Jason Atherton continues to build his global restaurant empire with Social Eating House. In London he now has the original Pollen Street Social, Little Social and this restaurant, while he currently also has three restaurants in Asia. Social Eating House chef and part owner Paul Hood was previously head chef at the flagship Pollen Street Social, and has worked together with Jason previously for six years, including at Maze.
The ground floor dining room’s décor features exposed brick walls, leather banquettes and assorted pieces of restored furniture. Upstairs there is a bar, downstairs is the kitchen, where some kitchen table seats are available. For reasons that are not immediately apparent, the stairway has an illuminated quote from the poem The Eagle by the Victorian poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson. The wine list starts at £17 and includes wines such as Nero d'Avola Sherazade Donnafugata 2011 at £33 for a wine that you can find in a shop for £12, Syrah Weingut Weninger Sopron 2011 at £50 for a wine that you can find in the high street at £25, and an ambitiously priced Weinbach Cuvee Theo Riesling 2009 at £73 for a wine that you retails at around £19.
Bread is bought in from Boulangerie de Paris. I went for the set lunch option, which was £23 for three courses. Potato soup was poured over haddock and slow-poached egg. This was very pleasant, the Lincolnshire potato soup having good flavour, the haddock and egg working nicely with the potato (13/20). I was able to also try from the a la carte a smoked salmon dish. In this the salmon was smoked for three hours, then cooked for five minutes and finally blow-torched, served with cucumber and miso crème fraiche. The latter in particular went very well with the salmon, which was not too smoky (14/20).
My main course was wild bream from Cornwall with artichoke barigoule, artichoke puree and saffron farfalle (bow tie pasta). The bream was carefully cooked, the farfalle had good texture, and the artichoke was nicely softened by the chicken stock of the barigoule; seasoning was spot on (14/20). On the side I tried the triple cooked chips; these were made using duck fat and were terrific. Although triple cooking seems to me the best way to make chips, it is surprising how many restaurants seem to not get this right. Here they were crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, as they should be (16/20).
A pre-dessert of yoghurt made from scratch was topped with strawberries and strawberry granita; I have had strawberries with more flavour, but the granita had nice texture (13/20). My dessert was milk chocolate mousse with hazelnut ice cream and chocolate éclair. The choux pastry of the éclair was carefully made, the chocolate mousse rich and smooth (14/20).
The bill, with just water to drink, came to £39 a head, though clearly it would be more than this with wine and a selection from the a la carte. Service was excellent, with one very capable waiter who used to work at Apsleys. This was a consistently good meal, and it is easy to see why this was packed even on an August weekday lunch.