Opening Night @ Pollen St Social
18th Apr 2011
The excitement was at fever-pitch the week reservation lines went open for Pollen Street Social (PSS), similar to that of Heston’s ‘Dinner’. They only seemed to be advertising the telephone reservations line and not the website booking system, why I don’t know to increase hype from engaged phone lines. I managed to get through and landed myself a table for the launch night. Fellow tweeps also declared their attendance, so I knew I’d be in good company. Excitement was also spurred on when the menu was posted on the website the weekend prior to opening, but without prices. Chat ensued ‘Wonder what would the prices be like’ and ‘Ooh, I recognise that from Maze’ etc.
On arrival we each received some PSS Keys, a nice touch (we presumed for sort of gift on exit). The decor is light and airy with a very eclectic mix of ‘Art’. The restaurant has 4 different areas: tapas/cocktails bar, dining area, dessert bar and private dining downstairs. The dessert bar I find an interesting concept, which I’ve experienced in New York, Singapore and of course at William Curley’s (here in London). In some respects I wonder if it’s a Restaurateurs’ clever ruse for table turning in a polite manner. But, all the same as a fan of desserts, I love the idea and showcase of the concept.
When seated I especially liked the little handbag stool brought over; thankfully I had my worthy enough ‘Julien MacDonald’ that night. The menu in the first week was hot, cold, mains and desserts. We were told that the restaurant concept was all about sharing dishes, so noted we ordered several dishes from all section to ‘share’. Not my favourite word unless of course I suffer from food envy and then I’m always willing to cheekily share. I guess it’s appropriate if you’re with a loved one, people you know well, but I’m not usually in the habit of dunking my egg with acquaintances or heaven forbid, had I been entertaining clients on business. Thankfully, Jason has reviewed this and has now halved and combined the original list of 16 hot/cold starters, of which a tasting menu could now be created. Most recently Jason helped judge the 2011 heats of ‘The Great British Menu’ , the theme being sharing. I did have a little chuckle at this…fine words but a hard task to master indeed.
I need to come back to try out the cocktail list, it’s immense, with a great feature on gin and ‘food-driven’ cocktails. On the night I had an aperitif of a ‘Ramos Gin Fizz’, it was pretty heavy, but taste wise, I could get the hints of mango milk and black olive caramel. On the food, I really can’t complain, the dishes that myself and my fellow two diners had were beautiful in presentation, well executed and a pleasure to eat. There were some stand-outs: The English Breakfast, The Aged Casterbridge Onglet and I have to say all the desserts we tried (of which we had 5!).
The Dessert bar had only 6 seats available along the front (on the first night), however there were 2 on either of the sides, I don’t really know why these weren’t offered; instead of making us wait half an hour? In my opinion the only dish so far that grants ‘theatre’ is the Fruta Cru with dry ice. The other desserts are works of art, but more so watching gentle assembly, rather than being wowed by say molecular gastronomy.
I popped into the kitchen to say ‘Hello’ to Jason, he seemed calm and collected, there seemed to be a relaxed vibe to the kitchen, not a pressure cooker at all. However, to add to Jason’s first night nerves, it was the night of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, so around 10pm the restaurant was awash with critics, PR’s and notable chefs such as T. Keller, D. Boulud and I. Chan. What amused me is that the restaurant was fully booked (praise to the PSS Team they took 5000 bookings on the first day) and these esteemed chefs had to plump for eating in the bar area.
The first instance where I was ‘chef struck’ that night is having Alexis Gauthier dining right next to our table. I managed to corner him when I was exploring downstairs. Embarrassingly, I gushed as to how I was a fan and asked for his photo. I don’t know what came over me (the wine probably!). Worse still I had camera fail, he was amused and put me at ease, saying until recently he had the same camera. I told him that I was starting a blog and PSS would be one of my first posts, he wished me well and departed. Woe betide, I seemed to feature in his blog the next morning (I had no idea he kept one) he was critiquing the ‘me-first’ culture of bloggers and mentioned me. Somehow he had misunderstood, I was not attempting to be first to blog at all and it was merely supposed to be one of my first blogs. Hey ho, fame before publishing, so yes, it probably was ‘unsexy’ to ask him to pose by the meat ageing cabinet, and yes hopefully ‘I will learn’ – Thanks Alexis! I love the fact that he was in fact first to post, so watch out bloggers, chef’s are now out there too…
The morning after was spent enjoying my ‘goody bag’ received on returning the key. A PSS tea bag and some lovely financiers, a nice touch indeed. I’m wishing Jason luck in his first solo restaurant, it’s great to see the Team taking feedback on board and making quick changes. There is great attention to detail and staff are so friendly in all manner of communications (phone, email, twitter), so will go back to see different menu changes and to sample a cocktail or two.
Be aware of: Pricing can add up, if you wish to get a gist of the offering, try the set lunch menu, with some nice dishes created for it.
Take time to: Explore the different areas of the restaurant and sit at the actual Dessert bar, probably the highlight for me, as it was nice to see and also peek into the kitchen from there too.
Pollen Street Social
10 Pollen Street
London, W1S 1NQ
020 7290 7600