After having my first meal in Fitzrovia recently inside a gentleman’s toilet, I honestly didn’t know what to expect for my second. Granted, the toilet in question was a lovingly converted and renovated Victorian loo that had been given the Shoreditch treatment and turned into a wonderfully niche café nook. However, next to this novel eatery, how would other establishments in the area compare?
Entering Picture Restaurant, I quickly saw that although this was a more traditional restaurant space than its toilet café neighbour, full attention had been given to the repossessed feeling of the décor. The first thing that caught my attention was the sweeping bar running down the length of the room – it was like being back at school. Not for the whisky sours of course, but for what the bar was made of – reclaimed parquet flooring; the kind that all British school halls seemed to have, and that all British schoolboys ran and skidded on their knees on at some point. The distressed, unpainted walls fitted with lightly tarnished mirrors and subtle lighting didn’t need anything more in terms of design – there was no pretentiousness, yet a lot of approachable style.
The Picture restaurant menu recommends that diners choose one dish from each section. We didn’t see this suggestion at first but were very glad when we did – the vegetable, fish and meat sections had such a wide variety of bold ingredients interlaced with each other that it was going to be nigh on impossible to know how to select one. To start, we went for the vegetarian section, choosing the asparagus, poached egg dressing, red onion and pecorino, and the ravioli of Italian greens, ricotta and chilli.
Asparagus, poached egg dressing, red onion and pecorino
The first thing we noticed about the asparagus was how thick it was; sat on top of the poached egg dressing, these were vibrantly green stalks, and piercing them with a fork resulted in a reassuring crunch. The egg dressing was perfectly seasoned, and reassuringly rich. Although it was grated very finely, the pecorino was a fantastic addition to the dish, in that the dry, almost gritty bite of the cheese gave the smooth egg and asparagus pairing a fantastic rough edge.
Ravioli of Italian greens, ricotta and chilli
With the addition of the chilli, there was a well-rounded warmth throughout the ravioli of Italian greens. As the small amount ricotta had melted into the greens and pasta, the entire dish had a rich thickness to its texture, as if it had been marinated, bringing out the flavours even more.
Moving on to the fish course, we realised that although these dishes were small and designed to be paired up with each other, they were surprisingly filling. A lot of other restaurants excel in providing bold flavours, but the lack of a quality foundation for the recipes often leaves diners wanting more for the wrong reasons. This was clearly not the case at Picture.
Lightly cured Scottish salmon with beetroot, horseradish and creme fraiche
Cod, Tuscan white beans, cherry tomatoes and garlic leaves
When our next dishes arrived, we were greeted with more fantastic colours. The lightly cured Scottish salmon with beetroot, horseradish and creme fraiche was a deep, rich pink that really stood out on the plate. Not only this, but it was generously cut, giving it an almost sashimi quality. Our second dish was cod, Tuscan white beans, cherry tomatoes and garlic leaves. A golden-brown, lightly seasoned crumb covered the top of the cod, which flaked apart with the lightest of touches. The Tuscan beans paired up with the breadcrumbs perfectly, reminded us of Brazilian farofa.
Slow cooked spring chicken pie, English peas, chestnut mushroom and marjorams
For the first of our meat courses, we chose slow cooked spring chicken pie, English peas, chestnut mushroom and marjoram. Having a gap between the base and the pie’s crust allowed for the abundant filling to be on full display – the tender chicken and chestnut mushroom were a classic pairing, and the creamy gravy appeared to be slightly aerated, giving the entire pie a brilliantly light feel.
28 day aged beef, heritage carrots, Swiss chard and cumins
The tenderness of the 28 day aged beef, heritage carrots, Swiss chard and cumin cannot be overstated. With a deep pinkness in the centre of the cut, the meat fell away while being cut with ease, and the selection of vegetables accompanying it added a good contrast of textures.
Chocolate mousse with rhubarb
Selection of English, Irish and Scottish cheeses
We had never had chocolate mousse paired up with rhubarb before, so that was an easy choice to make for dessert. Instead of being overly light and aerated, the mousse had a slight truffle-like quality to it, with the richness of the chocolate being delightfully offset with the tart rhubarb slices. For the cheeseboard, we were treated to a selection of English, Irish and Scottish cheeses. The addition of traditional Scottish oatcakes was a great addition, as was the sweet apple chutney to the side.
Picture Restaurant’s experimental flair with its recipes is something that stands out with every single one – the creation of small yet intricately put together dishes leads to diners ending up with a much bigger range of flavours than they could have hoped to get at such an approachable restaurant. Not only this, but the sheer affordability of such creative cooking is incredible, and obviously why the restaurant won a Michelin Guide 2014 Bib Gourmand award for exceptional value for money.
110 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 6PQ