“Fine dining food without the fine dining prices,” is the unofficial motto of Picture, which has just opened a second restaurant in Marylebone after roaring success in Fitzrovia. We were there for the summer tasting menu, set at a very reasonable £40 (or £70 with matched wines).
As well as eye-watering prices, also absent is the pretentiousness that can sometimes come with really, really good food. (And also the pretentiousness that often comes with Marylebone, which I consider to have one of the highest douchebag densities in London.) The staff are cheerful, efficient and attentive – happy to have a little chat but swift as an otter if you accidentally drop your fork.
We began with a glass of champagne and a bowl of the plumpest, meatiest olives I’ve ever had the pleasure of rolling around in my gob – prize heifers of the olive world, with thick mantles of firm, meaty fruit around long, knobbly pits. We also ordered a couple of ‘Beef Bites’, because at £1.00 each how can you not, and would have ordered more had we not got six more courses ahead of us. I can tell you for nothing that if some enterprising young soul were to load up a food truck with these succulent little cubes of deep-fried bovine brilliance, he or she would be flitting around the coast of Monaco in a private yacht within six months.
The first course was a palate-cleansing little cup of chilled vegetable veloute of such a vivid pea green I will be taking the photograph below to my toenail place for colour-matching. Not one for green vegetables generally, I was surprised by its sup-ability. “Obviously, it can’t be that good for you,” I asserted confidently, between slurps. “It’s 80% cream.” Except that it wasn’t. In fact, save for a decorative swirl of yoghurt on top, it was dairy-free. God knows what it owed its creaminess to – “Chef’s secret”, we were told, somewhat ominously – but, whatever was in it, it was thick, cool and refreshing.
A dish of charred cauliflower arrived next, subtly curried and flanked by a harem of comely handmaidens in the form of sea purslane, peas and shallots. “Nobody ever suspects the cauliflower,” said Mike, as we discussed which course we thought would be the best. And he’s right; it might have even been my favourite dish of all. Who’d have thunk.
We bickered over whether or not it was better than the pork terrine that came next, which erred slightly on the fatty side for me, though Mike – international gastronome – pronounced it ‘boss’.
Roast hake, courgette, tomatoes, aubergine and black olive was a symphony of subtle Mediterranean flavours with a sizeable tranche of fish, though the aubergine and olive flavours were, alas, too subtle; in fact, undetectable. It was followed up by a hunk of skirt steak that normally comes with (unadvertised) beetroot, scattered with crunchy, beefy bone marrow crumb.
We shared an optional course of cheese (£9.00) from La Fromagerie – the Highbury branch is my favourite cheese shop (see my famous cheese party) – and finished it all off with a crowd-pleasing pudding of feathery dark chocolate mousse, sat smugly in a pool of thick salted caramel, looking very pleased with itself, and scattered with Crunchie-style honeycomb.
Now, if you’re especially picky you might choose to order a la carte. It won’t cost you any more money, but honestly, all the most exciting dishes can be found on the tasting menu (and there’s a 100% veggie version available too). At £40, it’s one of the best value in London; the price is right, the service is great and the food is picture perfect.
Picture, 110 Great Portland St, London, W1W 6PQ
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.