne).’
To delight Fryer and earn a place on the list, a wine must first excite him. ‘I understand that’s a very non-specific and un-definable thing to say, but there’s always that light-bulb moment.’ Secondly, a wine must sell. ‘There’s a lot of value to recognising your crowd and trying to provide for their tastes. After all, it’s going to be them who foots the bill after all!’
By Douglas Blyde.
What this perhaps-laboured metaphor is getting at is that the list at Portland, while brief, is packed with intriguing drinking options, representing the finest artisanal producers, wherever in the world they might reside.
The wine list changes monthly, with around 50 labels at any one time, organised under the headings Textbook, Special and Leftfield (the latter broken down in to single-bottle examples of Orange Wine, Skin Contact and Oxidative), with almost everything available by the glass. Interestingly, and in fact sensibly, it also leads with a description of the style of the wine
before naming the wine itself. A separate single-bottle list represents a diverse bunch of some of the more famous names and historic vintages at a generous margin.