In terms of “making the noise”, Jason Atherton (formerly head chef at Maze) and his new venture, Pollen Street Social, must be way up there at the top. It was an eagerly anticipated place to add to the London eating out scene, and that’s not surprising given the high standard Maze managed to achieve in the past few years. I was impressed with Maze most of the times – exciting menu, exquisite dishes with food that’s exciting to look at and eat. I had some very memorable meals at Maze, despite my last meal (being the surprise 40th birthday dinner organised by friends) being a bit of a let-down. I had a lot of respect for Jason Atherton and so I was looking forward to going to Pollen Street Social, to see what new level of excitement this talented chef could offer. The restaurant opened in mid-April, and I had the perfect excuse to go there with Russell for his pre-birthday dinner in early-May.
It was a decent-size venue – somehow reminding me of a slightly less glitzy version of Maze. It was not full at the time of us arriving, but it was already pretty noisy. After ordering some cocktails, we started studying the menu and debating what to eat. We were told that we could create our own tasting menus as some of the main courses could be served in half portions, allowing for more dishes to be sampled. So that’s exactly what we ended up doing.
For start, Russell, being a foie gras lover, opted for smoked foie gras with black sesame and smoked golden raisin. That was a no-brainer really.
For me, I was intrigued by the “Full English Breakfast” – it was an interesting reconstruction of the ingredients found in a breakfast: poached egg, bacon, tomato sauce, mushroom etc. It sounded more interesting than it looked, and it looked more interesting than it tasted. It was pleasant enough but somehow lacking any wow factors.
For the second course, we decided to do a fish course. I opted for the roasted cod with sea vegetables, creamed potatoes, lemon peel and English asparagus. I was not sure if the fish was frozen previously – even if it was not, the texture certainly seemed to point to that.
Russell had the roasted halibut, Catalan paella, sprouting broccoli, pork-ham fat and mussel stock. When the dish first came out, it was without the paella and it actually looked nice. But once the generous portion of the paella was piled onto the plate, it actually looked a mess (as in the picture below) – the presentation needed improvement.
For the meat courses, the Roasted Dingley Dell pork, beetroot, hops, seeds and grains was on the dry side – another disappointment. I had rack of Cotswold lamb with braised belly and sheep’s milk curd, which was better, though it was quite a heavy dish. So by the time we finished eating this course, our stomachs felt like they were weighed down by a ton of bricks.
For the desserts, Russell went for the traditional English rice pudding, hay ice-cream and lime jelly. The rice pudding was nice enough on its own, and it did not really need the other ingredients which made the dish too busy really. My Sangria mousse, blood orange granita with curd milk jam was very tangy bitterness – to the point where it was not that pleasant as a dessert. I finished it but it’s not something I’d have again.
On the whole, we were walked away from the restaurant feeling disappointed. We didn’t expect this to be Maze reincarnated, but we just could not think of anything which would entice us to come back for another visit straight away. The restaurant could just be trying to find its feet still – Maybe we would give it another try after 6-12 months.
Address: 8-10 Pollen Street, London, W1S 1NQ, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7290 7600
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday only: Lunch: 12:00-14:45 ; Dinner: 18:00-22:45
Total: 13/20 [Based on visit in May 2011 ]