My friend Claire recently pointed out that the alternative name for my blog should be “Sam vs. her expectations!” and she is absolutely right. Places like Pollen Street Social are a clear example of high expectations=big disappointment.
I am not sure how this restaurant can be so highly praised and have a Michelin star when every barely any member of their staff could speak English, and expressed no enthusiasm apart from when they were suggesting wines above £250. The wine menu is ridiculous, no reasonable options and very high mark-ups to the point you really feel robbed.
The night started well with a few interesting cocktails at the bar. Stewart had the “Empire of the Sun” which was delicious, but a tiny cocktail for its price. I had the Matcha Peachu which was more generous and very creative with tequila peach liqueur, Chartreuse, lime, sugar and Matcha powder whisked in.
What we ate:
Amuse bouche tower: the meal starts with a beautiful presentation of various amuse bouches including savoury churros with truffle honey which I had seen before at City Social (www.samstewartetc.com/city-social-london/), where they were materially better as they were served piping hot versus this cold version. On the other hand, the parmesan foam with mushroom consommé was delicious and the corn and chorizo muffins were different.
The bread was average and not warm and our waitress was very pushy on wanting to take our orders and was unable to answer questions on the dishes well.
Steak tartare, smoked Pembrokeshire beetroot, wild leaves, Stafford goat’s curd, truffle dressing: really beautiful dish but even the truffles shaved on it didn’t give it a wow factor. To be honest, they shaved truffles in a lot of the courses but the truffle slices were there more to fool you than to give flavour as they were bland.
Cauliflower & squid, clear roasted squid juice: very cool looking dish and they cut the squid in tiny little bites that make you feel they are Israeli couscous or another grain but are actually squid bits. Cool and unique but not tasty enough.
Whole roasted duck for two, sautéed wild mushrooms, celeriac & truffle, served with a salad of duck leg in Moroccan spices: this dish really reminded me of the roasted chicken at the Nomad in NY where they came to present the beautiful bird and then took it back to the kitchen and I was convinced it was purely a presentation bird. In this case, I felt the same way. Stewart and our friend Chris got a dish of duck breast with mushrooms which was nice but the skin was not crispy like it should be. They then received ONE salad to share with the small morsels of darker meat. What happened to the rest of the bird? Flew away? Or was it served to other tables…? One may never know as I asked our waiter and he pretended not to understand me……which may be the case as I couldn’t understand him either…..
Bosworth Ash goat’s cheese gnocchi, morels & Wye Valley asparagus velouté: my friend Chris teased me non-stop when I asked for the vegetarian menu (I had seen it online and was intrigued) and then ordered from it. When I told them my gnocchi was ok but not as good as some of the ones I’ve had in London (Fera at Claridges and Locanda Locatelli) he said: “what did you expect…it was from the vegetarian menu…”. A very typical male pronouncement. But the intriguing part is why they didn’t add vegetarian dishes to their regular menu instead? Was he right and they are not as proud of their meatless creations? The gnocchi was not as pillowy as I like and even though it came with a combination of some of my favourite things such as morels and asparagus, it lacked the magic that I encountered two weeks ago in the gnocchi at Blue Hill in NY.
Lincolnshire hot apple cake, icewine vinegar ice-cream, sweet pickled Opal apples: this was the best dessert. It was almost like a tarte tatin but turned into a ball with the pastry outside and the very nicely caramelized apples inside. Lovely.
Bitter chocolate pavé, olive biscuit, olive oil conserve, chocolate ice-cream: I was afraid of this dish when I read it as it says OLIVE biscuit (and by now you know I hate them) but the waitress said it was olive oil when I inquired. The olive oil in the dish was imperceptible and it was an average and forgettable chocolate dessert.
Pistachio nut soufflé, dark chocolate sorbet: they had some issues in the kitchen and after 15 minutes, they came to inform us the desserts were delayed and they were just then putting the soufflé in the oven. We asked them to serve us the other two desserts while we waited. When it finally came, it was a very nice soufflé and the pistachio flavour was nutty and delicious but the chocolate sorbet was just ok. They took all the desserts from the check to make up for the wait which was the right thing to do.
Petit four party: they are very generous with the amuse bouches at the start of the meal and the petits fours at the end. The apple sorbet encased in white chocolates on top of mini ice cream cones was delicious and so was the almond cake. The chocolate mini pudding was ok.
In sum: skip it. I am starting to wonder if Jason is spreading himself too thinly and not paying enough attention to his restaurants anymore. Pollen Street Social needs some attention, primarily on service. And the wine list is really way too expensive. For these prices, the Ledbury and Fera and some others are significantly better.
Pollen Street Social http://www.pollenstreetsocial.com/
8-10 Pollen St, London W1S 1NQ
+4420 7290 7600