I normally try not to go to restaurants when they have just opened because I like to give them a chance to settle in. Through a strange coincidence of circumstances, I ended up at Portofino (ex Showroom) for dinner the second night they were open. On arrival I started to have regrets as the restaurant was completely empty aside from a table of two. I knew it was empty because it was new not for any other reason, but I wasn’t excited about eating in an empty restaurant. As I was contemplating my options, the owner, Cormac Keane, came over and introduced himself.
He’s a friendly guy and he started enthusiastically telling me about how Portofino came to be. He explained the changes he had made to the space, which was good because it looked pretty much the same to me. The main changes are the bar, which has been converted from steel and glass to a wooden counter top which breaks the clinical look of the place, the natural material adding some warmth. He has also put curtains up so you can no longer see into the car showroom next door. This is good because the bright lights from the showroom really amplified the clinical feel of the place before. Now the lighting is softer and warmer. The one wall is now covered in mirror, and there is also a large mirror in a space which allows diners upstairs to see what is happening downstairs, providing a connection between what would otherwise be two disconnected spaces. (You can read more about Cormac Keane himself here.)
By the time he had shown me around, my friends had arrived and Cormac had made me feel welcome enough to want to stay (or at least not want to leave). So the four of us sat at a table and strangely never even noticed that the place was empty. It’s quite small, and just hearing the voices of the staff as they went about their chores made the place seem less empty.
Being the only table did work to our advantage though because Cormac was keen to show off the menu. So we enjoyed tastes of several dishes besides the mains which we ordered.We started with the Bruschetta (R55), there were a selction but we liked the chicken livers one the best. We also shared the antipasti plate for 2 (R85) which had some very good chilli salt calamari, some top quality parma ham and a whole selection of other things like olives, salami, etc. I would like to have tried the carpaccio (R60) but will have to save that for my next visit.
Before our mains arrived, we were treated to little tasters of the broccoli and anchovy pasta (R60) and the pasta with pancetta, peas, asparagus, porcini mushrooms and truffle infusion (70). The first pasta I didn’t enjoy so much, I love anchovies so it sounded appealing but the anchovy flavours were way too subtle and the broccoli florets were so small they couldn’t be tasted either. But the second pasta was amazing, all of the flavours came through and were a winning combination, I recommend this dish strongly. There are a couple of standards on the menu too. like carbonara (R65) and arrabiata (R60).
For mains I had the honey and mustard pork fillet (R90) which I didn’t enjoy that much. The pumpkin and potato mash and green beans it came with were excellent though. To my right someone had the gnocchi (R60) which was excellent. I don’t really like gnocchi but even I thought it was good. The other two at my table both had the veal parcel filled with pesto and buffalo mozzarella and served on a butternut and ricotta stuffed ravioli (R90). This dish was excellent, my second firm recommendation.
They are currently offering the old Showroom wine stock at fire sale prices. I drank a bottle of Hermanuspietersfontein Kleinboet (R150) which was sublime and a steal at that price. The girls shared two bottles of Catherine Marshall sauvignon blanc at R100 a bottle, also a silly price. I don’t know how long these wines will be available for but I would imagine not too long so if I were you I’d get there pronto.
The desserts were the highlight. We were so full by this stage we had no inclination to order desserts but Cormac wanted us to try some so we agreed to have some tasters. We started with a platter of 9 sorbets, which were excellent. Then things went downhill, he brought us another 5 desserts and they were so good that we ate them all except one. We were at the point of exploding. We tried the lemon tart (excellent) and the ricotta and honey tart (not as good), and the deconstructed tiramisu (very excellent and nothing like a traditional tiramisu). We also tried the pistaccio and almond cake (boring),and the panacotta which came with it which was excellent. All the desserts cost R40.
So as you can see, we were spoilt but it was a great way to get to know the menu without having to go several times. Now you know what to order. Go and enjoy (before they run out of the Showroom wines).
Harbour’s Edge, 10 Hospital Street, Greenpoint
Tel: 021 418 4500