Two of my favourite things: Getting to choose the restaurant, and having someone else buy me lunch! Both were accomplished on my visits to Pollen Street Social, in Mayfair, last summer – which was rather fabulous since the prices are a little toppy!
Bang opposite its little sister Little Social on narrow Pollen Street, which runs parallel to Regent Street, you can tell from the exterior that Pollen Street Social is the kind of place you want to be and be seen in. The glass frontage shows a cleanly designed interior with gorgeous artworks and carefully chosen lighting, and the clientele are clearly a well-heeled bunch.
The master chef behind Pollen Street Social is Jason Atherton, a British chef who has gained experience working under greats such as Pierre Koffmann, Nico Ladenis, Marco Pierre White and, most recently, Gordon Ramsay. Jason left Ramsay’s Maze restaurant in 2010 and created his own restaurant company, with the Pollen Street flagship opening in 2011. A regular star in magazines, newspapers and on TV, Atherton is quite a magician in the kitchen – bursting with ideas, he creates stunningly presented dishes that are a total joy to consume.
But back onto the restaurant. A contemporary bistro offering “deformalised dining”, Pollen Street Social aims to be a modern urban meeting point for eating, drinking and socialising, for special occasions or everyday. The restaurant has several zones, with a Social Bar (at which you can drink and/or dine), a main restaurant, and a Dessert Bar, as well as a private dining room. I have dined at PSS twice, once at the Social Bar for a light lunch, and a second time in the restaurant (a bit more fancy – they even brought me a miniature chair to put my handbag on, so that I could keep it close by… OTT?).
All visits start with a selection of small but perfectly formed hors d’oeuvres, and some freshly baked bread with flavoured butters. Dishes that stood out for me were a salad starter with edible flowers interwoven amongst ribbon-cut seasonal vegetables – it was so pretty to behold; and a main course of chorizo, with a perfectly soft poached egg and a cheese foam (not a mousse and not a liquid, but a distinctly light and airy foam) – unbelievably rich in flavour and a real delight to the senses.
Andrew ordered the Loin of Highland venison, a perfect hunk of meat which was served with honey spiced beetroots, quince purée and pickled pears – a combination that you couldn’t hope to find anywhere else, but which totally works.
We finished up with fresh mint tea in bone china teacups, and were offered a choice of complementary sweets from a beautiful wooden chest – truffles, macarons and Turkish delight were laid out and ours for the taking – the sweetest finale to a wonderful dining experience.
The set lunch menu is £26 for 2 courses, or £29.50 for 3; a la carte main courses are around £30. If you’re not feeling so flush but still want to indulge and enjoy the PSS ambience, head for the dedicated Dessert Bar, which serves a sweet selection of mind-blowing delicacies for around £10.
Pollen Street Social is one of those restaurants that you need to experience at least once. It is one of the loveliest dining experiences I have ever had, with impeccable service, stunning interior design and faultless food, without conforming to any mould – it entirely stands alone in what it does, and I loved it. If the prices were within my range, I would eat here at any and every occasion I could!