Little Pollen Street is a small one-way street off Regent's Street, on the edge of Soho. If you don't know where you are going, forget it. Luckily, one of us has a good sense of direction. We got an early booking, 6:30 p.m., as the place is fully booked up for months to come. Not my favourite time of night to have dinner but if I had to choose, I prefer to eat early rather than late. So into the restaurant we walked. From the onset, it looks small and relatively unassuming but appearances are deceiving. The front of the restaurant is dominated by a very large bar counter and a few tables (for late bookers perhaps?). Once you walk past the bar, one notices that there is another room behind it where the main restaurant is. We are talking a proper large dining room, a blend between a French traditional upscale bistro and a modern, discreet restaurant. Perfect.
The service at Little Pollen Street Social was excellent from beginning to end. Not too invasive and personal but nicely present in the background. Every dish was explained to us and glasses were filled reasonably and discreetly. The staff is clearly well trained and professional. We felt well looked after.
Now the food... We chose the tasting menu as it was a special occasion (two as a matter of fact as C.'s birthday is close to mine) and we wanted to taste the best dishes the restaurant had to offer. Generally speaking, I find that tasting menus bring out the best of a restaurant's specialities. They are well thought out, balanced and feature the "stars of the show." As a matter of fact, I usually pick a la carte dishes which are featured in the tasting menu. They jump out at me, begging to be chosen. Looking at the tasting menu, I was concerned that it would be too much. The soft-spoken and very articulate waitress reassured me. She was right. The key is serving small portions in a well-spaced out manner. The whole procession of tasting plates was a marvel to the eye and palate. Judge for yourself:
Chilled pea soup, citrus creme fraiche, peas & Gambas
Orkney sea scallop carpaccio, kohlrabi, frozen pink grapefruit, lemon skin puree, black olive & samphire
Cornish turbot roasted with capers & brown butter, samphire almonds, white strawberries, caper gnocchi
Roasted Lake District rack of lamb, shepherd's pie, sweetbreads, braised lettuce, morels & mustard seed
English strawberry soup, yoghurt foam, cucumber gratine
caramel popcorn & sweet corn cream
Granny Smith apple parfait, blueberry, shiso & eucalyptus
An interesting feature of the evening was the simple suggestion that we could move seats for the pudding. In the restaurant, near the main kitchen observable behind a large glass pane, the dessert bar sits unobtrusively. Three couples can sit side by side at the bar, contemplating their desserts being made. It is mind-boggling to watch these experienced chefs at work. The precision, attention to the smallest detail, and love of ingredients carefully picked and tenderly placed on each plate... a well-orchestrated ballet of sorts. A real treat in our eyes. And one that will stay with us for a long time.