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
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
Where: 88 St John Street, London, EC1
Contact: 020 7253 6950
How much: £30-£40 per head, with wine