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TOM PARKER BOWLES: At last, a restaurant at one of our great galleries that can match the splendour of its surroundings


Talk about an entrance. Up, through the National Portrait Gallery, past floors of Regency, Romantic & Reform, Tudors, tyrants and scribes, poets, politicians and idols. 

Before the lift, to the fourth floor, and a long, light-flooded space, where the spires, domes and grey, angular sprawl of South London are laid out before you. Pity, then, the chef who must match that vista, and carry diners back to earth without a dull, bathetic bump. 

In the hands of the merely average, every bite would reek of anticlimax, each morsel steeped in dismay. 

But Richard Corrigan is a long way from average, and The Portrait is one of those rare restaurants that can match the splendour of its surroundings. Of course, it helps having Jon Spiteri, that front-of-house legend, casting his expertly seasoned eye over all; his warm smile concealing his absolute control of the room. 

Richard Corrigan is a long way from average, and The Portrait (pictured) is one of those rare restaurants that can match the splendour of its surroundings

Richard Corrigan is a long way from average, and The Portrait (pictured) is one of those rare restaurants that can match the splendour of its surroundings

Service is smoothly dynamic, flowing like the Thames at high water. And the menu is a joy, Corrigan to its core. Chapeau to BaxterStorey for allowing him free rein. 

What other contract caterer would OK a menu filled with pig trotters and duck hearts? The former perch upon fingers of toast, soft, wobbling, mahoganybrown nuggets with shards of bacon, and slices of pale pink pressed ham. An ode to swine and gone in two bites. The latter, pert bullets with just the right amount of chew, have skinned grapes for sharpness and a luscious blob of chicken liver parfait. Base (or what some may see as base) ingredients, made great. 

Carlingford oysters, gently briny, and bathing in a ginger and coriander-spiked lime juice dressing, are as bracing as an Irish Sea breeze. And every bit the equal of his Vietnamese beauties at Bentley’s, Corrigan’s peerless Piccadilly seafood shrine. 

A whole globe artichoke is boiled, cleaned and filled with a lusty dollop of cock-crab mayonnaise. 

Corrigan is the most generous of cooks. No one leaves his places hungry. Or, in my case, entirely sober either. 

Oysters, gently briny, are as bracing as an Irish Sea breeze 

Steamed sole, pure and clean, is stuffed with a delicate mushroom duxelles. It’s a dish as cool and elegant as a Vanessa Bell portrait, but with a soft autumnal burr. 

Hispi cabbage, cooked with burnt apple, dried seaweed and black garlic, is all mellow fruitfulness.

At long last, one of our great galleries has a restaurant to match. Bring on the V&A. 

  • About £40 a head. The Portrait, National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2; theportraitrestaurant.com

Drinks: Charlotte’s bonfire bevvies 

Bold and velvety reds along with warming spicy tipples are my go-to choices for crisp evenings and firework frolics. 

This week’s reds from Argentina and Australia are party-pleasing, palate-cuddling favourites that provide the perfect touch of cheery warmth on a chilly night. And for something a little bit stronger, try a Palo Cortado dry sherry – a delectable alternative to whisky – or a cheeky canned negroni.

Buenas Vides Merlot 2021 (14%), £7.99, Aldi - Here’s a silky Argentinian number that mingles ripe plum with nuances of roasted tomato and oregano, finishing with a peppery pick-me-up.

Buenas Vides Merlot 2021 (14%), £7.99, Aldi – Here’s a silky Argentinian number that mingles ripe plum with nuances of roasted tomato and oregano, finishing with a peppery pick-me-up.

The Best Palo Cortado Dry Sherry (19%), £7.25, Morrisons - With its burnished bronze hue and flavours of caramel and roasted nuts, this smooth sherry makes a divine pairing with charcuterie and cheese

The Best Palo Cortado Dry Sherry (19%), £7.25, Morrisons – With its burnished bronze hue and flavours of caramel and roasted nuts, this smooth sherry makes a divine pairing with charcuterie and cheese

Little Giant Barossa Shiraz 2021 (14.5%), £12.99, Waitrose - Warm up with a modern Oz Shiraz that has a classic Barossa body, smooth yet powerful, oozing notes of delicious dark fruit and subtle spice

Little Giant Barossa Shiraz 2021 (14.5%), £12.99, Waitrose – Warm up with a modern Oz Shiraz that has a classic Barossa body, smooth yet powerful, oozing notes of delicious dark fruit and subtle spice

Alamos Malbec 2021 (13.5%), £9.75, Tesco - This plush, quaffable wine from Mendoza, Argentina, tastes of rich berry fruit – satisfied smiles guaranteed. Pair with bonfireparty fare such as hot dogs or chilli con carne

Alamos Malbec 2021 (13.5%), £9.75, Tesco – This plush, quaffable wine from Mendoza, Argentina, tastes of rich berry fruit – satisfied smiles guaranteed. Pair with bonfireparty fare such as hot dogs or chilli con carne

Whitebox Pocket Negroni (21.8%), £5.50, whiteboxcocktails.com - Set the night aglow with this bittersweet cocktail, perfected by a mixologist team with extensive experience at some of the world’s best bars

Whitebox Pocket Negroni (21.8%), £5.50, whiteboxcocktails.com – Set the night aglow with this bittersweet cocktail, perfected by a mixologist team with extensive experience at some of the world’s best bars



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