Portrait Restaurant

Restaurants, British Trafalgar Square
Portrait Restaurant
Portrait Restaurant
Portrait Restaurant

The views of Trafalgar Square are the main draw at this restaurant - and that’s after you’ve made your way past many of the arty mugshots in the National Portrait Gallery, located downstairs. The vista - a rooftop-skimming cityscape three floors up - takes in Nelson’s Column, Whitehall, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. But the best bit? The landmarks are so close that you can see the details clearly without having to resort to binoculars.

Portrait isn’t somewhere that relies completely on its location. The food now comes courtesy of Company of Cooks - a catering firm with some form at other London cultural institutions, including the Royal Opera House and the Southbank Centre. They took over from previous incumbent, Searcys, in 2013 and the whole place was subsequently treated to a slick refurb and a redesign that, unless you’re really unlucky, offers much better gazing opportunities.

Food-wise they seem to know what they’re doing, even if a limp slip of smoked mackerel wasn’t helped by a tiny potato salad lacking clout from barely discernable horseradish. Much better was a lovely fillet of bream - all crisp, bubbled skin and soft, white flesh - accompanied by a brown shrimp butter packed with flavour and some bang-in-season crushed Jersey Royals. We also liked the rigatoni with a porcini and tomato ragu, and both desserts - one a treacle tart with preserved lemon and clotted cream, the other an espresso chocolate tart rich enough to consider patronage downstairs.  

Portrait is only open for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (though lunch is available daily), and if you’re ordering à la carte, prices can easily climb. Still, the service is spot-on (they're dressed in some nice new tweed, too) and the set menus offer good value. Plus there’s that view - pretty as a picture.

By: Stephen Farmer


Venue name: Portrait Restaurant
Address: National Portrait Gallery
St Martin's Place
Opening hours: Breakfast Mon-Sun 10am-11am; lunch Mon-Sun 11.45am-2.45pm; afternoon tea Mon-Sun 3.30pm-4.45pm; dinner Thu-Sat 5.30pm-8.15pm
Price: Main courses £18.50-£26; pre-theatre menu two-courses £18.50, three courses £22.50
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Average User Rating

4 / 5

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When with my partner for a special Sunday lunch. Reserved a window table and they delivered. It was an amazing view. I was however, disappointed with the prices. I expected some al a carte but there was nothing but the set menu. £7.50 for a small bowl of soup?

I've only ever come here for lunch and the pre-theatre menu (it's a bit pricey otherwise), but I can't fault the food, the setting or the service. It's so bright and airy up in the Portrait Restaurant and if you manage to get a window seat, the view is a lovely one. The food and wine are always superb (I had a particularly memorable chocolate cheesecake there last year) and I've never felt rushed, even though I'm sure they're fully booked most of the time. Definitely try this one for a special occasion some time. It's worth it!

Booked a table for an anniversary meal last saturday, very good food, very good service. Would recommend and would eat there again. Nice view too, not spectacular, but still good.