His life-long dream, to own his own restaurant a humble goal, thats all he wanted. Now its happening, and within hours Jason Athertons restaurant and Social Room Bar is filled with the crème de la crème of Londons reporters, two big critics, namely Maschler and Rayner, chefs and gastro seekers. Pressure? Expectation? Just the beginning of the maelstrom, which will be swirling around 8-10 Pollen Street.
The Social Room Bar is the life of the restaurant, a space to drop in and out of casually. Its smart too, very smart. Martini is as crisp as a winters morning, glass frosted within a degree of its shatter threshold the kind that has has you enraptured at the thought of almost frozen spirit charging your veins with other-worldly energy. A chiselled and pristine, clear as glass block of ice is the big f**k you of the cocktail bar-tender. Were hardcore, were the real deal, now how dry would you like this Martini? Sahara, please.
Pollen Street Dessert Bar
So with those perfect frozen glasses, block of ice, dazzling array of twenty-eight Gins, my choice of Whitley Neill (soft, balanced, citrus-heavy), a first sip delivers the requisite effect. Full-throttle.
The main room sees a return to the unobtrusive kitchen, tucked away modestly in the corner, something of a respite from the open-kitchen scene which can often come across as some sort of self-flagellating penance for crimes in a past life. What, a chef you say? Well you must perform in front of your adoring public, we want to hear the sizzle, see the maddening flames, feel the droplet of sweat from your flicked hair¦. Or something like that.
Pollen Street Social Interior
Menu sees Starters and Sharing plates, Warm and Hot, Cold, averaging £10 a plate, a short list of five mains which play around the £25-30 mark. We choose just to hit the starters and sharing plates:
I thought I would give a mention to the Full English breakfast - De-constructed fry-up. Slow-cooked egg. Searingly good crisped slivers of Alsace bacon, sweet roast tomato bringing it all together. I may have hallucinated but I think I popped a puckered morsel of morel between my lips, lurking beneath. A liquefied toasted bread sauce is poured with a flourish before eating. Buttered toast, blitzed, I overhear. Dish gets better as you eat, yolk melding with sauce, distilling separate elements into one.
The song clicks on in my head before dessert: Maschler to the left of us, Rayner to the right, here we are, Stuck in the Middle with Them.
The wine list shimmers at Pollen Street Social, no mistake and no co-incidence: Laure Patry, the elfin Head Sommelier has done her dues in town, arriving ten years ago from France and was Head Sommelier at Maze. The list bristles with energy and interest. First to catch the eye are the Pollen Street Social own-label red and white, which she sourced herself, making it an exclusive. The white is an Anjou Chenin Blanc, and is taut, finely boned and balanced. Im from Anjou, she says. Insider knowledge enriches the restaurant.
Champagne includes Jacquesson from magnum as house (£12.50), with other excellent names, Gosset among them, and grower Champagne Gimonnet. Thomas Keller would have approved its by the glass at The French Laundry.
Atherton emerges from the kitchen at the end of the night, propping up the Dessert Bar, admitting hes exhausted from the thrill of his baby finally being born in Mayfair, and no doubt the drain of dealing with wave after wave of well wishers, critics and a roll-call of Inter-Galactic chefs who just happened to be attending the highest profile restaurant awards list in the world. Enough to drain the best of them.
You musnt forget the hub of the restaurant, being the Social Room Bar, is an unreserved space. As this exquisite restaurant and bar will be booked up well in advance, you still dont have to miss out by popping in and crossing your fingers for a space or two. Martin Renshaw, Assistant Manager, reveals that the whole menu can be eaten at the unreserved bar, including the delicious desert plates and of course you can work your way through the vast array of Gins. We want it to be casual, no rules.
Samuel L. Jackson would approve.