A business doesn't need to alienate patrons to evolve -- after all, that Kentucky creationist museum brought in modern interactive displays without driving away their lifeblood, the stupid. Taking the pub in an inclusive new direction, The Portman, opening tomorrow in Marlyebone.
Portman's the latest in owner Barnaby Meredith's "new pub" troika, which all seek to elevate the traditional boozer while not being as unapproachable as many gastros; downstairs sees a well-lit, distinctly old-fashioned blue-carpeted wooden bar, while the upstairs serves upgraded but still familiar fare surrounded by pictures of Paddington from back when it was just a vast empty space, or possibly last week. Eschewing bottled micro-brews, alcohol sees 10 pub-friendly draughts (Pride, Old Peculiar, Aspells cider...), while the gastro-style vinos (including a half dozen chilled reds) are offset by TBC cocktails, likely martinis, whiskey sours, and Long Islands, the result of a bartender taking the nickname "Strong Island" too literally. The seasonally-changing Brit menu (much of it coming from their own game farm in Northamptonshire) moves from starters like slow roast pork belly (w/ fois, caramelized apples & mustard jus) to bigger stuff like blackberry jus'd partridge and linguini with roast cod, cockles, crab & caviar, for when a "c food" joke is more appropriate than the "see" version.
For less formal face-stuffing, there's also a downstairs casual bites menu, e.g., a rib-eye & horseradish sandwich, venison carpaccio, braised oxtail parpadelle, and beer-battered pollack & chips, an evolution of the traditional dish that won't alienate you, because it's drowned in that which makes you stupid.