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8-10 Pollen Street, Mayfair
London W1S 1NQ
020 7290 7600
Housed in a Georgian house just moments off bustling Regent Street, Pollen Street Social does a roaring business lunch trade, offering a spot for clients to indulge in Michelin-star dining without the stiff tablecloths and uptight service. The diverse set of menus celebrates the best of British produce, paired with a comprehensive wine list that’s sure to tickle even the pickiest of taste buds.
A bit of background
Pollen Street was the launchpad for Jason Atherton’s restaurant empire, his first solo venture after leaving Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen way back in 2011. Since then, he’s opened restaurants in far-flung culinary hotspots, including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai and St Moritz, as well as expanded his hold over London with Social Eating House, City Social and Hai Cenato, amongst others. Pollen Street set the standard for what was to come – it received its first Michelin star within six months of opening, a feat followed by Social Eating House and City Social.
Menus span from the three-course lunch menu to the nine-course tasting extravaganza, with the option for a la carte sitting squarely in the middle. There are also vegetarian and vegan-specific menus for those looking to stick to plants.
Regardless of your dietary requirements, each menu reads like a random collection of Michelin-level pantry ingredients. However, the skill of Jason and Head Chef Dale Bainbridge lies in bringing them together to create dishes that are, to quote one of our group, ‘bloody tasty’. As with most starred menus, servings are delicately sized, but rich in flavour and texture, leaving no-one wanting.
There’s an emphasis on British seasonality, with the menu detailing just how far the ingredients have travelled to get to your plate – suckling pig travels just 289 miles from Cumbria, while cultured butter originates just 56 miles away in Oxfordshire.
We open with a selection of amuse bouches, a riff on the traditional English high tea, setting the tone for what’s to come. While all the starters we enjoyed were impressive, the pressed Norfolk quail and duck liver, served with truffle-dressed vegetables and a liver toastie; and raw Orkney sea scallop with pickled kohlrabi and nashi pear, are the standouts. While sitting at opposite ends of the decadence spectrum, both are executed beautifully, with refined touches that elevate each bite.
The mains are equally as inspiring – while initially dubious of the chocolate vinegar served with a saddle of fallow deer, it proved a masterstroke, adding a tartness to the tender protein. The seabass is also cooked perfectly, served with shellfish fondue and crushed potatoes. We interrupt our journey towards dessert with a detour to cheese – presented in all its glory on a drinks trolley. The waiter is excellent at explaining the provenance and peculiarities of each block, before slicing off magnificent morsels for us to nibble on.
Disappointingly, dessert is where Pollen Street falls short – the pistachio soufflé is overly sweet, despite the 70% chocolate accompaniment. Luckily, the wine more than makes up for this oversight – the sommelier takes on the preferences of our party and exceeds all expectations, leading one of us to take note of her suggestions for next time.
Pollen Street Social is split into two minimalist dining rooms – the first dominated by a dark-wood bar and the second surrounded by contemporary art and linen hangings. Despite the number of people in each room, it’s never overly noisy, nor too quiet – the perfect atmosphere for a business lunch. Should your principal be looking for something a little more intimate, there’s also a private dining room downstairs, which also doubles up as a sommelier’s room, should they be wine-inclined. It looks through to the development kitchen, where Jason and Dale’s team experiment with new combinations.
Pollen Street is the ultimate business meeting destination. It’s private enough to discuss confidential matters, yet buzzy enough to impress, with a beautiful British menu to boot. With the option for a quick lunch, or a lazy afternoon working through the nine courses of the tasting menu in the private dining room, there’s something for every principal.
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