Let's do lunch

Portal Restaurant and Bar Reviewed by Richard Mollet, director of Edelman Public Affairs.

Antonio Correia, previously of Charterhouse Street's Rendezvous, has

moved on from the ambience of the French brasserie to provide a more

contemporary European restaurant. It is a successful departure.

The main dining area, in a conservatory at the rear, is reached via the

bar and the semi-open-plan serving gantry. Neighbouring tables may seem

a little too close for comfort for confidential conversation, but a busy

hubbub provides its own blanket of security.

Head chef Ricardo Costa's menu draws on France and Iberia. Whether

starting with foie gras or tuna tataki, be prepared for robust portions.

Of the main courses, the bisaro (boar) and lamb are supported by

particularly strong and rich sauces. In short, this is not the place to

go if you are looking for something light and snacky.

The cellar holds a wide and not too expensive selection, and - perhaps

because Antonio is Portuguese - there is an array of fortified wines for

those with a slow afternoon ahead.

Portal is neither cafe chic nor highly starched, but this ambivalence

turns out to be a virtue. The informal and the formal lunch work equally

well.

Portal's location will make it more attractive to those working east of

Holborn, but even if you're in the West End, it rewards a trip out to

the City.

Where: 88 St John Street, London, EC1

Contact: 020 7253 6950

How much: £30-£40 per head, with wine

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