Having a reputation can be a bit of an inconvenience, regardless of whether it’s good or bad. In fact, having now mulled over the perils of both, I am starting to think it’s better to have a bad one and just roll with it. Sure, people will smear your name but if you operate on the policy of not giving a toss, it’s actually much easier to manage than a good one. Having one of those requires far more effort… most people will want to maintain it, and in order to do so, you must live up to the expectations that pesky aforementioned reputations creates.
I’ve come across many restaurants with big reputations for being any number of things – overpriced, undervalued, one for the suits, suitable for the fanatics, and the list goes on, but rarely do I come across one that’s just very good. Picture, in both Fitzrovia and Marylebone, is a shining example of this rarity… everyone, no really, everyone I mention it to simply raves about just how good it is. So much so that I used to get embarrassed when I had to admit that I hadn’t yet been and got greeted by a look of surprise and pity in response. Yours truly has a bit of a reputation to uphold too, apparently.
Having suffered enough egg on my face, that table at Picture, in the original Fitzrovia branch, was finally put in the diary. The timing couldn’t have been better either – it was their fourth birthday and to celebrate, they were offering a four-course menu of their greatest hits with paired wines… and what a winning combination it was. But first, we just had to try the lamb (or sometimes beef) bites which seemed to have a reputation of their own. Once we broke through the golden crumb crust and revealed its saucy, meaty inner, it was clear to see why these were so well-loved.
The first proper course of the meal, a ravioli of caramelised onion with escarole lettuce and pecorino also impressed; in spite of its vegetarian status. We both swished our forkfuls of ravioli round the plate, mopping up every last smattering of sauce and cheese, and not-so-secretly wished we were sitting there with a giant bowlful instead. I can now speak from experience and say that getting homemade pasta this thin, this perfectly cooked, and still intact, is not as easy as it seems. I can usually manage two of those elements, but the holy trinity still alludes me and even some other professionals.
A small slab of lightly smoked pork, compressed together and lightly crisped round the outside was a great example of balance. Picture managed to balance the inevitably rich pork with accompanying elements which enhanced the dish; green beans added crunch and freshness, the pickled onions provided sweetness and sharpness, but what really brought the dish together was the pineapple. Even a certain someone, who normally despises fruit in his main courses, begrudgingly agreed that it gave everything a certain tropical exuberance!
Then it was time for the beef fillet to step into the limelight, a dish which looked and smelled phenomenal as it hit the table. There are a few foods which are better when aged, but none make my eyes light up as much as a scandalously pink piece of 28 day aged beef fillet. It was beaming in amongst its other tasty friends such as the baby carrots, trimmed with military precision, or the artistically charred shallots, and whimsically scattered spinach, all dressed with a sprinkling of bone marrow crumb and a luscious red wine sauce. The result was one seriously attractive plate of food, but not in that ‘looks good but I’d need five platefuls worth’ kind of way, there was definitely substance to this style.
Knowing our meal was coming to an end after such a great high was deflating to say the least, but all good things must come to an end and you might as well end on another good thing. A dark chocolate mousse is always one of those good things in my books. I’m actually quite adept at whipping one up myself (how shamefully immodest am I?) but it’d be no comparison to the sultriness of this one. The mousse came with a curious milk jam, which is neither milk nor jam in form, but more of a whipped cream. This combined with the mousse to form a lovely creamy milk chocolate concoction, which was topped with a salted caramel crumble – the figurative icing on the cake if you will!
Well, I guess those raving fans were right; our meal at Picture was every bit as good as they all said. Aside from their greatest hits for special occasions, the restaurant normally serves an a la carte menu or more popularly, a six course tasting menu – this is what I will opt for on a future visit! The dishes that graced our presence were very good, great even, but in a comforting, understated sort out way… it delivered everything I had hoped for, and their good reputation is still very much in tact!
Have you been to Picture? Did you love it?!
Are there other restaurants with certain reputations which either live up to them triumphantly or fail miserably?
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