Boys Thursday Night Dinner Club has recently hit a rich seam of gold, and with Pollen Street Social coming with high recommendations from whomever has previously visited, it didn’t look as though that was about to change. With a Michelin Star, several awards and being regularly in any ‘Top London Dining’ list, if not top, Jason Atherton’s British flagship restaurant had earnt a visit from us!
When I first heard about Pollen Street Social (PSS) I imagined good food, not quite cheesy chips, followed by a game of pool, but not a glass of Sancerre in sight. After hearing again and again from a friend, who knows his stuff, about PSS, I thought I owed it some research. Jason Atherton’s first British solo project, mostly self funded after years of saving, aimed to be a destination restaurant whilst keeping the mood to still be an informal everyday ‘pop in’ (just book in advance though!!) Priding itself on selecting and using the finest produce from across the British Isles, with the subsequent online menu looking very tempting….. This had to be my next pick and maybe even a contender for our top dining list….. The Infamous BTNDC Leaderboard!
Tucked down a side street, which you wouldn’t choose to go down unless you had to, PSS doesn’t externally display any obvious grandeur like some of its counterparts. However once inside its a different world to the immediate outside. New, contemporary, smart surroundings made you feel that this was special, as did the smiles and striking red uniform dresses of the hostesses…… So this is what first class is like on Virgin….. Extremely professional and on the ball….. No sooner had I said that it was one of our birthdays….. than a card was already on our table from Mr Atherton himself. The front of house was the buzzy social side that gave the restaurant an initial vibrant feel where one could ‘easily’ just pop in and enjoy.
With the choice of A La Carte or an 8 course taster menu (why bother offering 5?) the real debate began with the wine flight to accompany the 8 courses…… The ‘Classic’ being acceptable, the ‘Fine’ being for multi millionaires, the ‘Iconic’ for those who weren’t paying! As novice wine connoisseurs we went for the Classic. And an alcoholic juice flight for one after persuading the Sommelier that; A – it’ll be a challenge for him and B – well if you want to score highly on The Leaderboard……
Kicking off though we braved some cocktails from an extravagant list. A ‘Yellow Crocodile’ and a ‘PBJ’ were ordered, in which the later someone once thought that mixing Mount Gay XO, salted peanuts, sour cherry, vanilla and egg white would be a good idea…. As good I guess as someone thinking of ordering it….. Both were maybe OTT for us. However when someone orders a beer then they are on a winner!…. Ice Cold metallic mugs akin to those served to the Knights of the Round Table…. Out of place in this contemporary environment but we liked them.
Whilst knocking back the beverages, exchanging stories of deeds involving fair maidens, canapés were brought out. 3 types including Beetroot, Salmon and a cucumber paste on a sweet muffin… All very nice, exciting us for the feast ahead.
Next, and possibly my most memorable offering from PSS, was the bread and butter. I’ve decided that I’m a self confessed purist when it comes to this simple but sometimes overlooked course. The butter was exceptional. So soft, delicate and tasty, not only did we order an extra two portions, we were literally licking it from our fingers. Exquisite.
The first flight of wines followed in beautifully thin stemmed glasses, whilst Mit’s initial fruit pairing was about to knock his socks off. “Good effort but maybe less alcohol next time…..”
To begin was an offering from the chef. A Parmesan froth with Sept powder and Mushroom consume. Very lovely. Perfect in fact….. What a good start!
The service was extremely professional, as you would expect, on point and attentive, but unfortunately our two key guys lacked any character or charisma. Harsh I know but some of the places we’ve been to they were passionate, radiated warmth, engaging and as if we had met new friends for life. A floor manager and the Virgin Hostesses aside (eye candy lets be honest) this was my biggest let down.
The chilled pea soup was fresh and vibrant. Very Refreshing. Like a beautiful English garden on a new spring day. As was the wine match a 2014 ‘Les Roses du Clos’…. Very good pairing.
Next up Colchester Crab; strong with an excellent flavour. Like eating shellfish on a sunny Essex beach with an Apple Bellini in hand. The accompanying ‘Peter Jakob Kuhn’ 2013 Riesling aiding the enjoyable imagery.
Haggis, neeps & tatties were the third course. Amazingly tasty, so scrummy. Like a Scottish…. Ok enough with analogies…. deafening silence followed swiftly by 5 empty clinking plates is all that’s needed here as a description. A pale ale for the ‘wine flight’ however didn’t work ….. Surely a good red would have sufficed here with this mini roast dinner…. Cant help thinking that trying to be different for the sake of being different in choosing this ale simply backfired.
Nearly halfway in and the food was living up to the reputation. Aside from the splendid flavours we unanimously felt that the portion sizes were equally spot on and well balanced. Not too little to miss any flavour yet not enough to get full up on. Stirling job Mr Atherton.
Instead of Turbot we were treated to a perfect fillet of John Dory. Of course it was excellent. ‘A delicate fish canvas on which to then express all the other flavours, especially the mushroom’. Letting the side down again was the wine; a PSS Jason Atherton 2014 no-less!… this oily, petrolly accompaniment was seemingly smacking us in the face for not being bold enough to go for The Fine option.
The juice flight was conspicuous only by its lack of praise or interest by this point but to be fair we had surprised them with that request.
The table was spilt in selecting the Cornish lamb or saddle of rabbit. Both sounding super tempting. The Lamb (below) was good with a notedly better wine pairing, a ‘Montefalco Rosso’ 2011. The Rabbit was full of flavour with a wonderfully crispy skin.
For a supplement the cheese board was offered….. and gratefully accepted. A tempting array of cheeses, as you would expect from such a classy establishment, was impossible to turn down. The service though didn’t meet such high standards, and whilst professional, it’s was disappointing when one thinks about the passion and eloquence that previous ‘fromagerists’ had spoken with when offering their wares.
To compliment the cheese the Graham’s 10 year Tawny Port was rich, earthy and peaty yet clean, crisp and very sugarary. Highly recommended by our port drinkers.
Into the sweet things a stunning caramel goat’s cheese ice cream was contrasted superbly by the sweeter oats, milk and honey. Awesome way to start the home straight.
The blackcurrant Eton mess was made well with a hard shell to crack open. Lovely strong tart flavours……. High marks in sight.
To finish was a bitter chocolate pave with olive biscuit, olive oil conserve and chocolate ice cream. Of course a tasting menu has chocolate in it somewhere and of course with PSS it’s going to be exceptional. Excellent work Chef. Food receiving full marks and continuous compliments.
Ah! Finally! A note on the fruit flight…. ending with a simple expresso martini…. naturally very good.
Talk was rife of high scores for the night and a challenge to the leader when a grand whisky selection was brought forth and stopped a couple of us in our tracks. From Japanese to well known Scotch, from reasonably priced drams to sell the children shots, everything was covered. Most notably though was that we finally found a fun, charismatic and enthusiastic ‘Whisky Sommelier’. Phew.
In conclusion an absolutely fabulous night and tasting experience. Only a couple of others to date matching the food heaven that was offered and subsequently consumed, and most impressively none of us complaining of being too full. A very professional job PSS and well done. Just lacked passion and that little intangible spark that would have me raving on about it forever more.
020 7290 7600