Portrait Restaurant

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.

Bread selection
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.
Lamb shank
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
Damage: Pricey
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my reviews of other rooms with views: the Tate Modern restaurant and Smiths of Smithfield.

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  1. It’s always difficult when places have a captive audience, without careful attention they slide very easily. That said the lambshank did look pretty good. However, having to have two courses for lunch is a bit much.

    Thanks for the review – it;s been somewhere I’ve been meaning to try for a while, but it has now slid down the list to a will-go-to-if-I’m there rather than being something to seek out.

    Good review Gourmet Chick.

  2. Ahh a bit of a shame! That happens here with places with a view but of course when they do both well, they really rake it in so I don’t understand why they don’t try a bit harder! 🙂

  3. I think I have heard the same thing about this place that the food is so so but that the view is wonderful. Oh well!

  4. This is one of my visitor-to-London recommendations, but mainly to have afternoon tea or sunset drinks.

    Jetsetting Joyce

  5. Hmmm, pieces of slate are in the same category as lamb shanks and pork belly – cheap before they became cool!

  6. Ouch…this place sounds pretty dreadful. I always had it on my list as a place to go with visitors, but it’s been firmly crossed out now!

  7. The Grubworm – The lambshanks were the highlight and I think The Portrait restaurant is best saved as a place for a quick drink and a look at the view.

    Lorraine – I know what you mean, it could really be an amazing restaurant

    Sarah – disappointing really

    Jet Setting Joyce – yes I think sunset drinks could be perfect. The Tate Modern restaurant is my visitor to London recommendation!

    LexEat – I can’t help but think all the slate and wood boards must be a bit unhygenic – surely they don’t put them all in the dishwasher?!

    Krista – There are worse places but there are also much better. Go for the view alone I say.

  8. I went for an event once, and stuck strictly to bubbly, but always wondered about the food. Now I know. One for drinks and an ogle at the view.

  9. Greedy Diva – yes I think bubbly is the way to go!

  10. Much as I like restaurants with a view, I am deeply suspicious of them at the same time… I actually know Kat through a good friend and have been meaning to come and check out her gaff for ages. Not sure if I want 2 courses at lunchtime though, unless it’s a special occasion…

  11. The Portrait restaurant view is to die for. I have been several times and the food is good but I don’t expect more than I get here at the price. Service attentive and a nice atmosphere. There have been no reviews in ages, which is a shame because the Portrait Restaurant is a good destination.

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