Little Social 22

5 Pollen Street , London, W1S 1NE

020 7870 3730

Visit Little Social

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SquareMeal Review of Little Social

“I can’t contain how happy I am when I eat here,” says a fan of this Jason Atherton restaurant, which is both little and sociable – note its size, noise levels and richly convivial French-skewed dishes. The proximity of big boy Pollen Street Social across the road might cast this “refreshing small gem” in the role of plucky upstart, but Atherton’s trademark polish and “immaculate” detailing are evident throughout – from the charming well-drilled staff and design with a purpose (think French fantasy with a knowing London wink) to the finely rendered seasonal food. Just as customers must speak up rather than murmur, the kitchen revels in flavours with presence – perhaps meaty roasted ceps with garlicky smoked almond butter on toasted brioche, côte de porc or roast cod with girolles, celeriac purée and jus gras. Steaks and burgers try to steal the limelight, tarte Tatin is now the default dessert for twosomes, and cannily chosen wines neatly sidestep the obvious.

Wine List of the Year Award Finalist

This Parisian-style bistro across the road from the main Pollen Street restaurant is a good example of condensation, with fewer than 50 wines, half by the glass/carafe. It’s heavily French, but there are still flashes of quirkiness alongside the classics, it looks great and it’s easy to follow.

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8.4

Food & Drink: 8.9

Service: 8.6

Atmosphere: 7.8

Value: 7.6

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 4.0

David H. platinum reviewer 11 April 2015

I've eaten in a few of Jason Atherton's restaurants, and always I've left feeling that I've been given very good food, with no disappointments, and a feeling that I've had decent value. But of course most of the food I've eaten has been "modern European" and I have wondered whether he could translate his values to what is billed as a bistro, but turns out to have some interesting twists. We both chose the set three course lunch today, in a restaurant that with its dark wood, banquettes, and bar stools, looks like some pub dining rooms. By the time we finished, the restaurant was full. We were greeted nicely and the service was pleasant and timely throughout- maybe a little brisk actually Good bread, though my wife found the butter (smoked?) a little too salty. As seems todays fashion, there were no amuses bouches , inter-course dishes, or petits fours, though that said, with three courses we had sufficient to eat. Our leek and potato soup starters with quail egg and (I think) wild garlic was tasty and flavoured strongly of leek rather than the creamy, potato -rich dish one often encounters. It was our first clue really that despite that this wasn't a typical Jason Atherton menu, that doesn't mean that flavours are indistinct, or that you can't pick out the advertised ingredients quite clearly. Its as if the principles of his more usual food have been abstracted and applied to a different type of food. My cod on an ( extraordinarily flavoursome) cauliflower couscous in a duck broth was nothing short of delicious. My wife's beef jus ( in essence a pulled ox cheek sandwich with a dipping broth and chips) was in theory equally unusual, though she'd say that the dish was decent rather than exciting. My rhubarb and apple crumble was again delicious- the crumble had the crisp texture of a toasted muesli rather than heavy, solid topping that so often accompanies this dish. The fruits were delicious too. Now the impression I want to create here is that this restaurant is often described as a bistro, and there's an element of truth in that. But its not a place to go expecting classical versions of traditional French bistro standards. The level and style of cooking across the road is filtering across, and frankly the cooking here is better than I'd expect in a bistro, either here or in France. There's a fine-ness and the ability to pick out individual ingredients about the cooking here, and it does make it better. Our bill for three courses, a half-litre of a pleasant, easy drinking house red, coffee and service came to £96, which we thought was good value for food of this quality and interest. We'll go back.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 3.0

Samantha E. bronze reviewer 16 February 2015

This was the fifth Atherton venue we've checked out so we knew the food would be amazing and it was. I was trying to be healthy and though I might be dissappointed by the carrot and clementine salad. How wrong I was. I never knew healthy food could be so tasty and it felt wonderful to feel so virtuous. We had looked into the restaurant as we left the neighbouring Pollen Street Social recently and it looked cosy and romantic so I thought it would make a great venue for a celebratory lunch for my husband's birthday. The decor is lovely and for a moment, you can imagine being in a beautiful, romantic restaurant in Paris. But romance was off the menu as we could barely hear one another across the table.... We had a similar issue at City Social recently too. The bar there is fine but the restaurant is so loud... I am not sure how this problem could be overcome. There is no quick fix and it is a problem when somewhere is so good and consquently so popular. If you do go, I can certainly recommend the steak tartar which is one of the best I've ever tasted but if you are dining with someone who struggles to hear, this is not the place for that meal. The kitchen is perfect but the interior advisers need to do more to come up with some way to improve the accoustics and then I would be happy to dine here whenever I was in search of some romance.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Paul B. bronze reviewer 16 August 2014

We went for an early Friday lunch. By 1.00 pm, every table full. No austerity in Mayfair! Excellent light salad starter of baby carrots avocado and orange. For main I had the musroom tagliatelle which was refined. My guest had the cod which looked perfect. Wines are eye-wateringly expensive, so I stuck with the house organic Loire white which does the brasserie proud. Far less “up itself” than the posh sister Pollen Street Social opposite. I know which I'd rather lunch with friends.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 2.0

Andrew H. bronze reviewer 13 August 2014

A suprisingly low key venue, I actually managed to walk straight past it without realising and had to double back and look more carefully when I reached the end of the street. Decor is shabby chic, with bare boards and tables, simple furniture. It is effective in evoking a Parisian brasserie. I liked it. Certainly encourages a very relaxed atmosphere, more jeans and t-shirts than suits and ties. Service was good – attentive enough without being overbearing, friendly staff. By far the standout star of the show was the sommelier who just buzzed with enthusiasm in a very charming way. Food was excellent. The running theme was black truffle, which was applied generously to many of the dishes. Starters of asparagus with a perfectly poached egg and heirloom tomoato salad were both beautifully presented and delicious. Mains of mushroom tagliatelle and black truffle risotto (actually from the starter menu) were rich and satisfying. Deserts of whiskey soaked cherries with pistachio crust and doughnuts were both unusual and enjoyable. The wine list had good variety and included a limited but well chosen selection by both the glass and carafe. Only negative is the pricing. The food was, no doubt, high end quality but the prices were equally high end. Fine if you are in the Pollen Street Social next door with all the additional touches, twists and more exacting service but not in line with the casual brasserie vibe.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 4.0

Debbie B. 31 March 2014

Have used the venue a couple of times and really impressed. Food excellent and has a really good vibe.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

John C. 10 January 2014

First time at this restaurant after a couple of recommendations. Impressed overall, decor and table set up are appealing, though the individual chairs were a little uncomfortable. Very nice menu, not too extensive but offering wide choice and variety. Excellent value prix fixe which we enjoyed. Friendly and professional service, and an engaging sommelier who was happy to chat through wine choices from an interesting and fairly priced list. Will definitely return and recommend.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 5.0

Eve G. bronze reviewer 05 September 2013

Had a lovely lunch at Little Social yesterday. First time at this restaurant and was not disappointed. a really nice relaxed ambiance and a good menu. Loved the lobster but the desserts we shared were amazing. A lovely experience.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Imogen P. 30 August 2013

I went to Little Social last night and had an absolutely brilliant and memorable meal. I am always looking for formal yet friendly and relaxed restaurants and this manages to toe that difficult line. Service is attentive but not imposing, and charming and friendly without being overfamiliar. The food was delicious, beautifully presented and perfect portion sizes. Not quite faultless, but very close – and more importantly there is some really exciting cooking going on – great flavour combinations and ideas. Only one thing I would bring up as a potential reason not to go there is the acoustics. I didn't have any problem having a conversation over dinner at a normal volume, but if you have people in your party who are sensitive to background noise or at all hard of hearing it might not be the best place to dine. There is background music and also you hear the general murmur of other people's conversations. I can't wait to find an occasion to go back, absolutely wonderful.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Gourmand Gunno platinum reviewer 25 June 2013

After having thoroughly enjoyed Pollen Street Social on several occasions, I approached Little Social with some anticipation, intrigued as much as anything to see whether Jason Atherton could continue to work his magic in another restaurant formula or whether Pollen Street’s smaller sibling would be an example of brand-extension-gone-too-far, an unnecessarily bold incursion situated directly opposite its precursor. In the end, it was a bit of an anti-climax, good, but not exceptional. Overall, if I wanted to have a similar experience at a similar price point, then I would choose nearby Wild Honey over Little Social. The comparison between the two is deliberate since my first impression on stepping into the latter was that I had perhaps gone to the former. One enters through a thick dark red curtain (almost exactly the same in both restaurants); there is a somewhat ‘clubby’ and comforting feel to the place (ditto) and one passes a bar before being seated at either tables or booths (ditto again; we got a booth – a definite positive, and a more intimate experience). The comparison doesn’t end there, with both an a la carte and a competitively priced set menu available in the two restaurants, the dishes spanning modern British comfort-oriented food with the odd fancy twist. In terms of the food itself, my starter of crab, tomato and radish salad with miso tomato dressing and marinated beetroot was beautifully presented (as were my comrades’ dishes) but over-engineered and curiously lacking in any discernible flavour. This was compensated for by the main of a braised lamb shank served with peas, broad beans and spring vegetables, rich and juicy yet delicate too. We enjoyed our wines, drawn from a fairly inventive list (hints of the Loire and several Spanish regions in addition to the usual suspects), but if I were to quibble further, then I would also suggest that the service could be upped a notch a two, especially given that the restaurant is not without its competitors (see above). Our waitress, for example, seemed decidedly gauche, especially when serving and pouring the wine and asking how our dishes were, almost forcibly interrupting our conversation on more than one occasion. Little Social needs perhaps to think a bit bigger (and better)…

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 5.0

Toby N. platinum reviewer 03 June 2013

We all hate little brothers don’t we – especially when they are out having fun and you are hard at work. When they go travelling, clubbing and hanging with the cool kids, whilst you toil away. Little Social is Pollen Street Social’s younger, less slick, but slightly edgier, brother. But whilst Pollen Street got himself a nice suit and started work, Little Social decided to do some travelling, stopping off in France and acquired a few vaguely battered edges to make him more interesting, together with a musical taste that would do a ‘festival dad’ proud. Having been to the two of them on two consecutive days (sorry Mr bank manager – I will try and be more responsible in future) both came out of the comparison very well, each offering something slightly different. I’ve already reviewed Pollen Street Social and its somewhere I can’t stop going to, as its one of my favourites in London, with that smart but not fussy look and food. Little Social is more wannabe French bistro – a long, narrow and slightly dark room with French posters, red leather banquette seating (which is very comfortable), dark wooden floors, maps of France on the walls etc. Sounds odd but actually works quite well, though it was loud with both the festival dad soundtrack (think the likes of Groove Armada and Massive Attack) and noise from other tables – including a frighteningly dull man droning on about how his Matlab model could populate his Excel spreadsheet and someone two tables away who (I don’t think was doing it ironically) had a full ‘Keith Lemon’ haircut and sunglasses on his head. Staff are excellent – clearly from talking to them many have been with Jason Atherton a number of years, some back to his time at Maze, and they like and respect him. Service is fuss free, accurate and charming. Food is very good, not quite as excellent as across the road, but a really high standard none the less. I started with summer risotto and it was as good as any I have eaten outside Italy, coming with peas, broad beans, pea shoots and pancetta and arriving hot, with exactly the right consistency, not rice pudding but not dry or sticky clumps either – an absolute triumph that I’d eat every day for weeks on end before getting tired of it. Main course was halibut BLT – a decent sized wonderfully firm piece of halibut, which was just slightly too salty, coupled with a thick slice of bacon, braised baby gem and tomato flesh, minus the skins and pips, cooked in herbs and wine – somewhat bland unfortunately, but a good idea. Dessert was pink peppercorn meringue with mango and passion fruit filling – it tasted like summer even when the weather was once again cold and rubbishy outside. Value was really good – £180 for 3 times 3 courses, wine, water, service and a couple of other drinks. Seems a bargain when I paid more like £225 for lunch for 2, with 2 times 2 courses, wine, water etc over the road. I will definitely go back and in a couple of weeks time I’m off to meet the third sibling at the Social Eating House.

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Tucked away at the back of the restaurant with an ox-blood banquette and beautiful antique elm table, Little Social’s semi-private dining room is perfect for an intimate lunch or dinner. Menus use British produce, with a nod towards some typically French plates.
Semi-Private Dining Room
Capacity: 8