If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that I am a big fan of Jason Atherton. One of his newest ventures, Berners Tavern (full review here) is my favourite place to dine in London right now (and with good reason too!). The Gordan Ramsay prodigy has been very busy recently building up his restaurant empire. Opening up restaurants all around the world from London to Shanghai and getting it right over and over again cannot be easy but Jason and his team seem to manage to do this effortlessly.
Social Eating House in Soho is one of Atherton’s newer ventures with the iconic ‘social’ tag and I have been wanting to dine here for quite a while now. It’s part of the holy trio of ‘social’ restaurants in London. Other ones being the Atherton flagship Pollen Street Social and the City Social in Mayfair which are just as good (incase you were wondering).
Social Eating House is headed up by Chef Paul Hood who moved across from its Michelin starred sister restaurant, Pollen Street Social. Keeping with Atherton’s now famous style of simple understated cooking, Paul Hood dishes up carefully created British dishes that are obviously simple but still have enough oomph to spark your curiosity. No surprises then that Social Eating House is already a Michelin starred restaurant.
I absolutely love the Soho inspired interiors in this Russel Sage Studio designed restaurant. You walk into this space through a homely wooden door to be immediately faced by a wall of dark curtains. Walk through these curtains and the beautiful interiors hit your senses all at once. The exposed brick walls, the white-washed copper ceilings, the unique restored furniture along with an antique paper press all fight for your attention. It’s theatrical, eclectic and ofcourse very social as the name suggests. I want to say the interiors are crowded and there is a lot going but just like other Jason Atherton restaurants, the balance is just right. It somehow works and works beautifully I might add.
I must admit that I was slightly overwhelmed by the number of menus I was handed over. I counted 4 including the sampler, a la carte, lunch menu and the vegetarian one. Add to that the wine, cocktails and the desserts menu and you have enough reading to keep you busy for a few hours. That being said, I was more than happy reading the beautifully crafted menus as the dishes on it read like poetry.
The highlight of the meal was undoubtedly the Slow Cooked Venison Loin served with Date Jam, Kale, Brazil Nuts and Ryefield Goat’s Cheese. The venison was cooked to perfection and was beautifully flavoured. The goat’s cheese was creamy and perfectly complimented the kale and date jam. Overall, it was beautifully crafted plate with wonderful fresh ingredients that definitely didn’t disappoint. Great portion size too. Seb was more than happy to proclaim that he would have it for his last meal!
Another unexpected highlight for me was the Cep Risotto served with Crisp Taleggio. This risotto was an explosion of flavours – rich, creamy and the cep added some brilliant texture to this risotto. Exactly what I expect from a Atherton dish – understated complexity.
I tend to avoid ordering fish based dishes in restaurants as they normally turn out to be a disappointment. It’s not easy making a slice of cod or halibut stand out but in the hands of a good chef, fish dishes can be an absolute delight although I must admit it’s rare in my experience. The Stone Bass with Broccoli, Roasted Cauliflower and Turnip Cream at Social Eating House was an absolute delight. The stone bass was cooked to perfection and was delicately flavoured without being overpoweringly salty. The turnip cream worked surprisingly well with the fish too. Highly recommended.
We also tried one of the ‘Jars to Share’ on the menu which I think is a great idea. This dish definitely plays up the social element that seems to be a quiet undertone in all aspects of this restaurant. The Smoked Hummus, Tomato, Spiced Aubergine Jar served with Toasted Bread was great value at £6. Although our Hummus jar tasted great, it stood out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the delicately crafted menu. I can see these jars being quite popular in the 1st floor bar at the Social Eating House, but it seemed quite forced on the a la carte menu.
I always look forward to desserts in a Jason Atherton restaurant and the Social Eating House definitely didn’t disappoint. My favourite was the Hot Honey Sponge served with Williams Pear, Hibiscus and Milk and Honey Ice Cream. I loved the presentation of this plate – absolutely stunning! Don’t be fooled by how simple the hot honey sponge looks. Every bite reveals another complex layer of sweetness very different to the last. The tangy poached pear and the milk and honey ice cream perfectly balance this dish without overpowering the sweetness of the hot honey sponge. Highly recommended. If you prefer something more chocolatey, I would definitely recommend the Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Parfait served with Hazelnut Praline Ice Cream. Again beautifully presented with very different chocolate flavours and textures that come together wonderfully. It’s the perfect end to the meal at Social Eating House.
It’s not hard to see why Social Eating House is so successful in winning London over. The food is wonderfully crafted and well thought out as you would expect from somebody of Paul Hood’s calibre. The relaxed and informal ‘social’ setting works surprisingly well for a kitchen dishing up Michelin starred plates of food. The service is perfectly fine tuned for the restaurant dynamics too – charming, friendly and attentive without being overbearing. It’s also surprisingly affordable which is something I am never going to complain about either. It’s the perfect sequel to Pollen Street Social.