Jason Atherton commands respect from people in the food industry. A former Ramsey protege, he used to run the highly acclaimed Maze before opening his open restaurant, Pollen Street Social to much fanfare. Since then, his restaurant has won several awards including a Michelin star in the first year and reaching 84 in San Pelligrino’s Best 50 restaurants in the world (that ironically lists the top 100).
On special request, I took my sister there for her birthday as we like to treat each other to experiences instead of buying something for each other we will never use.
You can find his restaurant tucked around a quiet street around Mayfair. Despite being hidden, his restaurant is definitely popular with pretty much every table taken on a Monday Bank holiday.
The restaurant had food presentation spot on, although I don’t think everything worked. For example, they had recently renovated the dining room and the air conditioning was broken. On a surprisingly warm August Bank holiday I certainly noticed it when I sat down. I noticed it even more whenever I would lean back on the leather sofa back and find myself sticking to it. Hmmm. They did admittedly apologise for it post-dinner, and I can only imagine how crazy sauna like the kitchen would have been. Nevertheless, most of the food was pretty good.
They have a strong food ethic about locally sourced produce and even list the number of miles each of the major components come from. On to the food itself.
We had bread brought by a waiter accompanied by a creamy butter (easily spreadable because of the heat) and an additional cream made out of fish roe. The butter was tasty but I didn’t really enjoy the fish cream because it was a bit too fishy for me. The next “snacks” arrived in a book that opened to reveal three small bites – perfectly crisp pork crackling, a shortbread biscuit with a concentrated tomato topping and another crisp bread with some smoked cream. A great selection of textures, flavours to kick start the appetite.
The next dish was a clever mushroom cappuccino that smelled so earthy and full of rich flavours. Downed in one go but the flavour lasting a long time after.
The next dish was a clever take on a breakfast dish (bacon and eggs) and the presentation here was absolutely extraordinary. We first had the tiny little egg holder placed in front of us with a tiny teaspoon before being presented egg shells nested in hay. The tops were trimmed perfectly, not a crack in sight and each filled with a light eggy custard that reminded me of silken scrambled eggs but much creamier and rich. It had infused a smokiness bacon flavour and the tiny bits on top certainly added that dimension. I could have eaten a few of these ones if they offered.
The first dish on the tasting menu was also one of the weakest. Listed as Orkney sea scallop carpaccio, kohlrabi, frozen pink grapefruit, lemon skin puree, block olive and samphire I think the heat of the restaurant didn’t do anything good for the scallop. Delicate slices of scallops tasted a little bit too fishy and not really in a good way and I was worried I would end up with food poisoning (which I didn’t!)
Fortunately the next dish made up for the first, roasted Dorset monkfish, cauliflower, dehydrated grapes, apple & curry and spiced caramel. Soft moist fleshy fish complemented by an array of sweet, spiced flavours that disappeared very quickly.
We both opted for the lamb which was a strange choice because my sister doesn’t like but only because the other alternative was a pheasant which we both didn’t want. She was very surprised when it turned out to be a very tasty dish. Lake District rack of lamb, braised shoulder, fregula in basil, olive powder, artichoke and smoked tomato chutney. Strong flavours but not overpoweringly so, and perfectly pink lamb that melted away in your mouth.
A cute interlude with a tiny coronet filled with ice cream and topped with chocolate. A great palette cleanser and an introduction to our dessert course.
It was served with sweet corn cream covered in chocolate and some caramel popcorn
Our dessert was called “Nuances in Red” made up of yoghurt ice cream, pear in hibiscus, picked roses and hibiscus granite. Being an ice based dessert, this dish suffered a lot in the heat. The granite pretty much turned into liquid by the time we took our first spoonful despite being served from a liquid-nitrogen based bowl at the table. At the same time, the yoghurt ice cream was quickly turning back into its liquid form. Nice elements that I think I would have enjoyed more if I didn’t feel like I had to eat it so fast.
We ordered some tea and was offered some madelines as well as unnecessary but still delicious macaroons.
A wonderful evening and the quality of the food was definitely up to standard and the service impeccable. My sister even caught Jason Atherton on our way out and he was kind enough to pose for a photo. Seemed like a nice guy and deserves his reputation as a cool headed chef and restauranteur.
Name: Pollen Street Social
Found at: 8-10 Pollen St, London, W1S 1NQ