SquareMeal Review of Pollen Street Social
Pollen Street Social is the jewel in the crown of Jason Atherton’s global restaurant empire. Having held a Michelin Star since 2011, it’s safe to say diners come here with high expectations.
As with any restaurant, it’s the team who give you a first taste of what to expect. The buzzy bar and cosy dining room are run like a well-organised ship. One team member seamlessly segues into the next so that you are warmly looked after from beginning to end, and despite the meticulous service, each person’s personality isn’t quashed, making guests feel like they’re making real connections.
At £115, the tasting menu isn’t cheap, but despite the hefty price tag, it feels like good value with abundant courses topped up by canapés and petit fours. This is food that aims to please by offering up intense plates of flavours with a good measure of fun.
One of Atherton’s signature serves is ‘fish and chips’, but not how you know it. A layered, crisp confit potato stack is meticulously shaped into a rectangle and dusted with wince-inducingly sharp vinegar powder before being topped with a cod emulsion. This salty seaside treat smells and tastes like the best chippy you’ve ever had.
Other courses present an oyster ice cream that manages to encompass all the power of the sea, and a beef dish with meat robust enough to stand up to its sweet and sticky miso, aubergine and molasses accompaniments.
The old adage that three’s a crowd does not apply when it comes to desserts here, when the trio of treats is brought to the table one after another. Our favourite? A guessing game of six identical white ice creams. Only once devoured will the waiting staff reveal the surprising flavours.
When it comes to drinks, sommelier Agnieszka Swiecka wields her trolley around the dining room ensuring everyone has what they need, making glasses refill as if by magic while explaining in detail her different recommendations. An apricot-bright rich Riesling kicked things off for us while a buttery Sauternes closed proceedings with the perfect amount of sweetness.
Consider high expectations met.
About Pollen Street Social
Secreted beside a discreet Mayfair alleyway since 2011, Jason Atherton’s imperious Michelin-starred flagship, Pollen Street Social, remains “bang on the money” – a “masterpiece of fine dining” and a worthy winner of the SquareMeal Restaurant of the Year award in 2011 and 2017. Step through the glass door and the good vibrations hit you straight away, while the clean-lined metropolitan dining room shows its cosmopolitan class with dramatic lampshades and eye-catching arty exhibits.
Atherton may oversee a global empire these days, but he still puts in the shifts at PSS, and is often to be seen at the pass – a world-class hands-on restaurateur in his rightful place. Culinary influences and cross-fertilisation abound, but everything is underpinned by indigenous ingredients, from a witty Cockney riff involving smoked eel, buttermilk, beetroot reduction and jellied eel to South Downs fallow deer with pear, cocoa and chocolate vinegar or “staggeringly good” Lakeland lamb with beetroot, blackcurrant, savoy cabbage and a mini hotpot on the side – scintillating, exuberant food of the highest order, with maximum flavour delivering maximum satisfaction.
Provenance is absolutely key to Atherton, who believes that a menu can only ever be as good as its ingredients and has taken the time to foster long-term relationships with suppliers across Britain in order to obtain the very best produce the UK has to offer, from Colchester crab to Buccleuch beef, Jersey oysters, Orkney scallops and Goosnargh duck from Lancashire.
To start, the ‘fruits of the British sea’ is a delirious array of maritime delights presented on a special stand – we love the oyster ice cream dressed with an oyster leaf, the lobster cocktail, and the scallop with pickled radish and jalapeño; to finish, the dessert bar promises close encounters with the likes of Brogdale pear sorbet, goats’ cheese ice cream, honey and bee pollen.
Service plays it ‘social’ without ever losing its professional cool, and there are treasures galore on the ever-expanding wine list curated by the group’s whizz-bang sommelier Laure Patry. “Few places are such a treat” concludes one admirer of Pollen Street Social– amen to that.