Pollen Street Social, Mayfair
Jason Atherton seems to be in charge of the London restaurant scene at the moment. Last month he opened his third restaurant of the year, Berner’s Tavern, and the reviews are just getting better and better. I recently dated at his original London eatery Pollen Street Social to understand why his food is so sought after.
The dining room is light, bright and modern. Tables are arranged carefully, utilising every inch of floor space, to allow for as many guests as possible. I didn’t notice any music, the animated chatter of the diners provides a pleasant soundtrack to the meal. On a Saturday lunchtime the large West End dining room was full to the brim: jolly business lunches, family catch-ups and romantic couples surrounded us.
The set lunch menu has to be one of the best value Michelin-star choices on offer in London (two courses for £26, or three courses for £29.50). They don’t skimp on extras either – you’ll enjoy the pre-starter nibbles and the palette cleanser enormously.
Pumpkin and Parmesan velouté was a comforting and intriguing starter served with chunks of pickled apples and pears (tangy and surprising), and brioche crumbs (seriously moreish). The meaty mosaic game terrine was a less creative recipe though the plate looked beautiful, decorated with elderberries and cobnuts.
Our mains were exquisite. The chocolate and orange roast partridge was one of the best main courses I have had in a while and the Red-legged partridge was cooked to perfection, amazingly tender white meat with a delightful crisp edge. Celeriac, kale and game chips (more like crisps) completed the dish. My only complaint, it arrived luke warm. My date loved the braised Lake District lamb neck with haggis, neeps and tatties; a modern take on a classic British dish – a large portion he seemed to have no trouble polishing it off.
Try just one option from the dessert menu, sharing the passion fruit sorbet with vanilla sable, meringue and coriander foam. Taste wise it had a strong fruity flavour but was the least exciting of the courses. We were more impressed by the super thin shards of sweet meringue.
Pollen Street Social gives the opportunity to show off without looking ostentatious. Centrally located, this restaurant should ideally fit into a day date itinerary, and for foodie enthusiasts it is perfect. Spoil your date with a Michelin meal with no fuss or pretence. Start with a glass of fizz then impress your date by calling over the sommelier to help pick you out the perfect bottle of wine, or opt for course by course pairings. It is a treat lunch that won’t break the bank. After lunch wander down to Embankment, or take in some culture at nearby art gallery, The Royal Academy.
At lunchtime this restaurant can feel a little geared towards business lunches. The service is swift and efficient making it not so easy to linger over your linguine. I imagine dinner encourages a more intimate atmosphere.
3. More about fine dining than fondling but nevertheless a solid first date option for laying the groundwork.