One of the best lunches I have been to in the last few years was at Pollen Street Social. The food was beautiful and interesting, and I loved the idea of their Dessert Bar. My favourite part was their special touch – when you arrived they gave you a key, which you presented to one of the barmen at the end of the meal. They then unlocked a little drawer behind the bar, and inside was a box, with a little bag with 2 tiny and delicious almond cakes and their home-made tea bag, for your afternoon tea. A really playful and memorable attention to detail.
Pollen Street Social’s Jason Atherton is expanding his collection of restaurants in London, including Little Social (across the road from Pollen Street Social) and Social Eating House (in Soho on Poland Street). On Friday, we went for a work lunch to the first, which is French-ish bistro influenced. It’s cosy and very charming inside (I especially liked the old maps on the stairs), and the menu was one of those lovely ones where I would happily eat most of the choices.
From the starters we tried the crab, tomato and radish salad with miso tomato dressing and marinated beetroot – it had sweet crab, with fresh crunchy little cubes and great tomatoes. There was also a spring green pea and broad bean risotto with peppered bacon and mint ricotta, and beetroot-cured sea trout, with Cheltenham beetroot (a special sort apparently, after a little Google research) and shallot dressing. There was also lovely warm bread with great butter – the little things do make a difference.
From the mains the beef burger was a good example of the classic, with bacon, cheese, caramelised onions (divided opinion), pickles and French fries. I was intrigued by the roasted halibut BLT (obviously an excellent sandwich) – which consisted of a tomato sauce, a little slab of chunky golden bacon and sweet griddled lettuce, with perfectly cooked fish and incredibly flavoursome Portobello mushroom. The roasted cod with Provençal salad and saffron aoili (from the set menu – 2 course for £21), was a little two fennel heavy. We could have done with some sides for the fish main courses – maybe we were just being greedy, but they seemed a little small.
We just shared one dessert of apple and blackberry crumble – it came out as a bowl with the mascarpone and cinnamon ice-cream and lovely apple. A mini copper pan was then presented and sprinkled over the crumble with more fruit. It was big and a fantastic example of a crumble (even if I am sometimes a little dubious of ‘deconstructed’ kind of crumbles). We also had some lovely squidgy, darkly cocoa-rich chocolate truffles.
They brought the bill in a cute little brown envelope with travel stamps – another nice touch, but I wasn’t quite as blown away as Pollen Street Social even though the food was all expertly done (it is more relaxed, with a more affordable bill).
I want to try Social Eating House now, which has a similarly priced menu (starters around £10, mains around £20). The menu there also looks great, and the bar on the top floor sounds promising, with fabulous sub-£10 cocktails and booze-absorbing snacks such as pork belly sliders and duck fat chips with aoili.