While new (the place has undergone a complete refurb), the restaurant has a look in keeping with current dining identities by offering an old, almost rustic look, with exposed brickwork and unframed sketches on the wall, offset by smart leather banquettes and the odd neon sign (mostly around the stairwell). Situated over three levels, in the basement, there's a kitchen that also provides a bar style chef's table which means that you don't have to be a party of eight to dine there. On the ground floor, there's the main restaurant, and finally, if you climb the stairs, there's the 'Blind Pig' bar serving cocktails and bar snacks. The bar in fact has it's own entrance and therefore functions as both an integrated and stand alone venue.
In the kitchen is Paul Hood, Jason's long time collaborator who previously headed up the kitchen at Pollen Street Social, so here, we have a veteran chef who has been a partner in crafting the food message that won both applause and a Michelin star for PSS from the start and can therefore be expected to deliver a similar quality offering here, and he does.
Food here is 'familiar with a twist', and comfort with a lift. On the starters, a BLT has become a CLT (Colchester Crab), "ham egg and chips" uses duck it seems (not tried) and the ravioli of wild boar Bolognaise, something that many a restaurant would be happy to deliver well in its own right goes a step further here with peppered hearts and kidneys. Equally, a smoked Black Angus tartare arrives at the table so smartly dressed in salad leaves that you wonder if they've brought the right plate to the table; of course they have and it's these little extras on the plate take the food on a level from the safe combinations offered in the capital's now ubiquitous brasseries.
It's the same story on the mains: roast Cornish cod, cockles and cream doesn't stop there as others might, providing here additionally kombu and mousseron that shakes things up just enough. Only the lamb neck fillet disappointed and though the combination with sheep's ricotta potato, garlic and parsley sounded good, the lamb was a touch dry and would have benefited from a jus to moisten things up somewhat.
For dessert, the milk chocolate mousse, praline, chocolate eclair and salted caramel ice cream (yes, that's all one dessert) was an overwhelming favourite, with the eclair component especially enjoyed.
With Social Eating House combining an inspiring menu cooked well with informal surrounds, this is definitively Jason Atherton's most social restaurant yet. And with the bar upstairs rather than annexed to the restaurant, these spaces provide two distinct offerings (we will blog the bar in due course) and SEH will in our view carry forward the buzz that we experienced in the restaurant today for a long time to come.