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|Address:||5 Pollen Street, London W1S 1NE|
|Tel:||020 7870 3730|
|Price: £49.00||Wine: £24.00||Champagne: £70.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm|
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For a moment, my heart sank when I walked into Little Social. The brass rails, the crimson banquettes, the vintage French posters on the walls… I thought I'd entered a Delaunay / Zedel clone with their menus exhaustingly enumerating Euro classics; clubby school dinners joints for the 21st century. I gritted my teeth and picked up the menu, expecting to be confronted with steak tartare and dauphinoise and crème brulee. But they were nowhere to be seen. Despite the postmodern bistro effect, the menu here is decidedly fresh and new.
For starters we shared an exquisite crayfish and cauliflower risotto that was a masterpiece of presentation; you have never seen cauliflower looking this good. A crab and tomato salad was pretty as a picture, but not quite as strong on taste as the risotto. For mains we took the halibut ‘BLT’, the fish garnished with a gorgeous chunk of Alsace bacon, wilted gem lettuce and a tomato sauce; the perfect lunch dish. We also took the cheeseburger which my companion insisted would test the mettle of the kitchen in exactly the same way that the quality of the club sandwich tells you all you need to know about a hotel. It didn’t let us down. None of those dishes was familiar (bar the burger of course) yet they all felt just right for the setting.
And what really makes Little Social a destination is the dessert menu; it must be one of the best I’ve seen anywhere. Every single item on the menu commanded your attention with a flourish of originality and every single one cried out to be ordered. After some horse-trading we chose the brown sugar tart with black sesame crumble and the hot chocolate moelleux with salted almond icecream. Both were of the calibre where you find yourself taking tiny spoonfuls in order to prolong the experience.
Service was first class: confident, proud, charming, smart. The couple next to us had chosen to squeeze in next to each other on the banquette, in a way that screamed “affair!”, and when the maitre d’ had to rearrange their place settings to accommodate this, he made it seem like it was the biggest treat he'd had all week. There’s a small army of staff – I think we may have been served by five different people – but there is evidently teamwork as there was no overlap at all. I can’t give a perfect 10 for service though because it took three emails and two phone calls to confirm my booking.
Prices are at the very top end for this category of restaurant; you are paying a premium for the classy service and the panache of the kitchen rather than the ingredients or the painstaking labour that’s gone into them. So there were several starters over a tenner, most mains were north of £20 and there was one bottle of white to be had for less than £30. Having said that, the wine is good value; we had a wonderfully complex Viognier and a glass of the Pollen Street red which was terrific. Everything can be had by the carafe or glass. And there's a set menu for £21/£25.
Although the tables are close together, there is so much great buzz (and some decent music) that it’s not an issue. Parties of four or more should definitely aim to get one of the elegant booths. There are some seats at the bar counter but in a room this narrow, I would only recommend that for foodies or very close friends.
On my way to Little Social, I wandered through Soho and stuck my head in the door of their new place, Social Eating House, which is in the middle of a soft open. The vibe I took from the room and the maitre d’ was just like Little Social: instant wow factor. Perhaps Jason Atherton is set to run the next great London restaurant empire.