Many good reviews have been written about Jason Atherton’s restaurant which sits unassumingly in a side street, just off Regent Street. And it recently came second in the National Restaurant Awards (just pipped by Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner), after only a few months of opening. Where better then to take Mark Lawson Bell, the creative mind behind Sketch?
Any thoughts that the owner might have any pretensions to stiff formality are dispelled through the name. And from the easy warmth of the staff at reception who present incoming customers with an intriguing key. The interior is designed by architects Lyndon Neri and Rosanna Hu who have given the space a relaxed and airy feel. Because of the tall windows, there is plenty of natural light at lunchtime, accompanied by a sparkle from the copious but simple spherical light fittings. A natural wood floor runs throughout, unifying the bar and restaurant space.
We sat in the comfortable bar area for our lunch meeting where our incredibly good value set lunch menu at £25.50 was consumed as follows: Innes Farm Goats Curd with a variety of beetroots and pine nuts for me, and a more esoteric combination of ham hock, squid, coco beans and piccalili gel for my guest. The Cornish cod with piperade, seaweed potato and more squid was chosen by both of us, followed by an outstanding dessert of Pistachio financier, pistachio ice cream with English blackberries. All was carefully executed but in an unprissy style. For our wine, Lauré Patry the head sommelier poured out 2 glasses of Chateau de Puligny Montrachet with an unerring eye for 125ml.
Being an avid supporter of tapwaterorg for me a mark of a good restaurant is how easily tap water is provided for drinking. I concur with one of the late Egon Ronay’s tests of how fast a glass of tap water is brought when asked for. No problem here: Beautiful jugs full of the stuff were circulating around the floor.
Afterwards as is my wont, I went noseying around the lower ground floor. The room available for private hire for wine tastings or dinners looks inviting from the passage leading to the development kitchen, and is sensibly not shut away. Who wants to be confined to a small space with no view of any action? The lightly darkened glass creates enough privacy. As I was wandering, looking appreciatively at the meat visible in the ageing room, a waiter asked me if I would like to meet Jason in the development room. To me that small gesture said everything about the place. The fact that a member of the staff, and not even a manager, felt enough confidence and ownership to interrupt his boss and introduce me spontaneously and without an appointment, shows a proper team spirit . Of course the short meeting was delightful, as were all working in the kitchen, beavering away against the homely smell of tablecloths being ironed.
On my way out I presented the key which had lain on the table in suspense throughout lunch. It opened a little coffre on the wall behind from which I was given a little bag containing two little cakes and a teabag with a note: afternoon tea is on us. The icing on a lovely lunch experience.
When I posted an appreciative comment on Twitter after my visit, a fellow foodie replied: “They’re all just such nice people.” Absolutely. And I just can’t wait to go back.
Pollen Street Social
8 Pollen Street
London W1S 1NQ
Tel: 020 7290 7600