I first encountered chef Jason Atherton when he was running London's Maze Restaurant, the favourite haunt of local celebrities, politicians and enthusiasts of great culinary art. And now, on my mission to visit the best restaurants of the British capital, I meet the great British culinary master again, this time around - as a restaurateur in his own right. His treasured dream of more than twenty years has now materialised in the shape of the freshly founded Pollen Street Social, a new restaurant that won its first Michelin star only a few months after the opening. The promising start has landed him a busy booking schedule and sores of completely charmed diners of the fair sex: every lady who has a meal at Pollen Street Social receives a special gift after the meal: an exclusive tea bag or some nice little thing for the kitchen. The element of surprise would work well enough anyway, and yet it is further enhanced by the fact that the ladies are already given their keys to the numbered lockers on their arrival; the thought of turning the key and the pleasant suspense of waiting to see what is hidden behind the mysterious door definitely adds to the excitement of the meal.
As we sample Jason Atherton's à la carte menu, we celebrate each morsel with a sip of some exclusive wine, available only here - for instance, the phenomenal Pouilly-Fuissé, which has now become my favourite. The lovely sommelière makes the wine-savouring pleasure even more exciting with her fascinating stories.
As a light prelude to the meal, a quail with chicken liver cream lands on our table in a burst of flavour, followed by my favourite bird, wood pigeon with fresh celeriac and walnuts, complemented by Jerusalem artichoke sauce - it is bang on. The taste of the bird and the garnish is as pure and intense as I have ever experienced before: little wonder then that the Michelin star was never distant and hard to reach for Pollen Street Social - not with Jason Atherton practising this kind of culinary style!
The star dish of the menu is next: scallop ceviche with horseradish snow, cucumber, apple and yuzu soy dressing... A combination I just have to recreate in my own kitchen.
It has been a long time since I have tasted culinary gems like these, and so I am looking forward to the main course with special enthusiasm - but not before feasting on a version of Full English Breakfast: a sow-boiled egg (hour and a half at 45 degrees); tomato; bacon; morels and toasts. So very British and yet so very unusual.
And now its time for roasted halibut and broccoli sprouts and the moreish Catalan paella with a playful crunch of seafood shells. For the meat course I choose ox-cheek, tongue and sirloin with raisin purée and horseradish. It definitely ticks all the boxes for me, and yet the dish that really crosses the t's and dots the i's is the dessert: chocolate pavé cake with mango sorbet: it is more than delicious, it is heavenly.
We enjoy our meal and drinks in the pleasant and informal Pollen Street Social atmosphere that Jason Atherton himself would love to 'eat, drink and socialise in'.
Keywords: restaurant, London