I pass a multitude of restaurants every day on my walk into work. Portico Restaurant is one of the few that always stood out to me, despite being located in the lobby of a hotel (Cambridge Suites Hotel) and–the double-whammy–in the no man’s land on Richmond between Victoria & Yonge Street. I’m guessing that’s why this place was designed to stand out. Just walking by and gazing into the large windows that face the restaurant, one can see the attention to design detail. In fact, it looks a bit like a design studio, with its palette of colours (warm browns, dashes of reds, and bold monochromatic textured fabrics).
The restaurant wasn’t overly busy when we arrived at noon, and locals (mostly the business-suit wearing crowd) trickled in over the course of our meal. Yet even when we left, there were plenty of empty tables, suggesting that reservations aren’t a prerequisite (although they are accepted).
The service was pleasant and attentive, and our food was brought out quickly. Based on the bread basket (a mixture of crisps and a variety of buns), plus two types of butter (regular plus a lemon-infused option), I was hoping for great things. The menu also says all the right things; it talks about market fresh, locally sourced ingredients, a menu that changes by the season.
There is a decidedly Asian flair to the menu (Pad Thai, Thai spring rolls, and a chicken and coconut soup), yet there are also some comfort food selections (chicken pot pie, an Angus burger, chicken salad), and then it takes a sharp right towards Italy (gnocchi, risotto, pizza, and a vegetarian pasta).
But when the food arrived, I realized that when they talked about “Market Inspired” they actually meant inspired by No Frills. While my “spring rolls” (really egg rolls – $12) were fairly tasty and not too greasy, the side of “noodle salad” seemed like the ramen that you get in the grocery aisle (and was just as tasteless).
The tuna salad wrap ($16) was dry, and the meagre slices of mango and avocado (clearly market inspired does not equate to local or in-season) did not add much flavour. To be frank, I could have gotten better at Freshii, and for half the price.
As a side note, this was the second meal that I had at Portico. The first time I was there I ordered the burger ($18) which, I was told, they had to cook to well done. The burger wasn’t overly dry, but the toppings were sparse, and it reminded me of a burger that I would get from the frozen section of my local grocery store.
Unless you enjoy being overcharged for sub-par food, keep thinking of the block between Yonge and Victoria as a no man’s land.
15 Richmond Street East
Richmond Street East & Victoria Street
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