Friday, 5 April 2013

Social climbing up Pollen Street

Pollen Street Social @PollenStSocial
8 Pollen Street, W1S 1NQ

Given the responsibility of booking somewhere for my parent's birthday is always one riddled with high expectations, due to somehow having 'expertise' in the matter. My PhD funding doesn't exactly stretch a great deal, so needed to find a great value lunch deal that also had some edge of sophistication  After about 2 hours sifting through menus, reviews and locations, I finally came across Pollen Street Social with 3 courses for £29.50. Stands to reason then after all that time the Evening Standard published a great piece on set menus, not more than a few days after my tiresome search,  no PSS in it though. But after an ringing endorsement from Shahz  (worth 10 reviews!) I was pretty pleased to get a reservation for a Saturday lunch with a week to go!

Pollen Street Social is right in the heart off busy shopping central in London off Regents Street. Barely a minute away from the Apple Store, in alley, that has barely any through fare. There is hardlyanything down here, except for PSS and Jason Atherton's newer place, Little Social just opposite.
PSS is deceptively large inside, split up between the entrance bar area, and the dining room. The dining room is split up again with a large section in the middle for the wines and waiter station and dessert bar at the head of the room. No doubt they have to great through a fair amount of covers, which is a daunting prospect considering the food they are putting forward as there is no compromise in this regard. Attention to detail here is great, and there are a ridiculous amount of smart staff here to cover that, we even got a little stool to put our bags (and camera!) next to the table.
Despite being 'limited' to a set menu, I don't feel selections are comprised to lesser dishes from the more pricey a la carte. For sure though, it could do with some footnotes Pig's head hidden neatly under the guise of 'Porc de tete', my GCSE French just about able to cope with that. With crispy pig ears and black pudding it was a bit elusive that this was to be a terrine, but  from those ingredients was more enticing than the crab salab or slow cooked eggs with 'mushroom on toast'.
To pass the time we were given some of the lightest pork scratchings I've had, and some fantastic quality olives with salt cod puree as aperitifs.

Appertifs - Fluffy pork scratchings and apple sauce, olives & brandade de moure (salt cod purée)

The terrine was incredible, with the dense pig's head meat broken up with some smooth fois gras and fig. The pig ears were deliciously chewy, akin to the texture and consistency of liquorice albeit a meaty flavour. The apple puree brought everything together when spread on the accompanied sourdough toast. The presentation was divine, which for something like a terrine I would think hard to make appealling, like the ugly girl with the good heart at a prom. Clearly a lot of effort has gone into making this look pretty.

Tête de porc, crispy ear, black pudding, piccalilli gel
For mains was the choice of Roasted cornish cod, Muntjac deer, or pig jowl. Muntjac deer are those 'cute' little ones often found scuttling in the undergrowth in the country,  but they are over populated causing havoc on the countryside, and quite difficult to shoot compared to roe, and damn tasty too (guilt free). After already having part of a pig's head it would be a bit OTT to have more. With the rest of the table going for the deer with beetroot, I went for the cod. Some what of a regretful choice, while it was a good dish, it really didn't hit the heights of the beautifully cooked deer dish which was inspired.  
For my dish there was not enough purée or red wine sauce to pacify the dryness of the quinoa and roasted cod and bring it all together. A shame as the flavours combined with the cockles well. The brocolli stem reminded me more of something I used to leave on the side of my plate when I was young un, my mum reminding me to eat my greens.

Roasted cornish hake, broccoli stem, cockles, crispy quinoa, whipped artichoke
 Muntjack Deer (right in natural habit, aww), beetroot, red onions, purée potatoes, smoked beetroot juice

With their own dessert bar next to us, there was something of great expectations for dessert, but that never did Pip much good. Choices on the set menu were 'tiramisu', mascarpone or rhubarb with basil ash meringue. I persuaded Mum to go for something off the main menu, it being her special day after all, the chocolate ganache with coral was more than worthy of the occasion  A spectacular looking dish whose taste mimicked it's beauty. 
The menu is full of " ", seems from what we had denoting something deconstructed. In the starters 'mushrooms on toast' and here the 'tiramisu'. Names aside, and trying to be too clever, this was a indulgent end to the meal especially pouring over the creamy hot chocolate, not only on the dish but on the table cloth as well. Refinement clearly not extending to the customers!

Captivating dessert - Chocolate ganache, banana ice cream, Pedro Ximenez, chocolate coral

What lies beneath - Rhubarb, chantilly cream, mint oil, hidden under wafers of basil ash meringue
Batty dessert - 'Tiramisu', mascarpone, chocolate sorbet
Pollen Street Social is definitely a place for an occasion. Great food, good level of service, fabulous to attention to detail, but yet laidback enough to be able to relax. With the glass fronted kitchen, dessert bar and wine/waiter station in the middle there is more than enough restaurant watching to do. Service is efficient, never was a glass of water left to go dry, while at the same time it was not overwhelming. What's worth noting from both mains is the amount of food given is ample without being too much, a very careful balance, as too little can make it underwhelming
It's often stated that a place can be judged purely by the quality (or lack) of their toilets. With individual towels to wipe your hands on, this is definitely a step up from the places I'm used to dining. Also downstairs is a glass front to their hanging pigs heads, steaks and other hanging meats. Privy for what is to come. 
PSS strikes a careful balance of refinement, food, ambience and service. Really enjoyed my lunch here. And did my folks

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