Jason Atherton opened his new restaurant Pollen Street Social a day early for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants academy dinner. Here’s how we got on Most chefs would want an early night and a clear head the night before opening their new restaurant, but Jason Atherton isn’t any ordinary chef. That’s why on Sunday night on the eve of opening Pollen Street Social, his impressive first solo venture in London’s Mayfair, he and his team were behind the stove preparing one final service before the real-deal on Monday. And what a service, too.
In the run up to the opening Atherton had cooked for friends, family and chefs – although he admitted that a number of food critics had managed to slip in under the radar – but this was something altogether different. Gathered on Sunday night were the academy chairs of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards, esteemed food writers, critics and experts who routinely travel the globe checking out the best gastronomic experiences the world has to offer. In essence, he had invited some of the pickiest and most opinionated people in the world of gastronomy to come and try his food. No pressure then. The academy was in town for 50 Best awards the following night and, as has become routine as part of the three-day event, the first night is often used to showcase what London has to offer the world of dining.
As Pollen Street Social is one of the year’s most anticipated openings it seemed the perfect place to host the evening. Atherton devised a special menu that demonstrated to the international academy the best ingredients Britain has to offer while pairing them with some interesting, and unusual, wines from around the world. The night kicked off with drinks at Pollen Street Social’s expansive bar, which Atherton has devised so that people can just come for a drink and a bit of tapas rather than just for a sit down meal. “Most fine dining restaurants don’t have a bar or anywhere you can drink comfortably but we wanted to be different. We’ve created a really big bar area where people can relax before their meal or go for a drink afterwards,” he says. The evening kicked off with a drinks reception, which included Balfour Rosé 2006 from Kent, Estrella Damm Inedit Beer from Spain and a sloe berry martini, followed by a sit down six-course dinner. First up was Fowey Oyster Ice-Cream, Pearl Brandade, Cod & Smoked Eel, Silver Dust – the ice cream presented in a half oyster shell on a bed of seaweed – paired with a white wine from Katsunuma in Japan. Then came Light Cure Salmon, Avocado, Smoked Herring Roe Cream, accompanied by a Portugese wine, Maria Gomes. A much discussed Escabeche of Quail, Chicken Liver Cream, Nuts and Seeds followed, paired with a 2007 wine from Alsace, and the final main course was Cotswold Lamb Sirloin, Braised Belly, Pea Salad, Sheep’s Milk Curd, which was accompanied by a 2008 Rioja. Desserts play an important role in Pollen Street Social with the restaurant featuring what is claimed to be London’s first restaurant dessert bar, and the judges got to try two of Atherton’s finest.
The first was a Sangria Mousse, Blood Orange Granita and Curd Milk Jam, served in a glass, the second his signature ‘PBJ’, Parfait, Cherry Jam and Creamed Rice Puffs. After the meal Atherton mentioned how Pollen Street had received 5,000 booking requests on the first day of opening the phone lines, a comment met with rapturous applause from the guests. It’s undoubtedly going to be a popular restaurant. And, judging by the meal we had, it’s going to be a huge success.