(photography courtesy of low light and the iPhone)
Last week I was lucky enough to preview Jason Atherton’s new venture, Pollen Street Social. Mr A is famously Gordon Ramsay’s ex-Executive Chef at Maze (LOVE Maze), and Pollen Street Social is his first London-based restaurant. He must be smart because he hired my brother (who has a repultation for getting me hammered) to be in charge of the bar.
The drinking area is pretty lovely. There’s a massive block of ice that is awesomely hand carved for the drinks (I’m easily pleased) and a gin-based menu of unusual cocktails, though they also take requests for all the classics. I had something elderflower-based and refreshing in my chilled martini glass until it was time to go through to the dining room.
The menu is split into two different sections; small plates and main courses. We were told to either order a small plate as a starter followed by a main course, or to order around six small plates between two of us. I love the modern tapas way of eating so we went with the small plates, and you can blame the sommelier for the fact I can’t recall how much they cost as she perfectly matched wines to each plate.
The highlight of the plates for me was the Pork Belly. I know it’s slightly yawnsville and there’s probably another part of the pig we should raving about by now but Pork Belly is my all-time favourite cut of meat. This one ranked in the top 3 pork bellies ever (also in top 3 pork bellies; maze, me). It came with a fondant something (oops), a bit of cheek, fermented apple, burnt onion mayonnaise and the most amazing piece of fluffed, crispy crackling. The meat fell apart and I’m not ashamed to tell you my mouth is watering right now like nobody’s business.
The English Breakfast plate was interesting. I’d been told that it was a must-try, and came as an egg surrounded by chopped tomatoes and gorgeous crispy Alsace bacon. The ‘toast’ was a bread soup poured over. It was a bit sloppy, a little weird, but good. A deconstructed breakfast soup.
The fois gras to me didn’t taste as gorgeously creamy as others I’ve tasted from Borough Market which was a let-down. However, I was half cut by this point so it could well have been the booze coupled with my lacklustre knowledge on fois gras that was a fail here rather than the food.
The last dish I tried was the cauliflower and squid risotto. Confusing to my poor boozed-up squinty eyes, it arrived looking like a plate of risotto. Obviously. But there was more cheffy-deconstruction business going on here; the squid acted as the risotto paired with squid juice and cauliflower. It was too much for me, the texture of it seemed odd for my provincial tastebuds. Ah like ma squid DEEP FRIED. Must remember this.
For pudding we ordered the rhubarb and ginger cheesecake – gorgeous pieces of crystallised ginger made the dish- and the ‘PBJ’ which was an old favourite from ye olde maze days. PBJ represents peanut butter and jelly; I recall the dish being different at maze as it was more sandwiched together than the separate ingredients on this plate, but it was delicious all the same. We ended the evening with some insanely good coffee.
I drink way too much to ever be a good restaurant critic.
The night was totally made by our waiter who used to work at Shoreditch House and was the one who looked after us at our wedding reception in 2009. I may have got a bit in his face by shouting “REMEMBER US?!” as soon as we saw him. And the hug was probably inappropriate.
Jason Atherton coming over to check on us at the end of the meal was a lovely touch. The last time I saw him was on Saturday Kitchen and I get way over excited at any sniff of celebrity so I practically forced him into a double-cheek kiss. I vowed never to wash my face again (I have) and he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.
So in conclusion, I would and will definitely return. The ambiance and social aspect of the place was welcoming and warm, I love the fact that the whole menu is available at the bar and you are welcome to drop in for not just a meal but drink, coffee (did I mention? INSANE) or a dessert. There’s such a buzz about this place you’d probably end up eating in the toilet which would be no hardship as they’re A+!