Having had a disappointing experience at City Social early last year, I must admit that I wasn’t particularly fussed about ever returning. However, thankfully I did, and I’m more than happy to say that I stand completely corrected – (nearly) everything was phenomenal.
Our group of four arrived promptly for our 1pm Tuesday lunch, and were surprised by the number of empty tables.
Although it wasn’t long before the room was filled with food-appreciating suits.
The benefit of being some of the earliest to arrive was of course that we got the pick of the bunch when it came to seating (you can’t pre-book a window table), and we were more than happy to snag a booth directly facing the Gherkin.
Despite being a gloomy December day, it would be impossible not to appreciate the incredible panoramic views offered from the 24th floor (just wait till I show you the loos!).
Homemade bread and whipped butter was offered and gratefully accepted, with options including chorizo & parmesan, salted butter and sourdough.
When in doubt, choose them all.
The chorizo & parmesan was definitely the winner of the table, with all of us greedily accepting seconds.
With a very good bottle of Malbec, D.O.C. Single Vineyard, Luigi Bosca, Mendoza, Argentina, 2012 (£56.00) merrily making its way down our gullets, we studied the food on offer.
For starters, I foolishly didn’t read my previous review before visiting, and managed to opt for the exact same dish that I hadn’t been blown away by before (at least I’m predictable), which was the yellow fin tuna tataki, cucumber salad, radish, avocado and ponzu dressing (£15.00).
Although on reflection I think I was a little harsh with my comments, since it was an enjoyable enough plate of food, it just didn’t have any wow factor, and was easily the worst of all our choices.
On the seafood front, Ben’s Isle of Skye scallops, soy, green apple, pickled ginger, puffed black rice, wasabi (£16.00) was much better, encompassing freshness, contrasting texture and bold flavour, all of which my tuna tataki lacked.
Whilst Julia’s potato gnocchi, smoked butternut squash, roasted cauliflower, brown butter (£12.00) was cooked to perfection, and a highly comforting plate of food. All of the vegetables still had bite, whilst the char on the cauliflower provided underlying smokiness and the sauce had great depth.
Anya’s pig’s trotter and ham hock with crispy Lancashire black pudding, apple, Madeira (£13.00) was probably my favourite of the lot, and I’m sure a dish designed for a man, but who cares. It was crispy and meaty and delicious, with its inevitable heaviness well balanced by the light & sweet apple jelly and Madeira sauce.
For mains, I’m pleased to say that I made an incredible choice with the whole Dover sole, caper gnocchi, samphire and citrus sabayon (£38.00).
I can’t even begin to explain how sensational it was. I don’t usually order fish for mains as I find that I can be more easily disappointed than with meat, but this lone piece of sole was enough to change that philosophy for life. The fish was beautifully cooked and flaked away from the bone, and had been fried so as to give just the right level of buttery crispness, without being at all greasy. The capers added small, sharp bursts of flavour; the samphire a subtle saltiness; and the citrus sabayon was the lightest, most delicious sauce accompaniment to a dish that I’ve had in a while. The gnocchi was welcomed but unnecessary, and in my opinion a little stodgy for its delicate counterpart.
Still, the star of the show as far as I was concerned.
Both Ben and Julia had the romney marsh lamb fillet and ‘navarin’ of lamb shoulder, bacon crumb, mint (£32.00 each).
The lamb fillet was superbly tender and the wedge of potato mille feuille expertly executed, though I found the ‘navarin’ of lamb shoulder with bacon crumb side dish rather greasy, and the hidden chunks of lamb on the chewy side.
Anya went for the risotto of cèps, crispy veal sweetbread, truffle mascarpone, Madeira glaze (£28.00), which was seriously exquisite. It was a dish for the soul (definitely not the heart), and destined to put a smile on its lucky diner’s face, although I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s not fan of truffles (we wouldn’t be friends anyway), since the flavour was very intense (and amazing).
With a pause before dessert, I took the opportunity for my camera & I to go on a little loo break.
Check. It. Out.
Unfortunately I couldn’t capture the end cubicle, which is literally a loo opposite a full length glass view of London. I could get used to that.
Back at the table it was smiles all round having just consumed what can only be described as a truly epic meal.
Little did we know that the best was yet to come.
All rather full, we opted to share the apple tarte tatin, vanilla ice-cream and caramel sauce (for two) (£16.00) between the four of us which, to be honest, was more than enough to go around.
I mean, my pupils must have fully dilated when our server started pouring the thickest of caramel sauces over our sizeable portions of buttery pastry and perfectly cooked apple.
The vanilla ice-cream was the best I’ve ever had. I’m not even exaggerating (and I was fairly sober at this point so I really mean it); the flavour of fresh vanilla was so intense and, paired with our mounds of sugary carby goodness, essentially tasted like the only match that could ever be made in heaven.
I didn’t shut up about this dessert the entire way through eating it, or after. I’m sure they all wanted me to put a sock in it, but I couldn’t help it, it was one of the best desserts of my life, and perhaps the best of the year.
I plan to go back, order a large glass of wine and that dessert alone and eat the whole thing on my own. That would serve me enough happiness to last just about the rest of the year, I think.
Wanting to end this review on the extreme high that it deserves, my only niggling complaint would be with regards to the service, which I found to be overbearing when unwanted, and missing when needed. I had to request that our water glasses be refilled numerous times, and our coffees were only served once everyone had finished their dessert.
Needless to say, I would go back in a heartbeat.
With Jason Atherton having truly won me over, I am super excited to visit Pollen Street Social next month. I shall keep you posted.