I have a friend who gets to eat at some of London’s top restaurants as part of his job. Among all the places he’s been, Pollen Street Social is his top London restaurant – so as you can imagine, this says alot. So when Little Social opened across the street, it was a definite “I must try”.
Upon walking in, LIttle Social feel like being transported to a Paris back street brassiere. We were warmly greeted and sat in a beautiful booth right in the window. We were then given A LOT of paper – the menu, the specials, the set menu and the wine list. While I will admit that it’s nice to have a constantly changing menu, printed daily, I did feel a little bit like I was back at my desk.
But once the wait staff (very quickly and efficiently I might add without feeling rushed), had taken our orders and the paper disappeared, we did sit back into a lovely relaxed atmosphere
For starter, I opted for the oysters – served with a shallot vinegar, lemon and tabasco. The oysters were wonderfully fresh and had a slightly sweet flavour. The shallot vinegar was fine – although shallot vinegar isn’t my favourite thing and with oysters this sweet and fresh, I thought it ruined the flavour. But I would definitely opt for the oysters again.
My dining companions opted for the crab, tomato and radish salad with miso tomato dressing and beetroot and also, the country pate with cornichons and salad.
The crab, tomato and radish salad was not presented how you would expect. The crab meat was mixed with the radishes, giving it a little bit of crunch, and stuffed inside a skinless tomato. Again, it was beautifully fresh and flavourful and I loved the crunchiness the radishes gave to the dish.
The country pate was as you would expect. It was wonderfully rich with pistachos through the pate to add a little bit of sweetness and cut through the meat.
For main, I opted for the Halibut BLT. Now thinking about it, this dish shouldn’t work. A pan-fried halibut with braised lettuce, slow-cooked ham hock with a bois boudran (aka a tomato, vinegar, herb sauce) completed with a roasted portabello mushroom. However, the flavour combination was outstanding. The halibut stood out beautifully against the ham hock and bois boudran and the soft portobello mushroom added another gorgeous dimension to the dish.
My one of my dining companions chose the lamb shanks with smoked bacon and haricot bean ragout. Again, this dish wasn’t presented as I though. Instead of having a large piece of meat on the bone, the lamb shank had been removed from the bone and delicate pieces stacked on top of a deep, rick smoked bacon and bean stew. It was served with a wonderfully fresh basil pesto, which cut through all the rich and heavy flavours so you didn’t feel heavy and sluggish half way through.
My other dining companion went for the roast pork belly with melted in your mouth. The apple and cabbage coleslaw that it was served with was fantastic and a great contrast to the rich dish again. Atherton has really understood how to balance some very rich flavours (lamb shanks, beans with smokey bacon, pork belly) with fresh, clean flavours so you never feel that your eating too much and can finish the dish.
I also loved the sides. They weren’t fussy, just very simple tender broccoli done with a garlic butter sauce and poutine – the Canadian equivalent to loaded fries. Beautiful chips coated in gravy, sausage, jalapenos and melty, gooey cheese. It was really was a heart attack in a small plate but it was delicious and something that I would want to eat at home all by myself in front of the television.
When it came to dessert, there was only one winner. While both my dining companions chose the hot chocolate moelleux, sea salt and almond ice-cream, the salt in the ice-cream was too strong for the dish and after a few bites, the salt was so strong that they both pushed it aside and started digging into mine!
I went for the brown sugar tart with creme fraiche ice-cream. It was to die for! I would describe it like eating brown sugar from the packet mixed with condensed milk from the tin (two very guilty pleasures of mine). It was smooth and rich and creamy and everything that is good and wonderful in a dessert.
Although it’s Little Social, it definitely didn’t feel like you were missing anything from the Jason Atherton experience. The atmosphere and the food was elegantly beautiful and, with a £25 prix fixe menu available, it becomes a wonderful alternative to the main restaurant for a posh (but not bank breaking) meal.
5 Pollen Street
London W1S 1NE
T: +44 20 7870 3730