It’s certainly a room with a view. That’s the first thing you think when you emerge from the lifts to the top floor of the National Portrait Gallery and walk into the Portrait Restaurant. Looking out over the rooftops from Trafalgar Square is a whole new way of looking at London. It’s a cracking view as you can’t see the Gherkin or the other more modern buildings so it feels almost as if you have stepped back in time. All the better for ogling the cityscape there are two big rows of windows with tables lined up against them to ensure that every seat has a view. The interior is fairly minimalist so as not to distract from what’s out the window, pale wooden floors and dark walls creating a blank canvas.
The restaurant is run by Searcy’s under the supervision of head chef Katarina Todosijevic. Although Todosijevic is Swedish, then menu is classic British. There is a lot that tempts from guinea fowl to mackerel salad however irritatingly, if you go for lunch you must have two courses for £21.50 rather than being able to simply order one dish. When you order a selection of warm bread arrives presented on a slate with a pat of butter. I am a bit tired of food being served on slate and chopping boards but perhaps I am being churlish. The pick of the main dishes is the lamb shank which is comically huge in size like some sort of dinosaur shank and comes with a garlic puree mash, roasted potatoes and pumpkin.
Roasted tomato and courgette tart
The vegetarian option is not quite as satisfying as the shank. The huge roasted tomato and courgette tart is on the dry side from the many layers of puff pastry although the tomatoes have been roasted until their flavour is incredibly sweet and intense. The tart is served with a side of purple sprouting broccoli which is lovely and buttery but slightly overcooked. Dessert of apple and blueberry crumble is pretty enough to rival the view, served in an individual ramekin with a miniature jug of thick and warm custard.
The problem with rooms with a view is that they don’t really have to try very hard and they will still attract plenty of punters eager to get a birds eye take on London. This seems to be the case at the Portrait Restaurant where the food was uneven at times and service was lacking. Next time I want to sample the spectacular view I might just order a drink at the bar instead.
Details: National Portrait Gallery, St Martins Place, WC2H OHE (Ph 020 7312 2490) Tube: Charing Cross/ Leicester Square