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Picture

110 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 6PQ, United Kingdom

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Picture restaurant opened in June 2013, the creation of Colin Kelly, Alan Christie (the chefs) and restaurant manager Tom Slegg, who were colleagues at the related restaurants Arbutus and Wild Honey. The name is an obscure reference to the nearby BBC, who seemingly provide much of the lunch trade here. The Picture dining room has a casual feel, with no tablecloths, tubular metal chairs of the types you see in church halls or town hall meeting rooms, and grey distressed-effect stone walls. The hard surfaces mean that noise levels are cranked up to eleven, so this is not a place for a quiet chat.

The menu offers “small plates”, which is a format that, depending on your viewpoint, either (a) allows diners to try more dishes or (b) is a cunning way for restaurateurs to improve profit margins by encouraging diners to order more than they would normally. The plates here were priced at £6 - £9, desserts generally £4. There is also a tasting menu of six little courses at £35, and a vegetarian version of this at £30. We tried both these tasting menus on our visit this evening.

The short wine list started at £18 with a median price of just £25. Example wines were Stonedale Chenin Blanc, Robertson 2012 at £22 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £8, Sancerre Domaine Merlin Cherrie 2012 at £36 for a wine that retails at £17, and Astrolabe Pinot Noir 2010 at £45 for a wine that will set you back £20 in a shop. All wines were available by the glass or carafe as well by the bottle. Corkage was available at £18. Bread is bought in from Boulangerie de Paris (probably the best restaurant bakery in London at present), mini sourdough baguettes, and these were very good.

Gazpacho that began the meal had quite good tomato flavour, with the red pepper in the soup not over-metallic as it can be, though the dish seemed under-seasoned to me; a bit more pepper would have been beneficial (13/20). This was followed by goat curd cheese with figs, honey and fennel. The cheese was fine though the figs were rather tasteless, the fennel a touch hard, though the components went together quite well (13/20).

Ravioli of Italian greens and ricotta was very nice, the pasta having good texture, the greens tasting fresh (14/20). Crisp pressed pork with watermelon and barbecue sauce  had tender meat and a pleasingly tangy sauce (14/20). Slow poached egg and mushroom marmalade with a sourdough cracker worked well, the onion marmalade skilfully made, the cracker giving some texture balance (14/20). Smoked eel with mango, peanuts and choi salad was a well-designed dish, the mango giving a hint of acidity to balance the richness of the eel (14/20).

Risotto of roasted plum tomato and artichoke had carefully cooked rice, only let down by slightly overcooked artichokes (13/20). Beef with pea salsa was better, with fennel and artichoke, the pea salsa in particular having good flavour and complementing the beef nicely (14/20). The meal concluded with chocolate mousse and raspberries, the mousse having good texture, the raspberries pleasant (14/20).

Our waiter (Tom) used to work at Deux Salons and was excellent, very friendly and professional. The bill for two came to £63 a head, including plenty of wine. If you stuck to three of the regular plates and drank a modest bottle of wine between two then a more typical bill might be around £45 all in. I liked Picture other than its deafening noise levels. At these prices you are not going to encounter expensive ingredients, but the capable chefs do a good job with what their price point allows. It was full on a Tuesday evening a couple of months after opening, and I can see why.

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