Pollen Street Social

July 12, 2011

Sometimes you just to want to eat cheap. Sometimes you want to push the boat out. Sometimes you want to push the boat out and feel swanky because your finger is right on the pulse of the restaurant world. Doing the latter is not always easy in Leicester.

So, on Saturday we all got on the train and went to London. Destination was Pollen Street Social, Jason Atherton’s  post-Gordon Ramsey break for freedom. It opened a couple of months back to very positive reviews – “properly brilliant” said John Lanchester in the Guradian, and it got five out of five from Time Out for “a master chef at the height of his powers”.

The “Social” tag indicates that while this is about high end cooking in the style Atherton developed at Maze, it’s not a trad fine dining environment but a relaxed, dress-code free place that encourages fun and conversation. It’s informal but there’s plenty of staff to look after you – service from the very young team throughout the night was friendly and in the main polished despite a few dribbles on the wine and some awkward pacing when it came to serving drinks and our starters.

Cauliflower, squid and clear roasted squid juice (picture from http://www.pollenstreetsocial.com)

Starters were small but beautifully formed and it was evident from the beginning that there was a lot of both artistry and hard labour going on among the massed ranks in the kitchen – visible to diners through a glass wall. My squid and cauliflower involved the veg being sliced to feathery thinness and fish being diced to form a faux-risotto  – very nice and very pretty with the flavour in the main coming from a remarkable clear consomme poured over and made from roasted squid. Giles Coren writing in The T*mes described it the squid juice as of “El Bulli-ish inventiveness”.  I can’t really comment, but it was very powerful.   “Full English Breakfast” was a bit of a forced conceit – one rather delicious egg melting over tomatoes, a couple of tiny hammy bits and fried bread croutons –  some nicely-crafted flavours but crammed into a couple of mouthfuls it left my pal feeling a bit short-changed.

My halibut main course was a perfectly good piece of fish but was surpassed by a fantastic “catalan paella” of astonishing intensity – seafood mainly, but I think some smoky sausage in there too. Little additions such as a scrap of wafer thin pork fat added a huge amount too.  Roasted Dingley Dell pork came as belly and cheek sitting on a pine nut paste  with toasted oats, black  sesame seeds and crushed juniper berries and served with roasted hops and beer sauce.  Opinion varied between very good indeed and “not bad – had better”.  (Go here for a little film on youtube of  Atherton making this dish and introducing his restaurant).

Deserts were of the broken down and distributed over the plate variety – “PBJ” was a sophisticated take on peanut butter and jelly, with parfait, cherry jam and creamed rice puffs, while strawberry and vanilla cheesecake with a strawberry sorbet and nut crumble was also strewn around the plate like the aftermath of a bomb. All the bits I tasted were gorgeous though neither I think totally blew away their orderers away. My lemon meringue was slightly more conventional in presentation and was exceptionally clean and fresh-tasting with lime and cream cheese sorbet.   Rice pudding was deemed rather ordinary while the accompanying hay ice-cream divided opinion with its strong farmyardy flavour.

It’s a really nicely done out space and packed full on a Saturday it had a great buzz about it. The food is creative and full of great touches – duck fat chips  were great, the wines fantastic – but I don’t think any of us felt real knockout punches had been landed. Worth the trip to London? I’d say so. Would I try somewhere else next time I  had £80 to spare on a blow out meal and drinks?  Yeah, I think so.

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5 Responses to “Pollen Street Social”

  1. alex said

    pretty much spot on review Tim, though my deconstructed tiramisu to finish was worth a mention. fun night and great to know that fine(ish) dining doesn’t have to only be found in somewhat stuffy environs with adults (and children) wearing the obligatory jackets and talking in ‘hushed tones’

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  2. Neil said

    Spot on review – would echo all of those sentiments, but more importantly Tim’s back on the blogging bus, hurrah! At last I can fritter away work time again, I’ve been far too productive without your posts to distract me.

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  3. Charlotte said

    *sniffle* you went to That London without me, you cads.

    Sounds lovely though. Any tomato foam experiences?

    C x

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  4. […] owner Nigel Richardson who recently did the fit out of Jason Atherton’s Mayfair venue the Pollen Street Social (Atherton was due to attend until a last minute chef crisis intervened). The food looks worth a […]

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  5. […] Rugby lad Rory McClean has spells with Angela Hartnett at the Connaught, Jason Atherton at Pollen Street Social and Marcus Waring at The Berkeley on his CV, but has now taken over the White Swan at Shawell, just […]

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