It’s cold outside. Really, properly cold which is to be expected considering it’s January. Having just left a breakfast meeting where not even coffee was offered, let alone a flaky pastry of some kind, I needed something to warm me up a bit and as I just happened to be in Summertown, I decided to try Portabello Oxford for brunch.
I had lunch at Portabello last year, their set lunch menu is exceptionally good value at £6.95 for one course, £9.95 for two or £12.95 for three. There’s two options for each course and on the day I was there I found myself ordering the vegetarian option. No meat. I shocked myself but it was worth it for a rich buttery pastry case filled with an eggy, just wobbly tart of cauliflower and leek. A side salad accompanied with a drizzle of balsamic and it was pretty damn good.
But was this a one off? A few people on Twitter confirmed that this place has been quietly getting a name for itself in consistently providing really good quality food at decent prices. It’s a good space in a great location, decor is in restful shades of cerulean, Yale blue and dark grey with wood accents and it’s quiet. No loud music blaring out, just a quiet hum of conversation which is refreshing. Even the loos are nice, with proper soap and hand cream and a Robert Mapplethorpe print that I covet.
Anyway, the food. A quick scan of the breakfast menu resulted in my eyes focussing on just one dish – buttermilk pancakes with dry cured bacon and maple syrup. Looking at the menu online now, I can see that there was actually other options available, they just didn’t register as pancakes and bacon always win! I could have had a full English, or steak and eggs (why didn’t I have this?! Oh, pancakes!), kippers, omelette Arnold Bennett or the croissant I’d missed out on earlier. Prices range from £2.50 for a croissant, £4.50 for a bacon sarnie up to £13 for the steak.
My OJ and double espresso arrived instantly, did I mention the staff are polite, well groomed and efficient? Well they are. Coffee was surprisingly good, as was my juice although I would have preferred it chilled rather than with ice but that’s a minor detail. My pancakes arrived soon after and I will happily admit to a little chuckle escaping when I saw my plate! A huge pancake cut into quarters, strips of crispy bacon, a generous splash of maple syrup and a dusting of icing sugar. These were seriously good pancakes and that’s from someone who visits as many authentic American diners as possible! Slightly crisp on the edge, fluffy and ridiculously deep – almost two centimetres thick! I polished off the whole plate and possibly could have done with a slight drizzle more of syrup but again, a minor detail.
I’m now going to be badgering Jacqui for a dinner date so we can add this to the Bitten Top Ten, it really is that good!