Having a lot of hype and a Michelin star is something that always makes me wary about going to visit a restaurant. Having spent a lot of my childhood in France eating at Michelin-starred places with my father, I usually saw a fairly repetitive pattern emerging of the same style of cooking, overly expensive wine and quite stuffy service. This place is quite the opposite! Firstly, the food is excellent in quality, as one would expect, but with far more playful and inventive execution than I was expecting. Having said that, Chef Atherton has spent time working with the likes of Ferran Adria, so i suppose some influence was bound to rub off. This was definitely apparent eating the chef's menu, though I think the a la carte dishes would probably be similarly pleasing. Salmon presented in a smoking cedar box? Check. Scallop sashimi on a bed of dry ice? That too. An amusingly deconstructed "PB&J" that tastes better than the sandwich? That came at the end, right after one of the best pork dishes I've ever had in my life. Everything had very distinctive flavours, all fairly clean, intense and separate in the same manner as Adria's notoriously El Bulli focused on. But I must not forget the drinks too! The cocktails kept the same level of quirkiness and playful touches, using all sorts of different serves and garnishes (copper mule tins, fake $100 bills pegged onto the rim, with names like "The Wonky Donkey" and "The Artist Formerly Known As Quince"). Not only were the cocktails some of the best-balanced and well-conceived I've had in London, especially at the pricetag of £12-15 where a lot of snobby hotel bars charge the same prices for substandard spirits in unimaginative drinks. If you don't want to pay more than a tenner for a cocktail though, the wine list is superb, and as a sommelier I feel quite jealous of the sheer depth and breadth of the selection. They have everything from the old-school through to wines that are sure to become popular with enough exposure, from fairly far-flung countries like Bulgaria, Croatia and even China! Nice to see a Michelin-starred restaurant taking a bit of a risk with the wine list, especially when a lot of the more interesting wines are priced at £50 per bottle or less. In short, this is probably my new favourite place in London if I have a special occasion to celebrate. Finding it mighty hard to choose between here and Le Gavroche for my birthday!
Pollen Street Social
Pollen Street Social
Michael Franke / Time Out
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Wed Oct 17 2012
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.
Pollen Street Social 8-10 Pollen Street
- Venue phone:
020 7290 7600
- Venue website:
- Opening hours:
Bar Open noon-midnight Mon-Sat. Restaurant Lunch served noon-2.30pm, dinner served 6-10.30pm Mon-Sat
Tube: Oxford Circus tube
Main courses £29.50-£38. Set lunch £26 2 courses, £29.50 3 courses; £65 tasting menu. Set dinner £60-£85 tasting menu
Pollen Street Social
- 8-10 Pollen Street
- 020 7290 7600
- 8-10 Pollen Street
- Pollen Street Social
Average User Rating
3.8 / 5
- 5 star:10
- 4 star:2
- 3 star:1
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:4
Excellent - extremely good service (attentive but not pushy) and superb food. Really enjoyed the evening. I agree with other comments that the acoustics are bad - sometimes finding it hard to hear the person I was eating with and the tables feel quite close together. Generally. however a great experience from being greeted at the door to leaving at the end of the night.
Not a nice experience. We went this past Saturday and had the set Lunch. We were seated in the bar area, which was a nice place to sit, probably not as noisy as the main room. The food was really just ok and even though the set Lunch isn't expensive it felt like too much. My salmon with water cress soup had an overwhelming salty taste of 'fish' and none of cress… The lamb as a main had an overall pleasant taste, but the texture of the rump was far too chewy. I could not even finish it. And for the service: uninterested, slow and uninformed. Maybe the interest was focused on the busy dining room, but we spent a long time waiting between courses. One member of the staff was somewhat thrown by a question of whether the mint pesto contained Pine nuts and insisted on there being Peanuts in it. As a consequence of his insecurity he only poured the sauce for the lamb on my companions plate and left me without. His senior colleague fixed this promptly when asked and also confirmed that of course no Peanuts but Pine nuts were in the Pesto. I left the restaurant with a bad feeling and would really hesitate to recommend it. The overall feeling was 'Nice cocktail bar', not for eating. I was really surprised to learn they had a Michelin star.
Went here on a whim for the Saturday set lunch (three courses for £25). As we hadn't booked we ate at the bar. It was faultless - delicious food and very good portions for a set lunch plus charming extras (olives and a salt cod dip; a palate cleanser of grapefruit granita and delicious petit fours). The staff were charming, easy going and attentive without being stuffy. It was one of the best dining experiences I have had in a long time. Am already booking another trip back in a few weeks. Well done Jason Atherton!
An honest review - why do most people write a review? in my opinion it's because they've either had an amazing or amazingly awful experience... I had neither! My group of 5 were booked in on the day which I did not expect was going to be achievable and upon entry at 18:30hrs we were greeted by friendly and helpful staff. We were seated and tended to attentively as you would expect from a restaurant that I'm sure are striving for a Michelin star or two... we ordered from the main menu (I wanted the attractive looking taster menu but was voted out). I had the full English to start (slightly different to The Maze dish), nice but the tomato base overpowered the rest of the ingredients. Duck for main was perfect, cooked two ways and compared to the lamb and beef was by far the best dish. Our pleasant experience started to drop, the restaurant itself is nearly all made of hard material and therefore noise bounces all over the place making it very hard to hear the person opposite to you without shouting. That was a minor thing sadly however the increased lack of attention/forgetfulness of the staff increased as the restaurant began to fill. They're passed opening teething problems now so I can't really explain it, staff were asked three/four times for drinks orders and sparkling water was topped up with a jug of tap water. You could argue that I'm being petty but I refer back to the Michelin star and Jason Atherton, having eaten at the Maze several times and been lucky enough to have met the Chef I know this is not what he had in mind when he opened the restaurant. The bill was less than £100pp which was a nice surprise. In summary over all lovely food, staff lack the finishing touch and make sure you sit close if you go. I have no doubt Chef Atherton will gain his Michelin star and afterwards the prices may rise so get in quick but prepare for a few disappointments along the way. Oh and get the Apple 'puff' desert if you've got room... awesome!!
Came for lunch today. Everything was superb. Our starters were served by Mr A himself whilst explaining all the ingredients.Great wines with each course recommended by the sommelier. Although we had been before in the evening when everything was served at the table, I assumed the invitation to the dessert bar was to free up our table. This was not the case as our table remained free in a busy service. It was a lovely surprise to be given sorbets, grenaches with mousses and chocolates in addition to our chosen desserts. Fantastic value
I don't understand the bad reviews here at all. I eat out several times a week, and easily put Pollen Street up there with my best ever meals. The service was perfect, efficient, understated. The ambience is one of relaxed refinement, and it's clear that a lot of thought and money has gone into the interior, which on a cold winter's day was like a welcome into a luxury log cabin. Even the girls on the cloakroom were sweet and charming. The food...well...what to say? The salt-cod brandade with divine warm bread was a nice touch... my starter of cauliflower and squid was simple, yet with interesting textures and taste combinations. My lamb with artichokes and spiced aubergine was perfectly cooked and also, a really generous size portion, not tiny plates as sometimes happens. We were given a pre-dessert, followed by ordering a selection of the most delicate beautiful desserts....white chocolate parfait with lychee 'clouds', dark chocolate pave with mango and PBJ-peanut butter and Jelly given a whole new twist...the meal was finished by some cute little madeleine type cakes, and even a wave and thank you from Jason Atherton on the pass. I admire him for being in his own kitchen unlike so many of the 'celeb chefs', even at a lunch service. Yes it was expensive but each dish clearly had many processes, and you pay for the skill, time and effort of the chef. I'm looking for another excuse to go back and sample more of the menu......
I can honestly say this restaurant was absolutely hideous. It was completely overpriced, terrible serivce and a menu that is trying too hard. The whole atmosphere was horrible and the food extremely dissapointing. It definitely did not stack up to expectation, the only thing worthwhile was the cocktail menu and you needed a fair few of those to get over the rest of the experiece!
I went for dinner a couple of weeks ago with a friend. We started off with a drink in the bar area and then moved next door for dinner. We both had 3 courses and coud not stop smiling from beginning to end - the food was outstanding. Every mouthful a delight. The staff were excellent - efficient, friendly and helpful. The sommelier was excellent. For what is a pricier end restaurant in central London it is not at all stuffy. We were even given a little goody bag of breakfast muffins when we left - delicious. We will definitely return and have been recommending to others.
The food here continues to be superb after several visits, and the service is absolutely charming. A superb sommelier "Laure" - also from Maze - completes the pleasure. Our new favourite restaurant in the UK, France, the US, or Spain!
Staff was quite nice; professional and tried very hard. There were a few messups (missing cutlery, dishes to the wrong person, but that's just part and parcel of human error, and they were rectified quickly. The food was decent. I had the deer/beetroot starter which didn't really seem like deer to me, but it was presented well and tasted nice. I then went for the ribeye steak (8oz). It was really tender (more tender than Gaucho), but didn't taste chargrilled and was slightly underseasoned. For dessert, I had the chocolate pave with mango sorbet. The chocolate pave was really rich, but the mango sorbet helped cut through it (the mango cubes on the side also helped make it less rich). All in all. I wasn't bowled over by it but I think I may have been expecting too much. Food was lovely, but not overtly novel (although I think it may be a bit too harsh to compare to the likes of Heston's Dinner).
Some hilariously bonkers comments here. Went for lunch and it was super - great food and phenomonal value for money. Only gripe is that the hitherto well-oiled machine of service came completely unstuck when we decided to have our coffees in the bar area, at which point the (charming) waiting staff essentially forgot about us, but otherwise, great. Duncan's comment about the staff being 'mendacious' just reads like blabberings of some bitter rival.
Amazed by the poor comments here. The food was excellent, in particular the squid and ox cheek mentioned above, and the scallop ceviche and puddings. The wine was interesting, different and well priced. I found the service helpful and friendly without being stuffy, though in truth I would have liked a bit more support from the sommelier, who could have given us more support given the 12 different dishes we ended up eating...Luckliy our favourite choices matched the food well. In Summary, the food here is novel, beautifully prepared and presented, and very tasty. For the price, it's not quite up to the standard of the ledbury or hibiscus, but the dining experience isn't anywhere near as farty, which for me is worth a lot. If you go, go because you want to taste food you can't even consider cooking yourself, not to be seen or be cool. The rest will take care of itself
I had a feeling in my bones that the Pollen Street Social would be the 'meal of a lifetime'. Indeed, it was - the worst. What a truly horrendous place. The staff were surly, ignorant and incompetent and the food was overcooked. My starter (escabesche of quail) gave my teeth their most serious test since I was a schoolkid chewing on gobstoppers in the playground. As my molars struggled to cut through each tough line of sinew, i wondered whether the experience would improve. To my amazement, it got WORSE. My main course (rack of cotswold lamb) was dry, tasteless and bland. I had no idea that farming conditions had deteriorated so much in the Cotswolds. Change your suppliers!! When i left this place, i did so without my soul. And my wallet - this place is a rip off. If you want to be in the 'in crowd', come here. If you want food that actually tastes nice, don't. Never. Ever. Again. ps - why is there no option to give no stars?
What an appalling experience. The staff are unhelpful, mendacious and supercilious. Steer well clear - there are plenty of good restauarants nearby who treat their customers as human beings.
THE best food I have had other than a two star michelin restaurant in the south of France. Jason Atherton is a genius!