POLLEN STREET SOCIAL – OXFORD CIRCUS

The Hype

Relatively new and highly regarded michelin star dining in Mayfair, from the same Jason Atherton who trained underneath Gordon Ramsay and was responsible for Maze. The draw in this case being that it’s intended as a more fun, informal and relaxed restaurant than you might usually expect to get with fine dining at this level. John Lanchester called it ‘properly brilliant.’

© Create Commons courtesy of Ewan – M on Flickr

The Food

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I don’t care if you ‘don’t really have a sweet tooth’ because desserts are always the showstoppers in starred restaurants and this was no exception. Unfortunately we were so full that we just shared one, but the chocolate ganache, banana ice cream, salted caramel and *other delicious lovely crunchy things* (apparently ‘chocolate coral’) concoction was up there with some of the best things I’ve ever tasted, ever. If we’d had any space at all I’d have loved to have tried the ‘PBJ’, a fun twist on the classic american peanut butter & jelly sandwich.

Our starters were also exciting – I had the ‘english breakfast’ which tasted exactly like an english breakfast but looked a lot like a poached egg atop some goo with crumbs sprinkled on top. Very clever. My date had the scallops which came with ‘horseradish snow’ served directly at the table from what can only be described as a cauldron. I’m a sucker for that showy stuff and apparently the scallop-snow combo was fantastic.

I will say our main was just good, not brilliant – we had the 1kg cote de boeuf to share with chips, salad and sauces. It was certainly on the medium side of medium-rare and slightly fattier than I would have liked for the £75 price tag – I couldn’t help wondering what that money would have got me* at the Hawksmoor. That said, the chips were hot and crisp, the sauces perfect and the simple refreshing salad was just what was needed. Given it’s not a steak restaurant, we probably could have done ourselves a favour by ordering more creatively.

© Creative Commons courtesy of Ewan – M on Flickr

The Drink

We were surprised to have to wait at the bar for a drink and struggle to find seats but once we overcame those obstacles the cocktail list didn’t disappoint. The menu is intended to be lighthearted – the Frequent Flyer coming with ‘free first class upgrade’ and the Breakfast Fizz coming with ‘jam and toast.’ I had a Professor, loosely based on dandelion and burdoch, and it was delicious and not at all gimmicky in execution.

I have to give brownie points to the wine list for unashamedly including some good proseccos and cavas in the fizz section, and the Saniger we had was just right, as was the red we had with the steak, which was a Château de Parenchère, Bordeaux Supérieur.

The Fun

I like this place because it has a nice ‘bustle’ and surprisingly unpretentious clientele. It’s nice to be able to see into the kitchen and the décor isn’t trying to be super cool, it’s just relaxed and welcoming. Despite the planned informal vibe, even eating a la carte you get a lot of the extra special touches that you expect from a top restaurant – the upfront nibbles (olives, prawn crackers and bread) were a delight, as was the ‘pre-dessert’ yogurt and sorbet concoction and the petit fours at the end.

Overall Experience

The staff were absolutely lovely and made our visit a real pleasure, although I will say my pet hate is ordering wine from a waiter, then having to reorder it from the sommelier because of the internal hierarchies, which happened twice. Also, our waitress brought us english instead of wholegrain mustard when requested for our steak because apparently ‘they don’t offer many sauces. ’ That said, our waiter brought me a birthday cake to take home when he realised it was my birthday which was a great touch.

The matre’d came over at the end to ask how our experience had been which was nice, although he asked “was the beef big enough?” in a way that made us wonder how many people complained, and also made us decide that probably it wasn’t, which we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise!

On a final point – while I’m all for informal and relaxed, it’s definitely the first time I’ve had to queue for ten minutes for the toilet in a Michelin starred restaurant, especially when the waiter had told me I needed to ‘be quick’!

Go there if…

You’re keen to try a top end restaurant in central London, want something that is quite ‘in’, has a young vibe, want fun rather than pretentious fine dining and have plenty of space on your credit card.

Don’t go there if…

You’re on a budget, or want your cooking so unpretentious that cocktails with coco pops milk or mentions of gels, crumbles, balms and nitros will tip you over the edge.

If you’re pretending to have been there don’t forget to mention…

Downstairs you can see the meat hanging cabinet and the wine fridges en route to the bathrooms which is a nice touch – and there is a glass wall between the male and female toilets which is a little unsettling!

For more information…

See haricovertundergroundrestaurant and Crump Eats.

*if I had been paying…..

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