Review: Pollen Street Social, London

I’ve said this before: I don’t like waiters who treat you like some kind of simple-minded rustic come down out of the hills. I fed back to the maitre d’ at Pollen Street Social that our desserts had come too fast, one on top of the other. Oh no sir, that’s how it is meant sir, the first two are small pre-desserts, we time it carefully, blah, blah, blah. Cock. When they put the petit fours on your table while you’re still eating your main dessert, they want the table back.

Pollen Street Social

Pollen Street Social

Now I’ve got that off my chest, how about our eight course tasting menu at Pollen Street Social? Jason Atherton’s flagship restaurant has never dimmed in popularity. It’s a big dining room, comfortable chairs, white linen, and classic Michelin-style service from the staff. Somehow I expected a “Social” to be more… I dunno, sociable? Anyway, that’s what you’re gonna get. The wine list matches; the handful of under fifty quid bottles looking a bit lost and nervous among all their three digit colleagues.

The meal started well with some delicious snack bites; salt/sweet churros to dip in truffle oil, a powerful gulp of mushroom broth under a light parmesan foam, sweet red pepper financiers. The starters took off very nicely from here. White bean soup had another hit of truffle and came with a little beignet of slooooow braised rabbit and tarragon flavours. Next was a tiny bowl of – in appearance – spaghetti bolognese, but which was actually kohlrabi and potato spaghetti with crumbled haggis, and a nice note of thyme through it all. Our third starter was the best yet, a delicious crab salad with specks of black garlic giving it punch, tiny blobs of lemon goo giving it zing, and a puree of the brown crab giving it grunt. Yumyumyum.

Spag bol of haggis and kohlrabi

Spag bol of haggis and kohlrabi

The fish course was good, if restrained. Quite a thick piece of John Dory, roasted crisp on the outside, maybe a tad over on the inside, accompanied by glistening salty cockles and a wilted leaf of wild garlic. Mmm… wild garlic. Two more leaves would’ve been nice.

Our main course was roast lamb, a nice slice of braised chard, some sticky-delicious brown onion puree and mushrooms (though sadly not the hedgehog mushrooms promised – I guess it can be hard to consistently source a wild variety?). The accompanying side, potato fondue with some little blobs of braised lamb and onion, was unctuous heaven. Taken as a whole, a rock-solid main, though it didn’t really keep up the momentum of the starters.

Pretty solid main - lamb, full fat

Pretty solid main – lamb, full fat

So, those three desserts. Admittedly all a bit of a blur (dig-dig). First a muscat grape granite with a delicate foam on top, perfectly decent palate cleanser and unmemorable. The beetroot and blood orange sorbet was also nice. That’s faint praise, that is. And I actively disliked the pink foam it was bathed in. Pink room-temperature foam coating my icy sorbet just had a weird and phlegm-y feel in the mouth. Chilled it would have been fine. The main dessert was the only real cracker here, a cake of sticky flaky pastry with gooey caramel-coated bits of apple nestled within. The pieces of sweet pickled apple alongside were a good touch, but the ice wine vinegar ice-cream was honestly too subtle for a rustic like me. Hey, at least it scores on originality – I’d never seen that flavour before.

For a £90 tasting menu this was really only just up to scratch, perhaps saved by some spiffing starters. As I perused the business cards at the front desk, for the half dozen other outings by Jason Atherton in London, Shanghai and Singapore, I wondered if he might have taken his foot off the pedal back home? This certainly didn’t seem like a meal worth raving about. Jolly good, though.

Apple pud, not refined but yum

Apple pud, not refined but yum

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>