It’s all about the food and the flavours at Will Lander’s Portland – a determinedly modern, dressed-down but “elegant” restaurant serving high-end food without an ounce of affectation. Situated not far from the BBC, the low-key dining room is a study in cool stripped-back style – bare dark-wood flooring, bare lightbulbs, bare tables, function-room chairs and watercolour portraits, all overlooked by the Michelin-starred open kitchen.
Headline chef Merlin Labron-Johnson left at the end of 2018, but the kitchen is maintaining its form and there’s “always something different, original and delicious on the menu”, according to one fan. It helps that there’s no needless over-complication along the way – even moreish snacks such as Cornish Gouda and malted barley buns or duck rillettes with pickled daikon and elderberries are prepared with enviable restraint.
After that, stylish simplicity is the mantra, from clever pairings of confit chicken wings, sweetcorn, lemon thyme and black truffle or duck rillettes with pickled daikon and elderberries to Cornish skate with baby parsnips, mussels and sea herbs or Cotswold venison accompanied by slow-cooked potatoes and trompettes de mort mushrooms.
For afters, what could be more straightforward or seasonally perfect than a quince and bergamot tart with cardamom ice cream or marjoram and white chocolate crémeux, alongside sheep’s yoghurt and russet apple?
Set lunches offer “fantastic value”, catering for special diets is “hugely appreciated”, and staff always provide “friendly but highly professional service”, while the accessible ‘textbook’ wines on the back of the menu are supported by an elite ‘single bottle list’ of more expensive rarities.