People want less pretentious food and places to eat it in, or so we are constantly being told by celebrity chefs. To distance themselves from ‘Haute’ cuisine they have dropped words like Michelin, gastronomy and alchemy from their vocabularies and embraced casual dining, bars in restaurants, places where the everyman can dine without feeling conspicuous or utterly ripped off.
However just one look at Jason Atherton’s new Restaurant Pollen Street Social suggests this is not that place despite Mr. Atherton waxing lyrical about being able to have a beer with your meal or just enjoy some tapas at the bar during his appearance on Saturday Kitchen. Firstly the name is a dead give away, Pollen Street, in the heart of Mayfair is hardly a place the ordinary consumer finds himself wandering around in search of a bite after a long day at work. With the inclusion of the word social I understand that Mr. Atherton is suggesting a place with a casual vibe where we can all go and hang out, if we’re willing or able to fork out £30 for a rib eye not including the 12.5% service charge. Now I’m not slating the food, I can’t as I haven’t tried it but I’m annoyed at the pretense that this place is not your typical fine dining establishment. Good food, cooked by talented chefs is expensive so why try hide that fact?
I admire chefs like Alain Ducasse, Heston Blumenthal and Daniel Boulud because they unashamedly admit their restaurants are expensive because they cook expensive ingredients exquisitely and they have wine lists to match. I must also point out that it’s not fair to single out Jason Atherton, only today I witnessed Adam Byatt exclaim his new restaurant Georgina’s would have a casual, laid back vibe… Here we go again.