Porter’s English Restaurant, London
When he returned from Australia, Richard was amazed to discover that there was no reasonably-priced English restaurant in London, so on the 19th June 1979 he started Porter’s.
After that he acquired the Covent Garden Grill next door, and the preparation kitchen in the Elephant & Castle.
Hussain the Egyptian chef (yes, an Egyptian chef in a traditional English restaurant!) known affectionately as Huss, has worked in Porter’s for 34 years. He has dealt with most of the suppliers for a long time and, of course, he buys very keenly!
I was eager to try the London Particular, which is split pea and smoked bacon soup served with crusty bread. But first I had a query.
Online it said that the soup was named after the WW1 smogs, known as London Particulars. But I was sure that I’d read it as a Charles Dickens quote!
‘Neil!’ called Richard and his Manager of 23 years came and sat with us.
Richard explained what I’d said and Neil promised to investigate.
After that, of course I had to try the soup.
It was my idea of a perfect soup, thick and tasty, and served with crusty bread. It was almost a meal in itself, and priced at £4.75, which is very reasonable.
When I got home, I did some investigations. I was right. The quote ‘London Particular’ comes from Bleak House. I emailed Richard to tell him.
My friend Andy had the Norfolk Crab at £6.45. It ‘s a mixture of the light and dark crabmeat mixed with mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and parsley, and served with crusty bread.
It came in a moulded shape, and I’ve stolen the idea for future use!
Richard ordered from the Specials board. He had a haddock Scotch Egg, and when he cut it open the yolk was still slightly runny, as it should be.
Next, I was practically ordered by Richard to try the Steak & Kidney Pudding. I had it with mustard mash and fresh Covent Garden vegetables, and of course, lashings of gravy. I can’t say it was ‘like Mother used to make,’ because it was much better than hers! The meat was tender, the suet pastry was not too dry and not too soggy, and the mash was totally lump-free. That’s priced at £12.95 and I couldn’t eat it all.
Andy had wild boar sausages with mash and braised red cabbage, which I had to try, (12.85) and Richard had lamb and apricot pie, also priced at £12.85.
I had a hot pudding – again with Richard’s encouragement. Thank goodness the restaurant’s air-conditioned! I chose (with Richard’s help) Lady Bradford’s Sticky Ginger Pudding, with a jug of gorgeous custard (not too runny and not too solid.)
It was £4.85 and it beat me!
Andy had the Eton Mess, which of course is meringue (made on the premises) whipped cream and berries. £4.85 for sheer Heaven!
Richard had home-made blackcurrant and apricot icecream, priced at £4.85.
Then Fiona, who works round the corner, popped in and ordered Chocolate Fudge Cake, which she said was purely so that I could take photos of it! It comes with whipped cream or ice-cream and it costs £4.85.
I had a bottle of fruit beer, which is a combination of grapefruit and wheat.
Porter’s has just been redecorated and revamped, in an English style of course.
We approved of the choice of music. It was at the right volume, and consisted of loads of songs that we loved.
Downstairs has some fun objects like an old rocking-horse and a giant soldier, and when I went into the Ladies, nursery rhymes started playing!
My brain immediately translated ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a Wall’ into ‘Lynnie-Wynnie sat on the loo,’ etc, but we won’t go there!
Porter’s is in an attractive area of London, in Covent Garden, in Theatreland, about five minutes’ walk from Leicester Square Underground.
There was a great atmosphere, with people chatting and laughing while they ate.
I strongly recommend it for a really high-quality traditional meal. And you’re quite likely to see Richard eating there as he loves his own food.
If you do spot him there, feel free to go over and speak to him, and tell him how much you enjoyed the meal, and of course, the service. Most of the staff have been there for many years. He’s very sociable and approachable.
Porter’s English Restaurant
17 Henrietta Street,
Tel 020 7836 6466