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City Social in London (Jason Atherton) - 1 Michelin star

Rating: 91.
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When Jason Atherton opened his first solo restaurant Pollen Street Social in April 2011, he said that he wanted to try to "deformalize fine dining as we know it". Hence the "Social" concept and he's been very successful with it. Pollen Street Social got a Michelin star within 6 months of its opening and in the few years since, the London "Social" family was extended with Little Social and Social Eating House (1 Michelin star). The latest family member is City Social, a new restaurant and bar on the 24th floor of Tower 42 in the City of London, a space previously occupied by Gary Rhodes' restaurant Rhodes 24.

The menu at City Social is designed by Jason Atherton and executive chef Paul Walsh, an experienced chef who has previously worked at the Savoy, first at the River Room and later on at the Savoy Grill (then 1 Michelin star), Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (3 Michelin stars) and before joining Jason Atherton he was head chef at wine bar 28-50, overseeing the kitchens of all three 28-50 sites in London.

City Social is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. You can choose between the a la carte menu (starters £10 - £15, mains £18 - £38, desserts £6.50 - £15) or the bar menu which features 'small' and 'large' plates, steaks and desserts. I had lunch with my husband at City Social on Thursday 13 November 2014 and we both ordered three courses from the a la carte menu plus an extra risotto dish to share.

My starter was an elegantly presented dish of yellow fin tuna tataki (flash-seared), lightly coated with freshly chopped coriander and topped with brunoise-cut cucumber and thinly sliced radish. Also on the plate was some pickled white radish, avocado puree, charred cucumber and a nice and tangy ponzu dressing. A marriage of lovely flavours and textures, the creamy avocado providing a nice warm contrast to the sharpness of the dressing and the pickled radish.

Risotto of ceps with crispy sweetbread, truffled mascarpone and a Madeira glaze followed. Well-made risotto, its richness nicely balanced by the mascarpone. Unfortunately the risotto did not have fresh ceps in it, but it did have the unmistakable, umami-rich cep taste and aroma. The sweetbread, covered in a thin, crisp batter, was lovely and soft, and the drizzle of Madeira glaze added a nice touch of meatiness.

My main course was Lincolnshire rabbit: saddle of rabbit wrapped in pancetta, a rabbit sausage, a rabbit croquette, the filling of which (including kidney and liver)  was seasoned with tarragon, and a light rabbit jus, accompanied by potato mash flavoured with wholegrain Pommery mustard, potato crisps, black trumpet mushrooms, broccolini and some parsley puree. A really wonderful take on the familiar rabbit-mustard-tarragon combination with comforting but refined flavours, the addition of the parsley puree delivering a nice touch of freshness.

Dessert was an irresistible combination of smooth chocolate ganache, boozy black forest cherries, cherry marmalade, moist and firm Valrhona chocolate sponge, a superb clean-tasting cherry sorbet, and a few dots of whipped cream.

I have been enjoying Jason Atherton's food since 2008, when he wooed me with a sublime rabbit bolognese at restaurant Maze and since he went solo I've had excellent meals at all of his London 'Social' restaurants and at Berners Tavern at the Edition Hotel. City Social is another textbook Jason Atherton restaurant, delivering Michelin-starred food, presented with élan in an informal but stylish setting. There's an appealing menu with British produce at heart cooked by an experienced chef, in this case the very accomplished Paul Walsh, who delivers carefully executed, handsome dishes that are big on flavour but not short on refinement either. All this, combined with City Social's marvellous location with its City views, makes you leave the buzzing dining room with a smile on your face.

Posted 04-12-2014


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