Pollen Street Social:
On my wish-list to review for ever and a day and with a set lunch of just £25.50 for what is regarded as one of Central London’s top restaurants Pollen Street Social is really not a budget breaker. I suggested to my friend and dining companion The Hedonist that we should meet there for lunch.
‘Been there already – it’s great’ (he’s been everywhere!)
‘OK how about I treat you?’
There was no hesitation…not a glimmer! I booked lunch and turned up in a little side street just off Oxford Street. I was early and sat looking at the cocktail list. I had resolved to limit my drinking. It was, after all, lunch time. But, a glass of prosecco could be excused perhaps? The Hedonist, by comparison, was being hedonistic. There was some discussion with the Bar Manager about gin fizz with dry ice, but in the end he settled for quite the prettiest Negroni I’ve seen. The Pollen Street Social Negroni came with a sorbet of Campari that gradually melted into the drink making it increasingly sweet.
Pollen Street Social has a well laid out bar area where you can sit and drink or eat light dishes. In the main dining area, there’s a separate dessert bar, a kitchen divided by smoked glass doors from the seating area and formal without being stuffy table settings. Downstairs you can see the wine cellar and the meat store! It’s chic and tasteful without being pretentious and when we later met Chef Jason (Atherton) and complimented him on the design he explained that he and his wife had built their vision of what a restaurant should be.
We ordered from the new Spring 2012 set menu. Bread, olives and salt cod to nibble at while while we chose were excellent. The wine list was a bit more of a challenge. I have been just a little spoilt recently with paired tasting menus. Matched wines do add something special and if I think the food is going to be superb I really want the right glass of wine to drink with it. Pollen St Social has an excellent list of wines by the glass and it was just too easy to ask the sommelier to match for us!
I started with Cornish Mackerel Tartare with Seaweed Salsa Verde and Pickled Turnip. My glass of Maria Gomes was a great match, fresh and acidic and not too heavy.
The Hedonist’s Smoked Hake with Slow Cooked Egg, Wild Garlic Curry Puffed Rice was matched to the Greek Assyrtiko Gaia, an altogether more complex white.
Then, an amuse bouche of scallop ceviche, just a hint of ginger and citrus.
My main course, Braised Irish Ox Cheek with smoked mashed potato, salt baked onion, oxtail and marrowbone was beautiful and full bodied. I loved the contrast of melting ox cheek with the mash and onion. And the tiny half bone of marrow was as fabulous to eat as to look at. For this, our sommelier chose a glass of 2006 Cahors, a deep red wine that balanced the dish beautifully and had the best ‘legs’ I’ve seen on a glass of red wine for a while.
Roasted Cornish Cod was served with a mussel bouillabaisse, crab and winkle vinaigrette.
Dessert was a challenge. We both wanted the chocolate pave (70% bitter chocolate pave, vanilla ice-cream and smoked vanilla crumbs). And really, neither of us needed it. We’d already been served two pre-desserts – the first this fantastic looking grapefruit sorbet, the second a beetroot and rubarb ice. And we’d happily accepted ‘half glasses’ of petillant raisin to match it.
In the end, we shared a pave (well, I ate most of it…) and a plate of cheese.
Coffee came with tiny macaron and chocolate ganache squares.
Our bill at Pollen Street Social including service, rather a lot of very good wine and drinks before lunch came to just under £160. Woops…more than £100 of that was on wine and cocktails. But, it was worth it!