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The launch of Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social is gearing up to be the year’s biggest event since Dinner-by-Heston-mania gripped the nation’s foodies in January. Square Meal grabbed a quick chat with the ex-Maze star in the run-up to the debut night of his first solo project to ask him about the highs and lows of such a venture, and what diners can expect on 18 April when the doors to Mayfair’s hottest destination are thrown open.
I’m so excited – it’s a dream come true. I was showing one of my friends round the restaurant the other day and he said to me, ‘You’ve been busting your nuts for somebody else for so long. This is the dream.’
It just happened that way. I asked my agent to look for sites and he came back with this one. It just felt right – it could have been on any street. When we bought the restaurant the street was very dull and had tramps sleeping in it. But it’s come to life [since then] and feels like a proper little street – there are shops, restaurants, we’ve got some great hairdressers down there, and a lovely coffee shop.
We’re on track for the opening and the whole team is on board and really excited. We’ve been developing the menu for the past four or five months.
I don’t know – I don’t really do signature dishes. It’s not the chef that decides what it is, it’s the public. They pay for the dish and they are the ones who like or dislike it.
You left Maze in 2010 after nine years working with Gordon Ramsay. What did you learn from that time?
Maze is still a fantastic restaurant, and Gordon was the person who taught me how to be a great restaurateur. But I have a very different view of restaurants from Gordon, more relevant to 2011. Coming out of the Noughties, people have this perception of fine dining as costing a certain amount, having a certain dress code and always offering a tasting menu. But we’re on the back of a bad recession, with interest rates going up, and people thinking twice about going out to restaurants so much. At Pollen Street Social we’ll offer a dining experience that’s as flexible as possible. It will still be a fine dining restaurant – that’s what I do – but the idea is that we’ll give the experience back to the people, without so much formality and without a dress code.
Interview by Nicky Evans, News and Online Editor
Pollen Street Social opens on 18 April.