Restaurant review: Picture, 110 Great Portland St, London W1

'It's the restaurant equivalent of BBC Four - upmarket but quirky'

The area around the BBC's Broadcasting House is not famous for destination dining. Apart from Villandry, there has never been much in the ex rag-trade district north of Oxford Circus to detain the restaurant guides. It's a place for homely mom and pop places – trats with candles in Chianti flasks, or Greek and Turkish joints. The sort of spot to suit suede-shoed radio producers lunching publishers on modest budgets.

Now, with the recent opening of the shiny New Broadcasting House, the TV mob have moved in. Thousands of them, uprooted from White City and crammed like battery hens into a vast, but not quite vast enough, new building. The incomers, their dining horizons miraculously widened beyond the chain restaurants of Westfield, flood out gratefully each lunchtime from their hot-desks and meeting cubicles to roam the sunlit uplands of Fitzrovia.

New restaurants are springing up to service this invading army of telly types. Once that would have meant expense account-friendly fine-dining places, but no one at the BBC has an expense account any more. The new austerity-era restos need to be discreet and justifiable-to-the-Daily-Mail cheap.

Picture, a welcome new arrival in the shadow of NBH, fits the bill in every respect. Set up by three defectors from the Arbutus/Wild Honey group, two chefs and a manager, it's the restaurant equivalent of BBC Four – upmarket but quirky, with crossover appeal to a wider audience.

Aesthetically, it's in tune with the BBC's current penitential mood. The room is long, colourless and spartan, with raw plaster walls, bulkhead lighting and old school chairs. Look, we're not wasting your licence fee on fripperies, proclaim the brown-paper menus and tea-towel napkins. But if the ambience is unforgiving, the staff are warm and helpful, taking their lead from boyband-cute manager and co-owner Tom, who will surely be signed up for his own show.

If you were pitching Picture's menu to a commissioning editor, you'd describe it as modern mainstream with a twist; small sharing plates of ingredient-led British fare that's taken a grand tour of Northern Europe and the Middle East. From the Nordic end of the menu, pickled silver darlings – not an old-school Radio 3 producer, but rollmop herrings, swaddling a sour-sharp dice of gherkins, capers and raw onions. From the warm south, Lebanese fried chicken, gloriously crisp if a little undersized, and served with a pool of yogurt sprinkled with sumac and pomegranate seeds.

Some dishes are a bit random. Poached egg draped in warm folds of ham-like pork belly, and partnered with white peaches and crumbled hazelnuts, left my guest, the historian Lucy Worsley, quite discombobulated. "Is it like Japanese food," she mused, "where you don't know what it is, it's just all grey and wobbly?" But others are simpler and more focused – slow-braised hunks of beef, in a sticky reduced sauce, served with coco beans and sweetly roasted carrots was notably good, and a steal at £8. Partnered with fries and aioli (£3), it would make a handsome lunch in its own right.

As at Arbutus, the food is just a bit posher than you'd expect from the menu descriptions, or the prices. There are rather too many cheffy flourishes – foamed sauces, fish skin crisped or crumbled, microherbs a go-go. But the bread is free, the wine list offers a great selection, served by the glass, carafe or bottle, and there's a tempting bar area for recently-fired senior executives to fritter away their redundancy pay-offs.

Not quite sure I'd got the whole Picture, I went back for dinner with my own silver darling, and found the room warmer and more convivial at night, although the calamitous acoustics need attention, perhaps from a moonlighting sound engineer. BBC Four launched itself as 'a place to think'; this is a place to shout. But again, even if some dishes slightly missed the mark, there were stand-outs to compensate – lightly poached salmon, topped with a crisp of its own skin and partnered with curried cauliflower and sultanas; a dark and seductive hunk of slow-cooked lamb shoulder with puréed fava beans. The overall impression was of a really well-run restaurant driven by the curiosity of a couple of gifted chefs.

The scores at the top of this page don't really reflect how much I liked it; but then, as is often the case in TV, ratings don't tell the whole story. Picture isn't a star performer, around which you might build a whole night's schedule. It's the kind of well-crafted, enjoyable format you find yourself returning to again and again. And that's mainly because – just like the BBC, for all its faults – they really seem to care about their customers.

Food ***
Ambience ***
Service ****

Picture, 110 Great Portland St, London W1 (020-7637 7892). £30 a head without wine and service; set lunch £15 for three courses

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers

footballScores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Manchester City and Chelsea vs Schalke
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959


Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
10 best table lamps
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week