An inspector reports back on The Portrait
Published 23 August 2023

Credit: The Portrait

A visit to the National Portrait Gallery for a cultural fix and to view the photography exhibition by Paul McCartney brought back fond memories. I missed the swinging sixties having arrived in London in 1969 but lived through the 70s, a decade riddled with strikes and high inflation. Hang on - are we talking about today?

It was an excuse to take a detour to The Portrait restaurant. Richard Corrigan (who was on the pass on our visit) and his restaurants have been a regular feature in the GFG since the 1990s; and in the summer of 2023 (joining fellow chefs Skye Gyngell and Jose Pizarro who have collaborations with leading museums) put his name to the Borthwick Room on the 4th floor of the revamped NPG. The panaramic view of London’s rooftops and landmarks from the dining room is terrific and you get a bird's-eye view of Nelson's Column - easily good enough to capture on a selfie - well; its a form of self-portrait.

The interior itself is somewhat understated (a long room with white slopping ceiling, pale wood tables, chairs and flooring, olive green leather banquettes and seats, open plan kitchen and bar right opposite the windows, potted plants) presumably not to try to compete with the view. With so many hard surfaces, noise levels are elevated when busy. The seasonal menu is equally unprovocative; showcasing straightforward produce-led dishes. If you like your food gutsy, then you have come to the right place - there's duck's heart vol au vent paired with whipped chicken livers and spinach Royale as well as pig's trotter with candied lemon and truffles. Lighter alternative are equally rewarding: sweetcorn chowder topped with salt cod cream was gussied up by a little jalapeño. Snails are all the rage right now in London; and the slow-moving shelled gastropod makes an impressive appearance in a bolognese sauce served over handmade conchigliette with summer garlic and broad beans. There was a lovely piece of Huntsham's Farm pork which arrived with a barigoule of fennel and topped with apricot mostarda. English cherries poached in Riesling with goat's milk parfait makes for a delightful end.

The service team, dressed in striped tops is friendly and relaxed. It can be difficult to make a restaurant inside a museum into a destination spot, but The Portrait is attempting to be one of the few exceptions; especially when the set menu (with dishes from the carte) for £29/£35 offers fair value. Sobriety is made more tricky due to a nifty wine list starting from £30 including 24 by the glass from £6. theportraitrestaurant.com

- Inspector NJ