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Picture this...

New restaurants continue to stream off the production line. Goodness knows where they get the backers from and indeed the energy and fortitude to go through the whole start up ordeal. The Arbutus group has an excellent reputation and very decent food, so it was only a matter of time before some of their alumni started to make waves in the marketplace. Which brings us to a new restaurant on the site of what was formerly a trad Italian on Great Portland Street. Now it is reborn as Picture, and at the helm you’ll find a triumvirate of Arbutus old boys – Tom Slegg (front of house) with Colin Kelly and Alan Christie in the kitchen.
A couple of large ceiling lights make the restaurant as pretty as a picture – light and airy, style wise it follows some unwritten resto design guidelines – utilitarian, scruffy, industrial – there is some “high table and bar stool” seating as you walk in, but when you get past the choke point of the bar the room opens out. The chairs are those metal, relatively uncomfortable, stackable jobs that the scout group probably used in a far off Village Hall. The food comes in small portions, not ridiculously pixie portions but frustrating nevertheless, punters are encouraged to order three dishes per person. The jury’s out about the small plates conundrum – the cooking is very good here and while you can always order a second helping of dishes that you liked, the grazing presumption falters.
The set lunch is a belter, choose between “salad of plum tomatoes, goats’ curd cheese, merlot vinegar” and “lightly smoked Morteau sausage, charlotte potatoes, mustard mayonnaise” by way of starter. Go on to “rigatoni of smoked haddock, English peas and mint”, or “Elwy Valley lamb, cauliflower and cumin”. Puds
are “summer berries, almond cream” and “chocolate mousse, with raspberries”. THREE COURSES £15!!
The cooking is very good here. Simple things like a chickpea and smoked haddock spread (£3) deliver oodles of flavour. A “ravioli of Italian greens and ricotta, chili and herbs” (£7) is well made, dark, rich and delicious. The “slow cooked squid, tomato, courgette and smoked paprika” (£7) is a standout – tender squid in large pieces and lubricated with blobs of aioli. “Rare beef” comes with heritage carrots and leeks (£8) – onglet, cooked accurately. Seriously good. “Lebanese fried chicken, bulgar wheat and sweetcorn” (£8) - very crisp. Arbutus is on restaurant on the very short list of places where you can indulge in tripe. Now Picture joins it. “Casserole of tripe, cavolo nero, and tomato” (£6) – this dish is worth travelling for. About the only weak spot is the “fries and aioli” we have all become much fussier about chips, once cooked versus thrice cooked, cut large cut small. The fries at Picture were altogether too close to a catering company’s frozen chips and the aioli was very tame indeed.
Puds range from “pannacotta with greengages and oatmeal biscuit” (£4) to “blueberry and almond pie, yoghurt ice cream” (£5). The wine list is sound, as are the prices. There are those interesting Suffolk lagers from Calvors. The service is slick and waiters and waitresses talk knowledgeably about the dishes they serve. Prices are keen, and if you want to try multiple dishes the small plates methodology will suit. I wanted a bigger helping of the tripe.

Picture, 110 Great Portland Street, London W1W 6PQ (020 7637 7892)

Charles Campion - Friday 6th September 2013

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