Happy 2016, y’all!

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Our view of the London fireworks from County Hall, Southbank

Anyone else feel like they blinked and 2015 just sort of zoomed by?! I mean, March feels like it was just a fortnight ago, and i’m pretty sure I was top-down summer holiday cruising across Italy just yesterday!

To be honest, I can’t believe we’re a week into 2016 already. Who’s already broken their new year resolutions? Me? Well actually i’ve stuck to all of mine… ish:

  1. Eat healthier (I had a fry-up for my dinner on the 1st of January, but my fridge is currently stocked with more fruit and vegetables than a green grocers so that makes up for it!)
  2. Blog more (umm hello 1st week of January… so far, so good!)
  3. Complete Kayla Itsines BBG work out plan (i’ve joined TWO gyms; home adjacent & work adjacent. No excuses. I have about 4 tubs of brandy butter to shift from out inner thighs! I actually went to the gym on New Years Day… I was one of those people!)

So onto resolution number 2. I didn’t blog on here much last year because work ran away with me a little, and I was writing a lot for the Tastecard blog, but this year i’m going to try and up my game, and i’ll be starting with the restaurant I spent my New Year’s Eve in: Little Social on Mayfair’s Pollen Street.

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Little Social is the younger brother of Michelin-star awarded Pollen Street Social by Jason Atherton, and it’s growing up fast. You may have read my review of City Social which is also a member of this fine dining family, in which case you’ll already know the quality of food and drink in this group is quite wonderful.

Like many of you i’m sure, i’ve never liked New Years Eve – it’s always over priced, over hyped, over crowded and inevitably an anti-climax, but I wanted to do something a bit special (just to say we did something!), so we managed to reserve ourselves a last minute spot at the bar to enjoy some top quality fare before Big Ben struck midnight.

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There were two dining options for us: the A La Carte menu, or the New Year’s Eve menu priced at £90 per head, to include a glass of Champagne. So other than the champagne, what was the difference between these two menus? Absolutely nothing. The exact same dishes just one with a set price for three courses, and the other priced individually. And the ridiculous thing is that we’d have ordered the £90 menu had the other option not been available, but it was, and we worked out it was cheaper even with us ordering the most expensive main course dish each, 2 glasses of champagne and 2 glasses of wine, AND service on top of that, to go with the A La Carte menu. A bit of a silly move there from the Little Social team, though our pockets were grateful as we worked out it saved us about £20 each!

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After starting with a glass of Champagne and a bowl of beautiful fresh bread served with some gorgeous smoked, salted butter (the butter is important – it’s either going to make or break the enjoyment of the bread, and this one kept me going back to the basket for extra nibbles!) we ordered our starters.

Josh and I couldn’t decide between the Cumbrian native bavette tartare with quail egg yolk and toasted baguette (£14.00) and the Raw hand dived Isle of Mull scallops, dashi jelly, apple, shiso, wasabi & avocado purée (£15.50) so we ordered both and promised to share.

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The Tartare was beautiful; really juicy with a subtle tang from the capers and other seasonings, though lacking a little in spice. It was beautifully presented, and a generously sized portion which we were more than happy to share, but the scallops on the other hand were minuscule. In fact, by the time I had finished my first bite of the tartare, Josh was ready to swap plates as he’d already eaten his half!

That’s not to say they weren’t delicious, but it just wasn’t as satisfying as the tartare. The presentation as you can see was exquisite, delicate and appetising. The light ‘nose tang’ from the wasabi was subtle and the puree itself was creamy and rich from the avocado. The jelly had a light sweetness to it which married well with the freshness of the scallops, but at £1.50 more expensive, it didn’t seem particularly good value for money in comparison.

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We asked our waiter what he enjoyed most from the main course selection and he assured us that their Aged Scottish beef burger with bacon, cheese, caramelised onions, pickles and chips (at a not too eye-watering price of £17.00) is the best burger in London (!), but only when joined with the optional supplement of pan-fried foie gras at an addition £15.00. Big words and ones I would one day like to test, but £32 for a burger seems a little much. And anyway, Josh and I both agreed that we couldn’t resist the sound of the Braised Irish ox cheeks, roast marrow bone, sourdough crumb, carrot, horseradish mash (£27.50) so we both order that.

I always love cheek meat, it always seems so much more tender and flavourful, and I wasn’t left disappointed with this amazing dish of food. No knife required, the juicy, well seasoned cut of meat flaked away with the lightest of touches from my fork. The dark, rich meaty jus was warming and elevated the meat even further. The bone marrow was gooey, rich and such had a depth of flavour that tingled me down to my own bones that I had to close my eyes to the world for a few seconds just to savour it (I get over dramatic when I eat!)

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The carrot was sweet with a hint of crunch and the mashed potato with the horseradish was creamy. I especially enjoyed the texture of the sourdough crumb.

This was the most expensive main dish on the menu (asides from the sharing Rib-Eye steak and the pimped out burger), however if we wanted to push the purse strings even further, we could have added a supplement of black truffle (to any dish) for the bargain price of £30.00! The taste of truffle is often lost on me so I can’t personally put a value on it, but i’ve eaten in enough restaurants to know that £30 is incredibly steep for this addition! I’d have expected it to be more in the region of £10. Needless to say we both declined the option.

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With our main and dessert we enjoyed a glass each of white wine. We asked for a glass of the house white, but we were told that despite it saying “house” on the bottle, they don’t like to think of it as the house because a) it’s not actually the cheapest wine on the menu, and b) it’s so much more than just a standard run-of-the-mill wine, rather it is a Chenin Blanc from the Anjou region in France which had been produced exclusively for the ‘Pollen Street’ restaurants. It is a real shame that this bottle cannot be bought anywhere but in the restaurants as it was one of the best wines we have enjoyed in a London restaurant. Light, crisp, with a touch of sweetness and a gorgeous remaining taste in the mouth. A bottle will set you back £39 and we have already looked into visiting the vineyard in which its produced to see what other delights they have created!

As dessert came around we looked onto our fellow diners tables to see what we liked the look of. The Tarte Tatin had been recommended by our waiter as the best dessert on the menu, and our neighbouring table heartily agreed, however it was a dessert for two and Josh wasn’t overly keen.

Instead he ordered the pleasing to the eye but a little disappointing to the mouth Carrot Cake with spiced mascarpone cream, maple syrup & Jersey cream cheese ice-cream (£7.50)

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Unfortunately there are few ways of elevating a carrot cake to be a show stopping dessert. Yet is was beautiful and had some good flavours, but it didn’t quite compare to my dessert, which was three generously sized Maple glazed doughnuts with a baked Bramley apple, cinnamon & port filling, crème Anglaise & cinnamon sugar.

One of these doughnuts would have been enough for me (and Josh didn’t fancy one – not a doughnut fan. It sometimes makes me doubt our relationship) but I wasn’t about to leave a mouthful of these stunningly sweet, warm, gooey and sticky treats go to waste (especially when the diet was starting the next day, minus the fry-up). With each bite a big, warm gloop of fruity filling was attempt an escape to freedom, but I’m one of those people who has no qualms at all with licking a plate clean with my finger, regardless of the calibre of restaurant or the occasion.

The creme anglaise was beautiful, though a little cold meaning it didn’t marry particularly well with the heat of the doughnuts, and the cinnamon sugar wasn’t really needed due to the gorgeous maple glaze already pushing my sugar levels to the limit.

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Our bill came to about £85 each (so much cheaper that the set price would have been) and we were out the door and heading down to the south bank to watch the fireworks by 10.30pm. It was a wonderful gastronomic farewell to 2015, and I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings to my currently starving belly!