Pollen Street Social, West End

Jason Atherton seems to be in-charge of the London restaurant scene at the moment, last month he opened his third restaurant of the year, and the reviews are just getting better and better. I visited his original London eatery Pollen Street Social recently to understand why his food is so sought after.

The set lunch menu has to be one of the best value michelin-star choices on offer in London (two courses for £26, or three courses for £29.50). They don’t skimp on extras either, we enjoyed the pre-starter nibbles and the palette cleanser enormously.

On a Friday lunchtime the large west end dining room was full to the brim: jolly business lunches, family catchups and romantic couples surrounded us.

Pumpkin and Parmesan velouté was a comforting and intriguing starter served with chunks of pickled apples and pears (tangy and surprising), and brioche crumbs (seriously moreish). The meaty mosiac game terrine was a less creative recipe though the plate looked beautiful, decorated with elderberries and cobnuts.

Our mains were exquisite. I must admit I was sceptical about the chocolate and orange roast partridge but it exceeded all my expectations, one of the best main courses I have had in a while. The Red-legged partridge was cooked to perfection, amazingly tender white meat with a delightful crisp edge. Celeriac, kale and game chips (more like crisps) complete the dish. My only complaint, it arrived luke warm. My guest loved the braised Lake District lamb neck with “haggis, neeps & tatties” – a modern take on a classic British dish. It was a large portion but he seemed to have no trouble polishing it off.

We decided to try just one option from the dessert menu, opting to share passion fruit sorbet with vanilla sable, meringue and coriander foam. Taste wise it had a strong fruity flavour but was the least exciting of the courses. We were more impressed by the super thin shards of sweet meringue.

Pollen Street used to be a dingy, dark, damp alleyway but never again will it be seen that way. Jason Atherton turns every site he touches to gold and from now on Pollen Street will be forever glorified by his fine cuisine.

More information and book here: www.pollenstreetsocial.com

The Blind Pig, The Social Eating House, Soho

The Social Eating House is the third offering from Jason Atherton (Ramsay’s protege), and with this venue he seems to have hit the jackpot, miraculously balancing fine food and a trendy vibe.  Needless to say the Soho zeitgeisters have come running, in hordes.

Not bothered about the excessive queues and waiting list for the main restaurant downstairs, we ventured upstairs to the secretive stylish bar, the Blind Pig instead. Grabbing a table by the window (more natural light and less loud chatter), we got comfy ready for an evening of catching up and indulgent eating.

Cocktail-wise there was one firm favourite for me: the Kindergarten Cup is kitsch, cute and yummy, a strong and sweet cocktail stylishly presented in a martini glass. Made with Skittles washed Ketel One, Aperol, lemon, egg white, ‘Wham Bar’ syrup and vanilla bitters, it is certainly not your average mojito!

Alongside our drinks, we tried most of the bar snacks ‘bite’ list, which exceeded all my expectations; obviously Atherton’s talent extends further than the posh ground floor eatery. I would particularly recommend the jars of spiced aubergine with tomato and parsley and the mushroom macaroni cheese, though the spice pork belly sliders are also delish.

This bar is ideal for trend followers wishing to try the Social Eating House without the hefty pricetag and boring queues. The Blind Pig offers magical cocktails and the best bar snacks I’ve sampled in London. Although I will admit I wasn’t impressed with the sarky service from the grumpy bar staff; perhaps they felt demoted from the restaurant below.

More information here.