I’d like to be able to write how the waiter’s grime-rimmed thumbnail, with which he had just gouged something sinister out of his ear, nudged against the contents of the plate; how a glistening black hair, half submerged in the dish’s paludinal liquid, entangled itself with the semi-solid floating gelatinous elements; how the plate’s arrival was preceded by the fragrance similar to that of water left stagnant in a vase until the stems of the decaying plant have become slimy, and a beige skin has formed on the surface; how I lifted a debris-encrusted spoon of the liquid into my mouth only for my taste buds to be assaulted by the week-long damp cloth- tasting infusion.
But I can’t.
Because Little Social is impeccable. Nestled in a slither of a side street, it is an Elysium secluded from the tourist-thronged pavements of Regents St. Jason Atherton’s classic French bistro interior strikes a harmonious balance between refined elegance and comfortableness. Johannes, soon-to-be manager, glides around the room attentively, infusing it with his charm. The menu is French inspired Modern European with subtly innovative twists and combinations.
Always lured by the umami perfume of truffles, I ordered the Burrata, pear quince, truffled honey and pickled walnuts - a decadent combination that I imagine would have gone down very well at a lavish Roman banquet. Burrata is the queen of soft cheeses, and I’ve had the misfortune to witness numerous acts of treason committed against it by a number of restaurant kitchens. This was not the case at Little Social. Rich, latticed, and butter-soft, the cloud of burrata melted on the palate, while the truffle infusion added a kick of savoury to the sweet decadence.
The pear quince exceeded the expectation provided by the modest menu description: some slices were poached – soft, spiced and near caramelised, some were lightly macerated – sweet with a little more texture, and some were left fresh, adding a crispness to the dish. This sweetness was cut through by the astringent balsamic reduction and pickled walnuts.
I had carved out a path of indulgence in the menu but my dining companion opted for a lighter course: salad of baby carrots, avocado, fennel, clementines and coriander. I’ve ordered this several times before and it tastes and looks like summer: vibrant, fresh, crunchy, creamy and tangy, it is a well-balanced dish.
For main, I ordered roasted Cornish line-caught cod, Asian spiced cauliflower and aromatic duck broth.
The cod was so tender it almost anticipated the arrival of my fork. The cauliflower was done in two ways: florets, and a delicately spiced textured puree, both of which complemented the fish. The broth imbued the other elements with its contrasting smoky savouriness.
My dining companion’s choice of the risotto of wild mushrooms, parmesan & wild garlic proved that the vegetarian options are in no way neglected.
At this point in the review I would love to furnish you with an opportunity for schadenfreude. Alas I cannot. I can’t even say that I had the misery of having to wait a long time to return to Little Social as I returned a week later. On my birthday, I turned down the prime opportunity to sample another of London’s fine dining establishments, and I even eschewed my traditional birthday cake. Some might think this decision radical and rash, but the reason lay in the heart of Little Social’s pastry kitchen.
Deep russet brown, glistening, sticky, oozing, sweet, crisp, buttery, crunchy with a caramel darkened to sultry, sweet, savoury and nutty depths, just approaching the perilous realm of burnt: the tarte tatin can only be compared to Hephaestus’ offerings to the gods.
The crisp meringue with Gariguette strawberries, lime Chantilly, fraises des bois and elderflower sorbet was also delicious.
A perfectly formed orb of crisp meringue contributed texture and sweetness to the smooth tangy sorbet and berry interior, making it a delightfully elegant and refreshing dessert.
You may be unsettled by the fact that there were no faults. I strained to find even the finest of hairline cracks in the restaurant’s performance, reliving the meal in my head, scrutinising the individual elements. I even went back a second time to check. And checking yet again, and again, would be no Sisyphean task.
Suitable for: smart dates, business lunches, birthdays, family, friends, pre-theatre dining, vegetarians