Portal is exactly what it says on the tin – a portal into a hidden space. Its chic matte black and green brick exterior, tardis-like, opens up to a beautiful glassed in courtyard. It's not very well known, but I’m pretty sure there’s a good reason for this: everyone is keeping it a secret, and so should you. You’re not going to want to compete with your friends for a table here.
With its serene black and white format and the floor-to-ceiling glass panes, Portal does urban chic very well. As we were a group of 12, I booked the private room (which seats 14). Wine-lined, and with a sliding glass door, you can converse audibly with your dining companions.
I’ve been known to punch (accidentally) the odd stranger whilst taking my coat off or putting it on. With wine bottles as a substitute the situation was rather more precarious: I narrowly missed bringing down the entire row of 2003 Quinta do Portal ‘Auro’…
Very rarely is the bread worth mentioning in a restaurant, but Portal is a cut above many: served freshly baked in engraved wine boxes along with peppery olive oil it would be hard even for the most resolute gluten-free fad enthusiast to resist.
Please don’t think I’m a bore, but the tap water is also worth noting: sweet, cold and crisp, and flavoured with sliced cucumber and fresh mint. And like the dining scene in Philemon and Baucis, my glass seemed to replenish itself. Attention to detail is what marks the good from the great, and Portal is definitely closer to the latter.
After some studious analysis of the modern Portuguese menu, I plumped for grilled vegetables with carrot and ginger puree - maybe not the most adventurous starter to choose, but I’m always on the lookout for good vegetarian food. If a meat-orientated restaurant takes its time to conjure up a good vegetarian dish then it is a true sign of its quality, rearing its head above all the meat-crazed restaurants on the scene at the moment.
Clean and modern presentation was consistent throughout the meal, and Portal is definitely not shy with its green garnishes. The purée was warming and smooth, but unfortunately the carrots were a little underdone, and unusually for a restaurant, there wasn’t enough salt to draw out the earthy root vegetable sweetness.
Luckily, I turned carnivore for the next course: the duck breast with apple, chard and summer cup reduction.
Sweet, juicy, tender, succulent, cooked to the perfect shade of blush, this was the wagyu of the duck world.
The red of the apples added drama to the plate, and they too were cooked to perfection with their creamy combination of sweet and sour. With all elements so beautifully in sync with their bold simplicity, this dish is a reason in itself to visit Portal.
One of my dining companions ordered the sirloin, aubergine puree, shallots and peas. The downside of the private room is that it’s impossible to get to the other side of the table fast enough to assuage severe food envy.
Inevitably it was excellent…or so I was told.
A bottle of white and of red in (both delicious), dessert was definitely necessary. I ordered the fruit salad, and no, this is not a cop-out. Portal’s fruit salad makes up for its healthiness with visual decadence. It happens also to be delicious as the fine slicing contributes to appreciation of the fruits’ flavour.
It would have been sacrilegious not to try Portal’s pasteis de nata, accompanied by cinnamon ice cream: fine crisp pastry with a burnished gold custard filling – traditional and very good. And I’m an ardent fan of cinnamon, so the ice cream was highly pleasing too.
A full stomach hindered my speed in getting to the other desserts (I had to pass the camera round), but they were thoroughly enjoyed.
Coconut and Lime Mousse, Pineapple Coulis, Marshmallow and Miso Sauce:
Pudim Abade de Priscos and Strawberries:
We finished the meal with a round of fresh mint tea, and delicate and zesty lemon curd tartlets.
Suitable for: smart dates, celebrations, business lunches, family, friends, private dining, chef's table