My friend had dinner at Pollen Street Social last night and sat on a table next to Keira Knightley (like it or not, she is definately an A list celebrity spot). I went a couple of weeks ago and sat next to an incredibly intriguing older couple who followed their four course meal with glass after glass of dessert wine whilst heavily debating whether they were going to meet in Harvey Nics or Liberties for their afternoon cocktail.
And then there was us. Me, an average 20 something (yes I’m now closer to 30 than 20) and my wonderful boyfriend who never wears anything other than his jeans and a lumberjack shirt. And did it matter? Not one little bit. My absolute favourite thing about Pollen Street Social (apart from the dessert bar which I’ll get to in good time) was that it delivered classy, stylish and brilliant food in the heart of London town with not one bit of pretension.
The place is beautifully lit, with lamps so stylish that they’re verging on works of art. It has a quiter, neat and formal bar that serves a great mix of classic cocktails and quirky ‘Social drinks’ that leads onto a really bustly restaurant area with a view into the kitchen and a revolutionary (for London) dessert bar where you can finish your meal whilst watching pastry chefs prep your pud. Eating off the lunch menu is the more affordable way to dine, with 3 courses for £25.50 a head.
‘The Spanish Egg, chorizo, patatas bravas’ starter was moreish and teasing, with an oozy egg ontop of a rich tomato sauce all hidden under a smokey chorizo foam with little tasters of crispy potatoes and chorizo slices. The ‘Cornish Mackerel tartare, seaweed salsa verde, pickled turnip’ was a refreshing alternative with lively flavours and fresh crunchy textures that reminded me of sunny, seaside breeziness and a little bit of a mini coral reef.
The main course of ‘Braised Irish Ox-Cheek, smoked mash potato, salt baked onions, oxtail and marrow’ (yes the title was that long) was absoutely incredible, so much so that my boyfriend named it one of the best mains he’d ever eaten. The portion was generously sized, especially in comparison to the lunch servings we recieved at Heston’s Dinner) and the ox cheek literally fell apart at the slightest touch. The oxtail and marrow, served as a mini side was totally unnecessary but wonderfully indulgent; creamy marrow coupled with a slither of juicy tail meat topped with crunchy crumbs.
Roast Holly Farm chicken, braised king cabbage, coddled egg sauce, coq au vin leg, miso aubergine (there’s another mouthful in itself) left me thinking only about the coq au vin leg seeing as it completely outshone everything else. I was excited about the miso and but really it was lost, the coddled egg sauce’s texture was very odd and the roast chicken was huge, dry and simply tasted like a bit of chicken. All round not great.
But the triumphant dessert bar, which we sat at for almost an hour, made everything blooming brilliant again. I was served multiple courses by a pastry chef who explained everything from the ‘welcoming’ sorbets, to the granita, the Jason Atherton chocolate selection and individual macaroons. Unfortunately her patience didn’t stretch to staff and we had front row seats for a quite entertaining mini-bicker over who was meant to be working in each section. It was interesting to watch the inner workings of a dessert kitchen so close, but it probably wasn’t the experience Jason Atherton had intended.
The main event amongst the six dessert courses that we eventually ate was the chocolate pave. Whilst not as rich as the picture makes it seem it was still a delicious coming together of all sorts of delicate and deep chocolatey flavours. The smoked vanilla crumbs were a great touch, and although the chef assured us it was the cutting edge of current ways of sourcing and preparing vanilla my boyfriend reckoned that it was really just bashed up oreo cookies.
Would I go back? Absolutely. The fact that the chicken dish didn’t deliver was inconsequential. There were so many elements that were executed brilliantly that I simply think that dish was bad luck. The whole experience was characterful, vibrant and beautifully thought out and I look forward to trying some more of the complex and utterly surprising dishes.