I know I often like to talk about empire building (where’s mine?) but often had to resort to viewing (or trying) someone else’s.
Welcome to the social chain. There is Pollen Street Social, Little Social, Social Wine and Tapas, City Social, Social Eating House and Sosharu (trying to be funny and Japanese here). It then continues on to Benares Tavern and many others without such obvious links to Mr Atherton. He proceeds down the well-trodden path of other celebrity chefs, Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Jamie Oliver etc. I have been to a few of his other outposts but as I was feeling more adventurous this day, I ended up here.
Ready to start the meal.
And butter. I saw the bread when it was whole. The waiter then lovingly sawed them apart to create what you see in the two pictures above. A delicious picture. Although the bread promised much, it was the butter which particularly piqued my interest. Up close it was an almost solid yet easily pliable piece of textured fat (as all butters are) almost begging to be spread. As I lovingly lathed it on to the bread and then tore off a piece for my mouth, I was happy. Soft and bouncy centres, crunchy exteriors, this was bread the way it was meant to be.
Cornish cod ceviche, lemon, smoked avocado, radish, smoked sea salt. As a first course, at first I thought that cod seemed a strange fish to serve raw. I always thought of it as a rather tasteless fish. This meant that I was particularly interested to find out that the British have so over-fished the cod population in the nearby British waters that they have had to turn to other things to deep fry in their national dish of fish and chips. No comment about why that particular species was picked to be the cornerstone of fried heritage. Yet this dish shows that with care, when all ceviched and dressed with radish, clean and succulent marine flavours combined with citrus and creamy avocado, great things can come of it.
Sweet marmalade tomato tartare, black olive mayonnaise, sourdough, whipped sheep ricotta. It was this starter which was to prove something special. The tomato was so juicy, solid and tasteful, when I asked my fellow diner what she thought this was after she took a bite, she asked me what type of meat this was. Carefully seasoned, this was to prove to be the highlight of the meal. Smooth, clean and succulent, a treat.
Poached Cornish haddock fillet, St Austell Bay mussels, curry cream, black bean cassoulet. This was ok if suffering from an issue I had noted in another restaurant. It was a bit too salty. Actually, I am being somewhat misleading here. The fish at Nopi was actually rather bad. This was just average if nothing special.
Cumbarian pork cheek, Wye Valley smoked kippers, apple & dandelion. Fall apart pork with creamy mash, tart apple, the delicate consistency of the pork with the fluffy nature of the mash made something that was both filling and good.
Vanilla creme caramel, English strawberry, white balsamic, black pepper. Looked pretty, sadly tasted average. It wasn’t that it was particularly sweet or sour, or hard or soft. Instead, it just seemed to be none of those things as it was disappointingly a rather boring dish and seemed to be placed squarely in the graph of mediocrity.
Lemonade parfait, confit fennel, black pepper meringue, citrus sherbet. Looked like a sail boat about to put out to sea. Which was fitting as my tongue felt like it had received a breath of fresh air with the initial flood of tartness. The parfait was sour, almost to the point of causing me to wince but when put together with the meringue, the contrast of sour and sweet, firm and crunchy created something rather good.
So perhaps cookie cutter builds are not all bad when they are done well. However, just be a bit careful as they may go rather disastrous when done wrong. You only have to flick through a tabloid to see the avenue of failed chefs who have tarnished their reputation in their quest to make it big. Look at Gordon Ramsay buying up numerous pubs under his empire, only to have people find out that they were cutting corners. Yet perhaps his endeavours are not so bad as Jamie Oliver, whose restaurant group has been put into administration (for financial not hygiene problems). No comment about whether that is saying something about the food. As for Mr Social himself, I’ve been to a few of his Eating places. Although this was not bad, it was not great as it feels a little like his magic is being spread a bit thin. To shamelessly mangle a quote, the Jason is strong in this one. That’s not a compliment.
A quiet eating 7/10.
Lunch (3 courses) was GBP28 excluding drinks and service.
58 Poland St, Soho,
London W1F 7NR