Sunday, 27 November 2011

Pollen Street Social

I have not seen my friend Liz since our Dorset holiday in August and we had promised ourselves some culture and a lunch treat way back then. The plan was to do the Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery. How very naiive of us! Liz applied for tickets on the day they became available, the website had crashed because of the unprecedented demand, and she spent 4 hours on the phone trying to obtain some. She had to admit defeat this side of Christmas but has secured a pair for January 16th. We shall be going then if she doesn't succumb to an urge to flog them on e-bay for a vast profit.

As Liz had worked so hard over this we decided to forego the culture part of our day and head straight for lunch. Because of spectacular success finding Bocca di Lupo and Les Deux Salons for our previous two excursions, restaurants that Liz has subsequently returned to, I was entrusted to come up with the venue again. Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social has had some very good reviews and it is comfortably near Oxford Circus which is on a direct tube line from Harrow and Wealdstone station walkable from my house. I booked around 3 weeks ago and was told they had no lunch tables available in the restaurant but that we could have a table in the bar.

The building is very swish indeed and very comfortable, Lots of wood, lots of glass, comfy chairs, lovely loos. The waiting staff were brilliant and the food was out of this world. An amuse-bouche of black olives came with a dish of something that tasted like taramasalata but wasn't pink. Liz though there might have been cream in it. It was a lovely start.

Because I love oysters I had to have oysters. These were West Mersea English molluscs and I chose the option of having chorizo with them. Genius. Totally fabulous.

Even more genius was Liz's Cornish crab vinaigrette, Nashi pear, cauliflower sweet 'n sour dressing with frozen peanut powder. Liz pronounced it the best starter she'd had for years and marvelled at how delicate it was. (The picture doesn't do it justice).

My main course was Rack of Cotswold lamb, braised shoulder, creamed spiced aubergine and black olive reduction. The lamb which I ordered medium rare just melted. It was a fabulously intense dish. I think that may have been goat curd on the side. One sniff was enough not to try it.

I am very sorry that I didn't take notes. Suffice to say that Liz's Venison dish was also amazing. I know Chanterelles, more pears and more cauliflower were involved. Liz is pretty sure that Jason Atherton has cornered the market in cauliflower!

Those who know me will be flabbergasted that we eschewed puddings. The menu was tempting enough but Liz thought they were nearly all outside her whey-allergy comfort zone, and I wanted cheese. I have been dieting for the last two months and cheese has barely passed my lips. So I ordered the cheese plate with piccalilli and green tomato chutney and Liz opted for the Chocolate table, handmade chocolates to die for. The cheese was spot-on although my chum didn't rate the goat as the best she'd ever tasted. The ComtĂ© was especially wondrous. Again an absence of a notebook plus a surfeit of punchy Temperanillo means I am hazy as to what the others were, other than delicious. Interestingly the piccalilli disappointed slightly, not edgy enough for me. (And more cauliflower)!

Our bill, which included a large G&T, an Armagnac which looked like it was called Danni Minogue, a bottle of fizzy water, and aforementioned Temperanillo came to £170 all in. The most expensive lunch I have ever had in fact. It was a good job it was pay day!

We had been given keys at the start of our adventure and these unlocked our "free gifts" on departure. "Tea on us". An unnecessary but nice touch.

And I will be back. And next time, guess what? I mentioned earlier that Liz had revisited the previous two restaurants. She dined with her erstwhile sister-in-law who is a Glaswegian GP. Said lady, Anne, was so impressed with Bocca di Lupa that she took many GP friends there when they were on a London jolly. (I really should be on commission). A few weeks ago she was London-bound again and Liz suggested Les Deux Salons. She loved it and said that next time she was down she would very much like to treat me to a meal somewhere special. Woo hoo!! Pollen Street Social here we come.