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5 Pollen Street
0207 8703 3730
“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.
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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SquareMeal 2 Stars
5 Pollen Street
0207 8703 3730
Oxford Circus Tube Station 222m
Bond Street Tube Station 513m
Hanover Square Gardens 124m
Mon-Sat 12N-2.30pm 6-10.30pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 5
Four guests, four outstanding feedback comments. All of the party commented on the high level of service, one commented it was one of his most favourite restaurants. Service was faultless, the food was amazing lots to choose from.
Food + drink: 4
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.
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.
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