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Quick Bite

At Self Portrait, trendiness is so yesterday

Swordfish Paris-Nice with eggplant, olives, and Provencal Raito sauce at Self Portrait in Cambridge.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Where to Self Portrait, which used to be T.W. Food. Chef Tim Wiechmann spent his younger years cooking in Paris, and he says the new name symbolizes a return to his roots. He and his wife, Bronwyn, also run Eastern European restaurant Bronwyn in Somerville.

What for Old-school bistro standards, from charcuterie soup to roast chicken and duck fat frites.

The scene A cozy netherworld in a tranquil corner of Cambridge. A waitress with a flower in her hair rhapsodizes about the pleasures of Spindrift cucumber water. Ponytailed men catch up at two-tops pressed against exposed brick walls, sipping red wine. A lone woman curls up on a couch near the entrance, flipping through a book, waiting for her companion to materialize. Occasionally Wiechmann arrives tableside to present a dish. Nobody’s in a special hurry, and that’s just fine.


What you’re eating Whatever you like. Although the menu offers three- or five-course options, nobody will look askance if you go rogue and order by the plate. It’s possible to make a meal from starters — horseradish-cured salmon gravlax, asparagus and lettuces drizzled in sunflower-hibiscus vinaigrette, poached eggs over leeks and puff pastry soaked in morel cream. Charcuterie soup, a gluttonous vat of liquid meat, is a meal on its own. So is the complimentary oat and sunflower seed pain de seigle, a chewy loaf served with a scoop of bacon-rosemary butter. No trendy entrees here, either: Enjoy proper plates like roast chicken with braised bacon and carrots, scallop boudin blanc with salt cod potatoes and asparagus, or duck leg with duck fat frites. For dessert, perhaps a light pear and apple sorbet.

Care for a drink? Unlike at T.W. Food, Self Portrait offers cocktails. Opt for the Gilles, made with mezcal, Campari, and yellow Chartreuse; or the Remi, a mix of bourbon, St. Germain, and ginger beer. There’s also an ample cognac menu, plus a French wine list. For non-imbibers, there’s that good ol’ Spindrift.


Overheard Buttery ballyhoo; weight-loss woes; renovation rants; pirate paramours. “Here’s our house bread with two kinds of butter — bacon and honey!” enthuses a waitress. “Oh boy!” an avuncular fellow hardy-hars, moving in for the kill. “I’m not drinking. I need to lose 5 pounds by Friday,” says a woman to a wine-sipping pal. “My contractor is giving me a discount on our nursery, because they messed up the design,” sniffs another lady. “I’ll tell you this right now: He’s sensible, he’s ambitious, and he’s a modern-day Blackbeard!” says a 50-something woman to two friends, who twitter with delight.

377 Walden St., Cambridge, 617-864-4745, www.selfportraitbistro.com

Kara Baskin can be reached at kcbaskin@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.