London: Pollen Street Social (*)

22 Jul

Our last meal in London was at Pollen Street Social, a new restaurant opened by Gordom Ramsay’s protege and ex-head chef of Maze, Jason Atherthon. I read about the restaurant when it first opened, and liked Chef Atherton’s concept of a social restaurant, letting diners customise their own dining experience, a dedicated dessert bar, creative El-Bulli-ish touches on the menu, etc. and pestered my friend to make this one of our stops. Glad we did!

I was the first person to arrive at the empty restaurant at about noon and was a bit worried that it was going to be just us. The truth was far from it though – the restaurant was full house in no time! I loved the look of the place, very classy and sleek with a lot of natural lighting. I want the Danish-looking tables and chairs, and filament lamps in my house!! Since it’s in Mayfair, it felt quite posh but the prices were relatively okay.

We were presented with heavy and oversized keys bearing numbers when seated.

Here are our cocktails to start the meal! I had the eastside (tanqueray gin, lime, mint, cucumber), which was very refreshing with the addition of cucumber and the mint. My friend had the negroni (sipsmith london dry gin, antica formula, campari, candied orange, grapefruit). I liked how the grapefruit in the negroni was a melting sorbet! But before it wholly melted it was very strong and my friend couldn’t really stomach it – perhaps it’s more of a gentleman’s drink. The cocktail list was quite a substantial list though, we had a tough time choosing!

For the complimentary bread course, we loved the salted cod dip that came with the crispy baguette. Wished more restaurants would not stop at just serving butter. This was a lovely start!

We ordered 3 starters and 1 main first since we were very enticed by the dessert menu. Anyway, Pollen Street is about customising your own dining experience. For our first starter, this was the duo of oysters – hot and cold (£11). The hot oyster was an oyster served with a bonito mushroom broth, and the cold oyster was simply oyster ice cream. I know it sounds weird but it was really genius – like it was an oyster caught fresh from the icy cold sea. Needless to say, I much preferred the cold oyster.

This was the much raved about “full English breakfast” (£9.50). It is essentially a more upscale reinterpretation of the English breakfast, with ingredients such as sweet tomato puree, a slow poached egg, crispy bacon and morels. Fun but taste wise, I didn’t think it was anything amazing.

For our last starter (we had three), this was the cauliflower & squid with clear roasted squid juice (£11.50). The squid was chopped up into very small pieces to be the “risotto” in the dish, which camouflaged well with the white cauliflower, and the consomme was made of the squid juice to reinforce the squid flavour. I felt that the flavours and textures of the squid and cauliflower, surprisingly complement each other very well. Both are also good flavour absorbers. Am pretty sure I have heard of this unlikely pairing before but I can’t recall where now…

For our mains, we had the roasted halibut, sprouting broccoli, pork-ham fat served with Catalan paella (£23.50). I found the halibut to be just a little bit overcooked for my liking, especially after the amazing cod we had at Dinner by Heston.

But the paella on the other hand, was very good. The rich seafood flavour (and maybe chorizo) was infused into every grain of rice. It was such a big portion though, enough for the both of us!

We were stuffed at this point but could not walk away with at least trying a dessert. Our waiter recommended the “PBJ”
peanut butter parfait, cherry jam, creamed rice puffs (£8). This was a twist on the popular American sandwich, and the updated flavours (sweet, tart, salty, crunchy) came together very well. It was a light, creative and satisfying end to the meal. Pity we didn’t exactly move on to the dessert bar to enjoy our dessert though!

Upon presenting our keys at the check out counter, we were presented with a little complimentary souvenir bag that contained olive scones and a tea bag. I thought this was a very cute touch! Us adults like to be pampered too :)

Though I wouldn’t say all the dishes we had were amazing, I did like the creativity and playfulness employed in the menu of Pollen Street Social. And from the start to finish, it was a genuinely fun dining experience. I could also imagine myself coming back just for a drink and dessert at the dessert bar with a girlfriend. Given that we went when the restaurant was reasonably new, I believe it will only get better after the initial teething problems. There were so many other dishes that I wanted to order as well and it seems they do update their menu quite often, so a return trip is definitely in order.

Verdict: 7.5/10

[Edit March 2012: Pollen Street Social has been awarded 1 Michelin Star, some of the dishes reviewed here are no longer on the menu]

Price: $$$-$$$$ (set lunch from £22 for 2 courses)
Location: 10 Pollen Street, London W1S 1NQ
Website: http://www.pollenstreetsocial.com/

One Response to “London: Pollen Street Social (*)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Singapore: Esquina « Chow & The City - March 15, 2012

    […] me that Jason Atherton had just opened a modern Spanish tapas bar, Eqsuina, in Singapore. I ate at Pollen Street Social, his flagship restaurant in London and had quite an enjoyable experience, hence I was curious to […]

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