Social Eating House
Finally I’ve managed to get down to Social Eating House. I’d heard only great things about this quirky restaurant and quite understandably, it being one of Jason Atherton’s creations after all. The restaurant is on trend with a certain move away from stiff, fine-dining establishments. The setting is far more relaxed, it’s unusual and eclectic. A certain vintage vibe, reinforced by exposed brick, burnished wood and copper accents. It’s certainly “Soho” in its trendy atmosphere, something which I have a love/hate relationship with but here I felt quite at ease. Something akin to being in a slow moving daydream. It’s like reliving an old photograph of an experience shared with your closest friends. It’s the kind of moment where time slows; each laugh, smile, mouthful and clink of a glass is captured in a beautiful picture.
I’d expect no less of a culinary journey of excellence from Jason Atherton and what we experienced could not have reassured my opinions of his ability more. Let us not forget Paul Hood, as his vision and skill grasp the helm tightly as Chef Patron. What results is food that sails effortlessly across the palate and dances beautifully in its simple complexity.
The menu is inventive and diverse, distinctly modern British, with subtle influences from a myriad of other cultures. The balance and execution of the dishes are no short of perfection. Take the ‘Wild mushrooms from a bag, cep puree on toast’ for example, never has a mushroom packed so much intense flavour. The depth and delicacy in which the essence of a mushroom is delivered is quite astounding, a truly simple but unforgettable dish. Proportionally there should have been more of that fantastic cep toast though. The steak tartare was quite firm but a nice balance between sweet, salt and smoke. The crisp radish was a nice contrast, an unusual take on a classic but tasty nonetheless.
The meats presented at the Social Eating House are all of the highest calibre. Stunning charred cote de porc, fantastic confit Romney Marsh lamb and roast Scottish venison saddle. Sweet, tender and succulent meats, transformed into triumphant dishes in their own right. Cooked perfectly and eating beautifully, flavours balancing harmoniously On this occasion I hosted a rather meat-orientated table, however their are also inventive seafood dishes on the menu and I am sure they are no less delicious.
Smoked Black Angus tartare, radishes, horseradish, mustard leaf
Roast Scottish venison saddle, smoked ricotta, sprout flowers, pear, 12 yr balsamic, Brazil nuts
“Wagon Wheel” toasted meringue, salted caramel, raspberry
Pecan praline Arctic roll, maple syrup ice-cream, coffee meringue
The kitchen continued to deliver into the dessert course. Hints of quirky nostalgia in the descriptions and presentation. The ‘Wagon Wheel’ or ‘Arctic Roll’ for example, they’ll remind you of your childhood but you better believe they taste a damn site better than I remember. A lot of good restaurants always fall short on the dessert course and in no way do I find this acceptable for a high end restaurant. Every aspect of the meal should be as good as the next and that is the mark of a great restaurant. You can see the passion for cooking come through in every dish and here at Social Eating House this is quite apparent. I applaud all the chefs involved at this establishment for their efforts. The bar staff whip up some fantastic and inspiring cocktails too. When you wrap this all up in a tidy, expensive but not astronomical, package you’re presented with a great little meal.
I hate to end an article on a bad note but I need to mention that the whole dining experience was not entirely perfect. I am a firm believer in a balance between front and back of house combining to forge a perfect experience. A catastrophe in the kitchen can be reconciled with excellent service and equally a great meal can be ruined by bad service. The front of house team at Social Eating House were not awful in any way, they smiled, greeted and presented themselves nicely. However there was a certain vacant air about the staff. It was like a conveyor of vacant shells, hovering around like empty vessels. I could always see a member of staff but found it hard to catch their eye and our party frequently had to engage in this task to get any attention. I am not somebody that likes to be waited on hand and foot, quite the opposite, but front of house needs to know when they are required, it’s basic service. I like to engage and chat with the team and frankly this should initially come from their end not from ours. I honestly felt that we had to make a big effort to get involved in the dining experience. On this occasion they might as well have called it “Eating House”. This is not something I would ever come to expect from such a well renowned name.
However as a whole, I did have a lovely time here. I was amongst my closest friends, eating, drinking and making new memories. The company we kept and the quite fantastic food made for an unforgettable experience. I will definitely return at some point but if the service doesn’t improve I won’t become a regular. As it stands, Social Eating House is the kind of restaurant you’ll go once for the culinary experience but will be unlikely to revisit for years to come. I honestly hope they rectify this in the future as I would undoubtedly add it to my shortlist of London recommendations.
Social Eating House
58 Poland Street
+44 20 7993 3251