Bar Review: Pollen Street Social, Mayfair

Pollen Street Social – A Real Buzz

Pollen Street Social is probably best known for its ‘Quail Brunch’, described in 2014 as ‘London’s Best Dish’, by Time Out magazine, although I was there for bourgeois booze only. I’ve admired Jason Atherton for a long time. Not only does he have sixteen restaurants worldwide, but he comes across as a thoroughly decent bloke.

Pollen Street Social describes itself as a: “Michelin-starred modern urban meeting point. A place to eat, drink and socialise, both for special occasions, and for informal everyday affairs.” To be fair that is exactly what it is, and jolly good it is too. The bar is long and narrow. Everything is spotless. The dark wooden shelves are back lit, and impressively filled. Drinkers have their backs to restaurant tables where diners spill over without partition.

Pollen Street Social provided what I call ‘a memorable moment’, a food and drink schema that’s etched in my mind. This one I filed away in my brain’s hard drive as ‘favourite cocktail ever’. Only an evil genius would have the audacity and creativity to combine: Riesling, Pisco, rhubarb vinegar, olive oil and egg white. The resilient frothy head confidently held the droplets of oil creating a uniquely beautiful texture. The sweet Riesling and sour Pisco were best buddies, with the rhubarb vinegar adding beads of magic. This drink was so special it would have been a crime only to order one.

I can’t decide whether or not I find truffles vile or delicious. AA Gill was spot on advising they: “teeter on the edge of being disgusting, but are actually fabulous”. I’m uncertain if it was bravery or campness that provoked a gamble on a truffle infused champagne number. This glass of bubbles was beauty and the beast in liquid form. For me the incredible pungent earthy aromas were overwhelming. This was a feminine option, for only the hardest drinkers.

In between shovelling endless salty vegetable crisps, I managed to request a Manhattan. It was promptly made to my specification (Rye+Sweet Vermouth). I can’t describe it any better than Esquire magazine: “It [was] bold and fortifying, yet as relaxing as a deep massage.” Not that I ever seriously considered them, but the Pollen Street Social Virgin Cocktails, where almost as interesting.

I would have liked to chew the fat with the charming staff all afternoon, but by this point my wallet was empty. Pollen Street Social was expensive, but an understated smart Mayfair space I’d recommend to anyone. Anyone who get’s paid too much.

Pollen Street Social
Review Summary

Atmosphere 9  Cost 4  Quality 10  Service 10

Pollen Street Social Review
The best drink since I can remember

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Restaurant Review: Ristorante Luigi Pomata, Cagliari

Ristorante Luigi Pomata – Poor Attempt At Fine Dining

Foodies visiting Cagliari (or Sardinia) for the first time, will, as I, fall in love with the food. It is simple, fresh and delicious. It is food that has been sun-kissed, honest, and direct from the land and her people – precisely the kind of food lacking from British mid-week dinner tables. It speaks volumes of the Sardinian culture and should be celebrated; however, presentation is rarely considered, menus are incredibly insular in technique and ingredient, and restaurants rarely expect guests in anything smarter than T-shirts. Ristorante Luigi Pomata on paper provided a refreshing, modern alternative.

Unfortunately, Ristorante Luigi Pomata was the worst kind of restaurant: it thought it was sophisticated, but wasn’t. The only thing worse than a snob is an inept snob. I can only assume Luigi saw Michelin star restaurants on TV and tried to emulate them without leaving the house.

Luigi Pomata’s staff for all their running around and snooty faces were entirely unintuitive and inefficient – as though Italy’s declined industry was paralleled in the dining room. The atmosphere, unless eating shortly before sunrise, is non-existent. I find our continental cousins evening dining habits strangely sophisticated, so arrived when it was suitably dark outside. Still, it was quieter than lunch in Islamabad cafes during Ramadan. I’m English; admittedly, but wasn’t staggering in, chanting “Vindaloo, Vindaloo!” I had the decency to turn up before midnight, yet received less rapport than on my driving test.

In Italy, the idea of pushing the boundaries of flavour is daringly swapping oregano for rosemary on focaccia. At least Ristorante Luigi Pomata was serving unique dishes for a 100-mile radius. That said, never eating octopus and chickpeas together won’t keep me up at night. The food, although thoughtfully presented, was largely style over substance; however, the quality of ingredients was self-evident across all dishes.

Ristorante Luigi Pomata thought it should only sell food, not ambience. At least their extra dry Prosecco is as good as a champagne three times its price in England.

Ristorante Luigi Pomata Review Summary

Atmosphere 2    Cost 3    Quality 7    Service 2

Ristorante Luigi Pomata Restaurant Review
Swordfish & Mozzarella
Ristorante Luigi Pomata Cagliari Restaurant Review
Octopus & Chickpeas
Ristorante Luigi Pomata Cagliari Restaurant Review
Tuna & Vegetables

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(Cagliari)

Restaurant Review: The Waterside Inn, Bray upon Thames

The Waterside Inn – Eye Watering Prices

The Waterside Inn is tucked away in the unassuming village of Bray upon Thames, which in a crazy twist of fate, is home to two, three Michelin star restaurants. When Prince Philip phones to book a birthday bash, a restaurant is seriously posh. The Waterside Inn caught the royal eye for a reason; it is the only restaurant in the UK to have retained three coveted Michelin stars for twenty-one years. I’ve long thought the Roux family were a thoroughly decent, hard-working lot; personable, despite their unrivalled culinary achievements.

To appreciate The Waterside Inn to its real potential, the Le Menu Exceptionnel, accompanying wine flight, supplementary cheese and recommended digestives was ordered e.g. les bollocks complètes (which I said, to nobody’s amusement). All the dishes were graciously composed, with delicately and sophisticatedly balanced flavours. As lovely as it all was, I was left waiting for it to get into top gear.

I appreciate it’s hardly an issue of pending global catastrophe, but the dishes of Foie gras, crayfish, scallops, lamb and soufflé were all beige. Putting aside a mint leaf garnish and a lonesome grilled tomato, The Waterside Inn produced an almost entirely monochrome meal.

The Waterside Inn’s best bite? It had to be the pan fried Foie gras. At the risk of sounding as morally respectable as an international arms dealer, it simply brought a broad smile and a sort of evil warm afterglow.

A restaurant cannot be all things to all people; I respect The Waterside Inn for sticking by its “unashamedly French” heritage for a generation. Not that there is anything to be ashamed about. The Waterside Inn’s food is all about balance, quality and refinement, creating a pleasant journey through French cuisine. However, it certainly did not offer the deepest of flavours, the most exciting of combinations or any real surprises. I hoped for something similar to La Maison Troisgros, which is similarly run by an industrious dining dynasty, and also consistently held three Michelin stars for generations. The difference is that the younger generation revolutionised the cuisine of its ancestors, yet still retained the highest levels of excellence. There was no such dynamism at The Waterside Inn, but I can understand the if it aint broke, don’t change it approach.

All The Waterside Inn staff were undoubtedly genuine and hard working – a credit to the restaurant. The maitre d’ was a jovial and instantly likeable chap, who combined formality and familiarity in perfect measure. My only gripe was the consistent recommendations of the most expensive wines and spirits possible. I spent £31 on a skinny cheeseboard, anymore Armagnac and I’d have been selling a kidney.

Finally, the drinks were top drawer – the evening’s highlight – lifting The Waterside Inn experience. If you’re tempted to journey to Bray, make allowances for their cost; as they, if anything, will keep in your memory.

I enjoyed the privilege of the visit, but perhaps through stifling expectation, given the frankly exorbitant cost, The Waterside Inn is utterly unjustifiable for anyone but the 1%.

The Waterside Inn
Review Summary

Atmosphere 7  Cost 2  Quality 10  Service 10

Restaurant Review: The Waterside Inn, Bray
Wonderful Textures
Restaurant Review: The Waterside Inn, Bray
Beautiful Meat & Two Veg
Restaurant Review: The Waterside Inn, Bray
Sublime Scallops Avec Fancy Foam
Restaurant Review: The Waterside Inn, Bray
Armagnac of various ages
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Dinner For Three – Probably Not The Best Value

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The Waterside Inn Bray