Portland, Oregon: a local's guide
Insider tips to a new city are the best way to get under its skin. That's why we've enlisted Gregory Gourdet, the chef at the helm of the much-loved Departure restaurant, to give us his tips on the hipster city of Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon is a city that really does have it all: unfettered access to the great outdoors, from beaches to forests; a brilliant, booming food scene that covers everything from incredible restaurants to inventive street food; shops and boutiques showcasing artisanal, well, everything; and much more. If you're looking for a US city break that ticks all the boxes, you've found it.
To celebrate Delta resuming its summer service from London Gatwick to Portland, Travel Portland ran a pop-up at Brick Lane's Old Truman Brewery to showcase everything that the city has to offer. Top Portland-based chef Gregory Gourdet of Departure restaurant was there to demonstrate his forward-thinking, Asian-influenced cooking using Oregon's finest ingredients. He gave us his tips for what to do and where to eat in Portland, Oregon.
How to explore Portland's great outdoors
I like to run in Forest Park, which is one of the biggest city parks in America. It has 500 acres of parkland, and it's just two miles from downtown Portland, so you're easily within miles and miles and miles of trails. Newberry Trail is about 30 miles long, and it's nice and flat, making it really popular. There are hundreds of other smaller trails that you can hike, bike and run, too. Then there's the gorge, which is about 45 minutes away. It goes along the Columbia river, one side is Oregon, one side is Washington State, but you can run up mountains within the day.
You can also get to the desert with a couple of hours; you can get to the beach within an hour and 15 minutes – the Pacific Coast – and then you can drive all the way down the coast almost to California to those really southern towns. That's about five hours of coast you can drive down. People do surf out there; I congratulate them – it's definitely wetsuit surfing.
It's amazing here. Within five minutes you can be deep in the woods foraging for mushrooms, you can be climbing mountains, you can be at a lake. Within an hour and a half, pretty much any natural landscape is accessible to you.
Portland's best live music venues
Portland has everything from bands to small electronic bands. That underground indie feel is still there. There are venues like Doug Fur, which is really iconic for promoting young talent. There are loads to choose from, but Mississippi Studios, Crystal Ballroom, and Wonder Ballroom are my top picks.
The best places for culture in Portland
If you're after art, The Pearl district is the place to walk around all the galleries. They're all clustered there, making it perfect for a walking tour. Portland has a couple of art walks a couple of times a year in spring.
What to eat and where to eat it in Portland
Portland cuisine is very seasonal. We have this wonderful cycle of all these amazing things being grown, and that turns into all these amazing things being cooked, which has produced a wonderful community of chefs and restaurants, and that's why the food culture is so big there.
My favourite places are Pok Pok, which is one of America's best Thai restaurants; Ava Gene's, with seasonal, vegetable-focused Italian cooking; and Ox, an Argentine-inspired restaurant where everything is cooked over an open flame.
The best way to spend a day in Portland
Give yourself a day to go to the Oregon coast; give yourself an afternoon to go to the gorge; make sure that you can go on a Saturday or Wednesday so you can go to the farmer's market.
You'd be able to fill your mornings with coffee shops and cute cafés. Maurice is a really fantastic Scandi-inspired downtown pastry shop. The lady who runs it calls herself a luncheonette. She's one of the best pastry chefs in America and she makes really beautiful pastries including veg-forward and savoury.
Then you need to experience food cart culture for lunch – Portland Mercado is my favourite cart pod, with ethnic cuisine like Haitian, South American and Mexican. It's not right smack dab in the middle of the city, it's little bit further out, but it's definitely the right place to discover the cuisine of Portland.
In the evening, you can pick a different kind of cuisine and a different kind of dining experience for any night of the week. You can find everything from special pop ups that happen once a month to a 20-course modern tasting menu featuring super local ingredients and really great pierogi dumplings at the Russian restaurant.
We have five neighbourhoods in Portland, they all have so much merit and can bring so much to our communities so you can just mix it up. And experiencing them all for their best parts is really important.
How to find out about what to do in Portland
Eater PDX is a good source for local food news, while Portland Monthly is probably our most revered publication. And then we have our more street publications like The Portland Mercury and the Willamette Week, which have really to the moment info on concerts, listings, pop ups, reviews and cultural events that are impacting the city.
Where to go shopping in Portland
The best shopping is downtown. In East Burnside, there's a little strip from 5th Street up into the teens. Both sides are lined with really cute boutiques from vintage to jewellery, with a few great restaurants thrown in there as well. Mississippi is a really good neighbourhood for walking around boutiques, too, as is Belmont and 35th.
For more information on what to do in Portland, go to travelportland.com. Delta's nonstop flight from London Heathrow to Portland International Airport resumed on Friday 4 May. Operating four times a week until Saturday 6 October 2018, Delta offers Wi-Fi access, plus free mobile messaging, in-seat entertainment, complimentary prosecco and more. Fares start from £497, including taxes. delta.com