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Portal Restaurant & Bar (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of Portal Restaurant & Bar in Clerkenwell, London

88 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 4EH
Cuisine: Portuguese
Tel: 020 7253 6950 | Email to Portal Restaurant & Bar | Transport: Farringdon | Write review

Portal Restaurant & Bar Review

Best for: white port; Clerkenwell class; indulgent dinners.

Great: tasting medicine; fish cheeks; indoor alfresco dining.

Your brain hasn’t produced much useful material lately. The malignant collaboration between Adderall and anxiety has something to do with it. There’s no evidence that it tangibly improves the quality of your work. It’s important to remain honest with yourself about its downsides. In your case, faltering creativity, swinging moods, and insane writing hours.

You find it hard to correctly morph abstract feelings in to words that will do Portal - the Portuguese restaurant you visited recently - justice. Yet, the images are stored deep in the recesses of your numbed neurological library. You dust off a useful picture book.

You stare at photos of the sleek, smart bar at the front of the restaurant and recall the delectable white port you sipped. You remember a feeling of surprise on learning that white port is commonly used as an aperitif in Portugal. This book is helping.

You turn the page and see yourself sat rigidly in one of the restaurants curvy retro chairs, unsure if resting your elbows on the crease-free, blinding white tablecloth will evoke some sort of riot. Running a hand over the textured page allows you the memory of exposed rough brickwork. You remember appreciating how the use of the floor-to-ceiling windows gave the feeling of alfresco dining. The clever use of spotlight-soaked trees and foliage, wedged between the glass and more brick, gently tapping the panes in time with the breeze, only added to the illusion.

The indulgence of alfresco reminds you of the countryside where you grew up and where you first learned about your mild form of Asperger’s. Granted, that was your mother’s diagnosis and, strictly speaking, she possessed neither the relevant paperwork nor the necessary professional experience to offer you binding analysis, but she was an expert on feelings and your family pathologies. As you grew older, you picked up ways of masking your panic: you smoked cigarettes to keep control of your uneasiness and smoked pot to take the pressure off your eyes. That worked well. That got you writing.

Now, in your job as a restaurant critic, you fold and unfold your napkin as the sommelier speaks to you about the 50+ wines on offer. You use your pen and paper to scrawl notes and avoid eye contact, hoping to mask your inferior knowledge, hoping he won’t indulge in lengthy discussion.

As the wine buff leaves and your incompetence remains undetected, you raise your head and notice the modern artwork littering the walls. You’re sure you painted something similar as an 8 year old. Only, you stayed within the lines.

You turn another page. Another canvas - a rectangular plate - displays the art of a crab salad with wasabi and yoghurt. If only this book were scratch’n’sniff. You want to remember how the cold freshness of the crab was perfectly balanced with the fire of the wasabi. You vaguely remember Aiofe’s mumblings about how ‘indescribably good’ her goat cheese with pumpkin and apple in bric pastry starter was. Her choice of words hinders developing this memory further.

You flip through more pages filled with waiters and waitresses topping up water and wine. Odd, at the time you didn’t ever notice them; silent and stealthy. You run your hand over the image of the confit Bacalhau cheeks with garlic and parsley emulsion and saffron risotto. You touch your stomach. You definitely remember that, you couldn’t possibly forget. The texture of the fish cheeks was like nothing else you’d ever experienced. The taste and flavour well exceeded its questionable mass of something wet and soft, yet with a firmness such as grisly fat.

You vaguely recollect a roasted Pork belly with potatoes Lyonnaise, caramelised red onions and savoy cabbage with white wine sauce but it’s the desserts that you’re keen to summon back. You check the index for Portal Pasteis de nata with bailey ice-cream and Portal cheese board, granny smith, Portuguese quince and biscuits. The custard and cinnamon based pastry is also referenced under ‘divine’ and ‘exquisite’. The cheese board – wheeled out on a cart so as to survey and correctly choose from a large selection – was so strong and indulgent, the smells are still preserved on your hands, despite attempts to mask the odour with excessive use of Molton Brown from Portal’s well stocked bathrooms.

Aiofe enjoyed reviewing the night’s dinner performance over brunch the next morning. “You were in good form yesterday,” she said to you. You were baffled by that. It had never occurred to you that your form varied. You realise you’re considered a social liabilty because of your inconsistent performances, your windsock mood swings and, increasingly, your professional incompetence. You feel pleased the previous night had run its course smoothly. Just as your doctor said diazepam would do, Portal brought out the best in you. You close the book, and on its front scrawl an inky epitaph ‘In loving memory of Portal; a fantastic host, a brilliant chef and above all, never forgotten.’ more

Customer Reviews for Portal Restaurant & Bar

Average (based on 2 votes): 2 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of Portal Restaurant & Bar.

“Portal restaurant and bar is truly special! My husband brought me here for our two year anniversary and I think I enjoyed the night more than our wedding day itself! The staff as like ninja's; you barely notice them topping up your drinks but when you want to talk to them they have a bounty of knowledge about the fabulous food and drink Portal offers. I'll be back for our three year anniversary - even if we're no longer together ;)”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Candie Kaine, Battersea (6 years 8 months 20 days ago)

“A friend took me to Portal for lunch the other day - surprised at the Portuguese menu, and very pleasantly so. The bar at the entrance is nicely designed and relaxing to have a drink in but the really special part of the restaurant design is the greenhouse/conservatory main dining room at the rear of the building. A stunning design and a great space to enjoy a meal in. As for the food - wonderful. Starters were generous and inventive. I had octopus with a great balsamic dressing and my friend went for sardines - all fresh and not what we expected at all. Mains had a huge range of fish and meat options with some temtpting specials. I went for squid and scallops with a garlic mash, which was amazing. Wine list is a real winner - huge range and a well described menu. Staff were attentive and friendly without being overbearing. Overall - will definitely be going back. Hopefully the next visit will be even more impressive.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Ismail Vali, London (10 years 10 months 1 days ago)

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Additional Information

Portal Restaurant & Bar Food & Drinks

Portal Restaurant & Bar Food Menu

The food at Portal reflects head chef Ricardo Costa’s world-class training, most recently at the two Michelin-starred El Girasol in Alicante. Crowd-pleasers are complemented by inventive touches that have their roots in the finest culinary traditions of southern Europe.

A superbly grilled John Dory accompanied by a glass or two of perfectly chilled Muscadet is, for many, perfection. For others, the tantalising tastes and textures of a classic rib of beef and frites or champagne and white truffle risotto, provide complete satisfaction.

Updated 20/10/2010

Item Description Price
Starter Fish soup with olive oil and garlic bread dumplings £ 6.50
Dessert Gazpacho of summer fruits with Portal ice cream £ 6.00
Dessert Home-made caramel and egg flan £ 5.50
Main Braised ‘Bisaro’ on a bed of broad bean and Chorizo puree with a Madeira sauce £ 18.00
Main Trio of Cod £ 17.50
Starter Langoustine mayonnaise £ 8.50

Portal Restaurant & Bar Drinks Menu

Owner Antonio Correia’s vast knowledge of Port has led to his recent invitation to join Confraria do Vinho do Porto (Royal Port Society) – an honour granted to few. This dedication to, and love of, Port and fine wine has led to his friendship with Pedro Branco, who owns Quinta do Portal, a unique family-run winemaking company based in the Douro Valley in the north of Portugal, and a vineyard that not only supplies the restaurant with its award-winning wines and Ports, but has also inspired its name.

The wine list features a combination of house wines from Quinta do Portal, which start at £14.50 a bottle, as well as the vineyard’s Viosinho white, four estate reds (a Reserva, Tinto Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional) and eight ports. In addition to this is a range of Spanish, Italian and New World wines and exquisite French Fine classics, and with 15 varieties available by the glass, Portal is an ideal venue to sample the finest in Iberian-accented wine, both in the bar or with a meal.

Updated 15/09/2006

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