Pollen Street Social
For many reasons it felt like a day to celebrate. Top of the list was the arrival of my nephew Ethan who was born around breakfast time. There was some progress with my house sale after much faffing over recent months, as well. And I had a spare Friday night in London to do whatever I fancied.
Accordingly, I thought a spot of decent dinner was in order so I snagged an early table at 1 Michelin star Pollen Street Social.
As the name hints at, the set up of this place is rather less formal than you’d expect from fine dining. It feels not unlike a smartish Edinburgh New Town bar and it had a reminiscent blend of diners and drinkers throughout the time I spent there.
The menu is much more as you’d expect with a robustly priced a la carte and a tasting menu coming in just below the £100 mark.
I toyed with the a la carte but soon settled upon the tasting menu. I eschewed the drinks pairing in favour of a couple of glasses to match the fish and main courses.
Things opened with ‘afternoon tea’ of canapes – smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese fairy cake, and a beetroot and blackberry tartlette – with mushroom and parmesan tea. This set the tone for the inventive dishes that subsequently featured.
Next up was ‘fish n chips’ which comprised confit potato dusted with vinegar powder and topped with taramosolata cod.
We were in further quirky territory for the next course with oyster ice cream topped with oyster leaf. This was splendid, but signalled the start of a pre-occupation with frozen things.
The Shetland scallop was overpowered by a citrusy jalapeno granita spooned on at the table by the wonderfully attentive waitress. The scallop and kohlrabi worked very well, but it was a busted dish with the granita. The accompanying glass of Riesling redeemed things in part.
The fish course of turbot, asparagus, morel and vin jaune sauce was topped with crisp chicken skin shards. It was a good dish but didn’t quicken the pulse.
The outstanding dish of the evening was the lamb main course featuring loin and a shoulder hotpot. It was hearty and packed with almost limitless depth of flavour. The accompanying Temperanillo was excellent.
The one slight issue was that the entirely deep purple and brown plate didn’t work in the low lighting meaning that I inadvertently tanned all the beetroot and blackcurrant sauce in a oner which was a bit of a shame.
In a shocking development, I opted for no cheese course as there was the prospect of three desserts to follow.
This started with an ice-cream flavour challenge which was again very inventive. You got to blind taste five flavours, then open the accompanying envelope to reveal the answers. I got coconut correct, but failed to identify goat’s cheese, bay leaf, popcorn and lemon verbena. The last one was bordering on unpleasant with a very bitter finish.
Poached pear was topped with a Champagne granita – 2 granitas and 7 ice-creams are surely too many for one meal – and was in the realms of a pleasant palette-cleanser.
The dessert highlight was the layered chocolate pave with olive oil ice cream.
There were very substantial final sweet nibbles to follow with a macaron, a praline and a little Bakewell tart style cake all of which were good.
So overall, Pollen Street Social is a place packed with inventive dishes but service, wine and an obsession with cold things shone more strongly than the consistency of execution I had expected from this style of dining experience. It has an unfussy style that is deliberately cast against the Michelin stereotype formality, but while the service aspects of that approach worked really well, a number of dishes lacked focus and really convincing crispness.
Blythe scores Pollen Street Social
3.5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for service
3.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 15.5/20
I ate: their tasting menu
I drank: Turkish fortune cocktail, Riesling, Temperanillo
I wore: action footwear
Total bill: £179.44
Address: 8-10 Pollen Street, Mayfair, London W1S 1NQ