Pollen Street Social’s philosophy is ‘deformalised fine dining’, and to this end the decor is smart but approachable – white-walled, linen draped and wood-panelled.
Dishes are grounded in French and English tradition and embellished with occasionally esoteric side notes of texture and taste, sometimes garnered from chef Jason Atherton’s travels.They’re seasonal too, in terms of ingredients, but not necessarily in mood. On the hot June day of our visit, we craved something more refreshing than à la carte starters of roasted quail ‘brunch’ or braised ox cheek with parsley and oyster purée.
The great-value set lunch felt distinctly more spring than summer, even though a dish of Wiltshire pork belly, spiced cheek and apple mustard purée was enlivened by lemon zest paste. It was beautifully put together but begged the question of how ‘deformalised’ fine dining can be before it becomes good gastropub fare.
The delicious subtlety and artistry of Cornish sea bass and red mullet with bouillabaisse sauce, fennel, cuttlefish and saffron potato (self-served from the pan) answered that, as did a masterly strawberry and basil eton mess (it’s worth noting that you can come in just for a dessert). Service was perhaps slightly too casual for this level, with water served warm and iceless, and an overlong wait (and this was lunchtime) for the main courses. So, while the cooking was excellent, our overall experience was a little bland.