At first glance, Little Social may appear to be in the shadow of its big sister across the road, with its dramatic glass frontage. But the discreet entrance to this smaller 65-seat restaurant belies a slick operation with food of the highest order.
Opened a year ago by Jason Atherton, Little Social snuck on to the market when the chefrestaurateur seized an opportunity to buy 5 Pollen Street, the Italian restaurant opposite his flagship Pollen Street Social.
Despite a moderate refurb, Atherton was determined there would be no sibling rivalry between the two Pollen Street restaurants, and immediately set about installing an impressive team including head chef Cary Docherty, one of the original members of the Maze launch brigade, to create a bistro serving "the best of British produce with a nod towards France".
With a CV including periods at Zuma, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, One Aldwych and Foxtrot Oscar, Docherty has returned to the Atherton fold chomping at the bit.
"I maintained contact with Jason," explains Docherty, "I always sought his guidance and advice, so when he said he was opening a bistro, I jumped at the chance to work for him."
While some might see the service of a long, linear room from a small, basement kitchen accessed only by narrow stairs as something of a challenge, Docherty sees his current role as nothing but an opportunity.
"Maybe other people see disadvantages, but I'm used to Foxtrot Oscar, which was a similar layout. We have the kitchen fitted out with everything that we want, so I consider myself very fortunate.
"As a result of the lack of space, and also because it's our philosophy, fresh is key - everything is cooked from scratch, every single day. Nothing is produced in big
Luckily for diners, this disciplined approach ensures that every dish is packed full of flavour, and this is no better illustrated than among the various burgerati who have deemed the aged Scottish beef burger, bacon and cheese, caramelised onions, pickles and French fries (£15 or £25 with optional pan-fried foie gras) the best burger in town. It is insanely delicious. Also battling it out in the bestseller stakes are starters of raw hand-dived Orkney Isles scallops, dashi jelly, apple, shiso, wasabi
and avocado purée (£15.50); and a main course of rack, shoulder and shank of lamb, Jersey Royal potatoes, morels, wild garlic, rosemary mayonnaise, baby onions
and lamb jus (£32.50).
Matching Docherty and sous chef Mark Wright's passion front of house is a formidable waiting team, which includes restaurant manager Gabor Papp and sommelier Fred Marti, who manages a small but perfectly formed wine list, revised constantly to bring lesser-known producers to the fore.
The team's objective - to create a comfortable and cosy bistro where people can go on a date or have a casual business meeting - seems to have hit the spot. Lunch
and dinner never drop below 55 and 90 respectively, while weekends enjoy up to 70 during the day and 120 at night.
Sample dishes from the menu
Starters Pressed foie gras & smoked duck, spiced prune purée, toasted brioche £14.50
Cod brandade, pimento croutons, Parma ham, tapenade, lemon & bottarga £10.50
Crab mayonnaise, bitter leaves, herbs, avocado & toast £12.50
Main courses Roasted wild turbot, peas & broad beans, morels, asparagus, wild garlic £38
Braised Irish ox cheeks, roast marrowbone, sourdough crumb, carrot, horseradish mash £22
Roasted Cornish cod, cockles, cauliflower, lemon £22
Poached Yorkshire rhubarb, vanilla crumble, lemongrass yogurt, lychee & mangosteen £7.50
Maple glazed & cinnamon sugared doughnuts, apple, crème Anglaise £7.50
Hot chocolate moelleux, sea salt & almond ice-cream £7.50
â" Little Social
5 Pollen Street
London W18 1NE
020 7870 3730