pollen street social bmw award - PollenStreetSocial_BMW-award-2.jpgJason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social has scooped the 2011 BMW Square Meal Restaurant of the Year title, despite stiff competition from other sterling newcomers.

Atherton (pictured, far right, with from left to right general manager Michael West, BMW UK's Paulo Alves, and Square Meal editor Ben McCormack) described winning the award as a ‘dream come true’, saying: ‘The London award season runs from September to December. For me, the biggest award to top off the end of the season is the BMW Square Meal award.’

It has been another terrific year for new openings, with the London restaurant scene as vigorous as ever despite the economic downturn. The shortlisted restaurants for the 2011 award included Barbecoa, Clos Maggiore, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Hakkasan Mayfair, Hawksmoor Seven Dials, The Ledbury, Le Gavroche, Roganic and The Wolseley.

pollen street social bmw award - PollenStreetSocial_BMW-award-37.jpg7.jpgBut for confidence, energy, and all-round star quality, nothing could rival Pollen Street Social – Jason Atherton’s brilliantly conceived big-city eatery. It’s the kind of venue that begs for return visits, a place you can make friends with – an exuberant class act that celebrates the joyous conviviality of eating out.

Of course, outfits like this don’t run on their own steam. Atherton puts in the hours and he has consummate support from a committed team (some of whom were his lieutenants at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze). Loyalty counts for a great deal here, and customers certainly feel the benefit when it comes to razor-sharp but ever-personable service.

The BMW Square Meal Restaurant of the Year has become one of the most coveted awards in the hospitality industry. It sets out to acknowledge and celebrate the restaurant that has fuelled most people’s imagination in the past 12 months, and looks to reward the establishment that’s deemed to offer the most outstanding package – namely top-drawer food, serious wine, good value, service that matches aspirations, and that elusive feel-good factor. Contenders truly need to demonstrate all-round excellence.

pollen street social bmw award - PollenStreetSocial_BMW-award-1.jpgTo assess the merits of individual venues we rely not only on our reviewers’ knowledge and understanding of the restaurant scene, but also on the opinions of Square Meal readers. Thanks to all of you who shared your experiences with us in 2011; your feedback is invaluable.

And, as ever, our thanks also go to BMW, which has sponsored the awards for the past 13 years and whose brand epitomises an innate sense of style, innovation, reliability and value – exactly the qualities we expect from a top-flight restaurant.