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

people And here is why...
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
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
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
Life and Style
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

    Service Charge Accountant

    30,000 to 35,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: We are currently recruiting on...

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?