The hottest seat in London right now has to be one of the seven stools at the dessert bar at Pollen Street Social. After heading up Gordon Ramsay’s Maze for a number of years, Jason Atherton has taken the leap and opened his own restaurant and London took note with 5,000 ringing in the first day alone to make a booking. No wonder the seats at the dessert bar are hard to come by.
The restaurant is just off Regent Street and it looks great inside with slick sculptural furniture, wood lined walls and key pieces of contemporary art decorating the walls. There is a long bar area where you enter and it is just the place to sit and order the stonking breakfast martini, a potent mix of vodka, grand marnier and marmalade and garnished with a paper thin sliver of toast. The Eastside cocktail is also great with its refreshing summery mix of gin, lime, mint and cucumber.
I visited Pollen Street Social with four lovely girlfriends Lucy, Alice, Prue and Magda which was not only lots of fun but meant we were able to order most of the dishes on the concise menu. We were advised not to share dishes but instead to order our own and the restaurant suggested two starters and a main and dessert. I was glad we didn’t share as some of the starters would have been impossible to divide between five.
Squid and cauliflower
The food at Pollen Street Social is playful and inventive. The sense of fun was apparent in the starter of a full English breakfast (£9.50) which was a base of sweet tomato puree, a slow poached egg adorned with crispy pieces of bacon and mushrooms. The split egg oozed golden yolk and created a rich, thick sauce which wrapped the whole dish together. Best of all was the cauliflower and squid (£10.50) which combined finely chopped, fleshy white squid with slivers of toasted cauliflower, a thin layer of truffle and a broth of clear roasted squid juice which was poured on at the table. It was sensational and one of the best dishes I have had all year. Not so successful were the Fowey oysters served “hot and cold” (£11), a platter of oysters where some of the oysters were subsituted with oyster flavoured ice-cream. It was clever and quirky but unfortunately oyster ice-cream just doesn’t taste that good.
Salmon with red cabbage
Of the mains the halibut was firm and plump and was served with sprouting broccoli and a copper pot filled with a rich paella (£23). Atherton proved he can also do the simple stuff well with a rib eye (£30) having a great char to it and served on a huge board with a green salad and duck fat chips (£30). I think the pick of the mains though was the lamb (£23.50). The lamb rack was pink and sweet and served with a square of braised lamb belly, pea salad and a creamy sheep’s milk. Tiny, delicate flowers decorated the dish.
Finally the moment had arrived and we were able to nab a seat at the dessert bar. Perched on a stool here we watched the chefs at work behind the bar plating up the exquisite desserts. Atherton had just finished up in the main kitchen and came over to chat. He described the dessert bar as being like a sushi bar in concept and said the aim was to create a fun environment for the restaurant.
Ham, cheese and herbs
Our favourites were the tiramisu (£8.50) which was finished with a velvety hot chocolate and coffee sauce and the ham, cheese and herbs (£7.50). The ham, cheese and herbs subverted expectations with savoury elements mixed with the sweet. Thin slices of watermelon made up the ham while the cheese was a candied goat’s curd and the herbs a scoop of basil sorbet. It was ingenious and delicious.
Atherton and some of his team behind the dessert bar
Some of the early reviews of Pollen Street Social have been a little negative about the service and the approach of the restaurant however the only hitch we encountered for our entire meal was the restaurant running out of cucumber for the Eastside cocktail. Every detail was perfect from the little stool to put your handbag on (genius) to the key you receive when you enter the restaurant which you return at the end of the night for a little goody bag to take away. It all added up to make the experience at Pollen Street Social extra special and a lot of fun.
The goody bag from Pollen Street Social
Details: Pollen Street Social, 8/10 Pollen Street, Mayfair W1S 1NQ (Ph 020 7290 7600) Tube: Oxford Circus
Damage: Pricey. Our meal came to £75 a head including drinks.