Pollen Street Social is the flagship restaurant of Jason Atherton who to many minds is the chef of the decade and looks set to surpass his former boss, Gordon Ramsey, in his outstanding empire building from Berners Tavern and City Social in Tower 52 to a growing number of global outposts in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Prior to launching Maze for Ramsay, Jason Atherton was the first British chef to work at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli. The restaurant’s name comes both from the location address and Atherton’s experience of fine dining restaurants in New York where guests use the space for dining, champagne, private meetings and purely for socializing. Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social really started the trend for deformalized fine dining: it is very contemporary, very convivial and veritably hums with diners having a good time and eating extremely well, yet without pretension.
The interior is smart yet approachable, with two dining rooms, leather chesterfields in the bar and widely spaced tabled seating and plenty of collectable Young British Artists’ painters on the white walls. Floor-to-ceiling windows ensure there is beautiful light flooding the restaurant. “Snacks” formerly known as canapés, arrive on a two-tiered wooden stand and give a taste of the precise and creative cooking to come. An intense chilled pea soup with citrus crème fraiche, tastes redolent of a Spring meadow with a refreshing scoop of pea sorbet, a blushing prawn and a scattering of flowers. There’s a tiny beetroot tart too bursting with flavour.
British ingredient sourcing is paramount at Pollen Street Social, though there are strong elements of Japanese cuisine too bringing a beautiful clarity to dishes including sea scallop carpaccio with kohlrabi, pomelo, yuzu jam, black olive and samphire. The signature starter is the playfully presented, intensely savoury “Full English breakfast” of slow-cooked egg on top of tomato puree, bacon and mushrooms presently served with pine smoked quail. For a splendid splurge order the fruits of British sea platter including Orkney scallops, potted shrimps and caviar as well as lobster cocktail. Mains continue the theme of superlative ingredients creatively matched: turbot is partnered with cauliflower and yoghurt puree, served with wild garlic and cockle dressing. Much ordered too are the lavish sharing mains such as Lake District Cote de boeuf with mac n cheese, carrots, fine beans, foie gras, truffle and hazelnut. Puddings can be taken at a separate dessert bar where diners watch intricate dishes being prepared in front of them. Cocktail pairings are offered with desserts designed to wow including strawberry, kalamansi cake with olive oil sponge, vanilla cream and sake and “Rendezvous” with aged genever, plum sake, vermouth and verjus. There’s an outstanding Chenin Blanc as house white on the impressively diverse wine list.