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One Michelin Star, London

Reviewed by Justine Murphy, CEO of mymuybueno – January 2017

Jason Atherton’s flagship restaurant Pollen Street Social opened in Mayfair in April 2011 and was awarded a Michelin star within just six months of opening, along with five AA Rosettes. It was also rated number four in The Good Food Guide’s best UK restaurants. Since then, Jason’s The Social Company has grown into a global restaurant group.

Head Chef Dale Bainbridge was on service during my visit.

We started with Afternoon Tea. Following the arrival of a box containing a towel to refresh, which is always a nice touch, we were presented with a magnificent two tier wooden cake stand was with three intricate Amuse Bouches.

First was a bite of smoked salmon with cream cheese and Keta caviar on top of a thin strip of rye toast. Second, a corn muffin with cucumber and dill icing. The muffin was beautiful, with the sweetness of the corn balanced with a savoury dill and cucumber cream. The beetroot and blackcurrant tartlet was my final bite. Beautiful, crisp, thin pastry with the sweet acidity of blackcurrant working hand-in-hand with the earthy beetroot. A delight.

the sweet acidity of blackcurrant working hand-in-hand with the earthy beetroot

A second Amuse Bouche of mushroom ‘tea’ was then served. A tea of mushroom stock was poured from a teapot into a cup of cep mushroom powder and parmesan foam. This had a good depth of flavour, clean and woodsy and delicious.

Fish and Chips

Cod, tapioca, potato, fat, bubble formed, crunch, evoke fish and chips. This was the excited description of this dish. It was a crispy bubble, made with tapioca flour, potatoes and fat, with a cod cream inside. The mouthful was meant to evoke the taste of fish and chips. It didn’t. In fact, I could barely taste any cod at all. It just tasted vaguely of some vinegar and potato. It didn’t reach the goal.

The sourdough bread was delicious.

Fruits of the British Sea was next, presented on a silver tiered stand. This featured an Oyster Ice Cream, which really beautiful – creamy, light and subtle. Next, a Scallop Tartar with a Jalapeño Granita. This had a subtle level of heat, which worked well with the sweet scallop, and overall was fresh, cold, and really quite something. This was followed by a pot of Langoustine Cream, Cucumber and Tomato Powder.

a Jalapeño Granita . . . had a subtle level of heat, which worked well with the sweet scallop

After a twenty-minute wait, my next dish finally arrived. Roasted Orkney Scallop, Artichoke and Black Olive Soup and Black Truffle. The scallop was cooked perfectly, and the soup perfectly seasoned and creamy. The celery sat on top didn’t bring much to the dish – it felt like a third wheel.

Pine Smoked Quail, English Breakfast. In the central plate was a spelt risotto with wild mushrooms. The spelt had excellent texture, and finishing it with mushroom purée gave a deep earthiness to the dish. The wild mushrooms on top had been very lightly cooked so they were warm but still had a nice crunch to them. On the side was a chest sat on top of pine, which had been gently smoking away, and this contained different preparations of the quail. The quail supreme was beautifully cooked – it was moist and tender and had benefited well from the smoke that surrounded it. Next was the quail leg, which had been confit and glazed, but this was chewy and dry, overcooked perhaps from sitting longer in the box. This was a shame, and after one bite I left it. The crispy-coated quail egg with a runny yolk was a lovely addition. The leg aside, this was a really sterling dish and I happily demolished the rest of my plate.

South Coast Turbot, Caramelised Celeriac, Chestnut and Black Truffle. A generous piece of beautifully cooked turbot, full of flavour and studded with our old friend crosnes, which I love. The truffle foam carried itself well with a strong depth of flavour. The chestnut and celeriac purée with crumble on top was a delight.

My red wine was poured and soon my eyes were feasting on the two plates before me. Lake District Lamb Loin, Braised Neck, Salt Baked Carrots, Yuzu, Charred Lettuce, Mustard. This was lamb, cooked two ways, with heritage carrots. On the main plate was the lamb loin, which was melt-in-your-mouth, with a caramelized crispy outside finish. The heritage carrots came differently. One was salt baked, which really intensified the flavour, another was pickled and one also came as a purée. Grain mustard complemented the carrots nicely. On a separate plate was the lamb neck, which was braised until tender, served on top of some pomme purée with a few more carrots. It was comforting and delicious, and as this was a very British themed menu, I interpreted this as a play on a Shepherd’s Pie.

I was just settling from dinner when it was time to move across to the dessert bar.

I interpreted this as a play on a Shepherd’s Pie.

The Game was a box presented with different-flavoured scoops of ice cream inside and I had to guess what they were. The bay leaf threw me, so I got 4/5. Not bad, and it was very nice ice cream.

Sat at the bar, I got to enjoy the kitchen in full service to my right, which was lovely.

Milk and Honey Oats to follow, which was more ice cream topped with a dried milk slab. This had a nice texture and worked.

Blackcurrant ‘Eton Mess’. Hiding in a meringue shell were whipped cream, blackcurrant compote and a blackcurrant parfait. This was a delicious play on a classic, with the lightest of meringue, and was a crisp and fun dish.

The final dessert was a Bitter Chocolate Pavé, Olive Biscuit, Olive Oil Conserve, Chocolate Ice Cream. I felt ambivalent about the pairing of the saltiness of the olive and the sweetness of the chocolate, and ultimately it didn’t excite me, but it was very pretty. By this point, I felt like ‘ice cream again?’ but on the whole it was good and it did work.

The Petit Fours provided a nice finish – they were lovely and well presented. There was a Pollen Street Social knife to cut into my Bakewell Tart, a cup with a taste of Chocolate Ganache, and then a Fruit Jelly in a lovely tin.

Wine:
Kracher, Pinot Gris, Burgenland, Austria 2013
Montefalco, Adanti, 2012, Italy
Favourite Dish: Fruits of the British Sea.
Napkin Fold: Yes.
Menu to take home: Yes.
Meal for two, including drinks and service: £350.
Final Thought: This was an excellent meal. There was plenty of technique on display. The timing was a little off – I was sometimes waiting for my next dish for quite a while, and as I dined solo and was tasting my dishes and moving quickly on, it seems that this was not relayed to the kitchen. With a few dishes, I was left staring at my empty plate longer than I cared to do, and when you are waiting long enough to take note of the time, that’s not great. These are big elements which make the difference between one star and two. As nice as having a dessert bar was it pains me to say that I felt that the desserts were the weakest part of the meal. I also felt a little too quickly shunted from the comfort of my table, where I had been enjoying my meal, to very quickly having to scoop up my belongings to move to the dessert bar. You could not enjoy lingering, romantic, end-of-dining pudding moments with a loved one here. The level of cooking executed here is definitely above the one Michelin star level that it is currently at, and I was left slightly baffled as to why it had not yet been awarded the two stars, but it could well be for the some of the points I have highlighted.

Pollen Street Social
Address: 8-10 Pollen St, Mayfair, London, W1S 1NQ
Telephone: + 44 (0) 20 7290 7600
Hours: Monday – Saturday (including bank holidays) Lunch: 12pm – 3pm Dinner: 6.30pm – 11pm
Website: http://pollenstreetsocial.com