Open daily 11am–midnight
The style & the crowd:
Once upon a time Portobello House used to be the Earl Percy, a pub for old blokes with sectioned-off snugs, between which were little doors that were only good for midgets. A bloke called Mick used to drink in there until he’d turned into Father Jack from Father Ted; when he was so leathered the landlord would turf him out, the only words in his head were profane. ‘Feck off’ he used to tell you, as you helped him home. Lovely bloke.
Portobello House is a very different affair. No pissed up ex-labourers, only a well behaved crowd quietly enjoying a bar on one side and a dining area (or bistro, as they’ve called it) on the other. Not really a pub and not really a restaurant, but be it bar, bistro or whatever, it was cosy enough on a dark, cold night. Fairy lights twinkled about the place and candles flickered, as did an old Harold Lloyd silent movie projected onto one wall. The football was on with the sound down and loungey music was also playing, so plenty of distractions for our diminishing attention spans.
A stiff Negroni (£8) was a good livener. It was followed up by a silky, comforting artichoke soup with chestnut and parsley pesto (£6.50 but worth every penny). A shame then, that the bread arrived cold and not tasting so fresh. The veggies in the fritto misto (£6) were light and crunchy but the aioli needed more garlic.
A big fat bream the size of a plate was next – a feast for £13. The accompanying salsa verde came with a generous amount of capers that gave a brilliant complimentary tartness. It was the kind of main that was focused on feeding people rather than profit margins – good to see in these straightened times. The wife had arrived claiming no appetite but she made short work of the rare beef fillet salad (£12), which you can take as a good sign. The meat was a minute or so away from carpaccio but still succulent and moreish.
Though I had little room, the waitress talked me into trying the apple and blackberry crumble (£4.50) which arrived all cute in its own little skillet, home-made ice cream melting into it. Both that and the chocolate mousse (£4.50) stabbed with honeycomb, were made short work of.
Wine can be a little on the steep side here – £9.50 for a glass of Argentinian Malbec (admittedly very good) and service is keen and attentive. A good spot for replenishment then, and all the better for the absence of Mick’s expletives.