Main dining hall
SINGAPORE - Star British toque Jason Atherton's successes to date seem to defy the odds. For a start, the 41-year-old was the first British chef to complete a stage at Ferran Adria's famously demanding but now defunct el Bulli in 1998; and has worked under a number of gastronomy's finest - Pierre Koffmann, Nico Ladenis and Marco Pierre White, to name a few.
And despite being often referred to as Gordon Ramsay's protegee (which he confesses is fine by him), particularly after helping launch arguably the group's most successful brand, Atherton left Gordon Ramsay Holdings in 2010, coming into his own with a humble but decidedly drool-worthy collective of dressed-down yet stylish eats.
Success came reasonably fast. Within just six months of its opening in April last year, his first standalone restaurant Pollen Street Social (in the trendy Mayfair enclave of London) earned a coveted star in the 2012 Michelin Guide for Great Britain and Ireland, topping a slew of local honours. This alone might explain the added anticipation surrounding his first restaurant proper in Singapore.
Main dining hall.
The opportunely christened Pollen opened its doors at Gardens By The Bay yesterday and reservations, as one might expect, are gushing in. The intimate yet roomy 560-sqm restaurant, which boasts a first-of-its-kind Sommelier Bar on the upper terrace level, can comfortably accommodate 80 to 90 covers, shared Atherton. It is also rather ingeniously nestled within the climate-controlled Flower Dome of the minted gardens - a nice coincidence not lost on the romantic - complete with own herb garden (also possibly a first for a restaurant here).
"It's actually inside a Mediterranean garden, so you are going to be having your dinner next to thousand-year-old olive trees, fig trees, lavender, wild savoury ... It's going to be like a fairy tale, it is going to be beautiful," a noticeably keyed up Atherton told TODAY when he was in town last December to launch Esquina, his first Singapore venture and inspired tapas bar located on Jiak Chuan Road in Chinatown. (It too has achieved the unexpected, enjoying growing success where many tapas-centric joints have fallen short, and perhaps even inspiring a now lucrative trend.)
Unlike its London cousin, though, Pollen is established in partnership with renowned hotelier-restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, as is Esquina and Atherton's social-dining concept Table No 1 in Shanghai, housed at Loh's other boutique luxury lodging The Waterhouse at South Bund. The menu flaunts Atherton's take on contemporary European fare but again sets itself apart by incorporating an apt Mediterranean twist.
Said Atherton: "Pollen is still going to have a good price point. Not too expensive - somewhere I would like people to be able to visit twice a month not once a year."
Appropriately, starters start from S$18, mains from S$42. Desserts, priced from S$14, can also be savoured at a dedicated 9m-long dessert bar, designed as part of the main dining hall.
To achieve this, Atherton has assembled a culinary team to rival some of the best on the island. Helming the kitchen is former executive chef of award-winning Zuma in London, Isle Of Man native Colin Clague.
On his right is chef de cuisine Colin Buchan, who was formerly the head chef at yet another Ramsay restaurant, the York and Albany in London.
Pollen's executive pastry chef Andres Laras brings with him a wealth of experience, including noteworthy stints at el Bulli, Iggy's Singapore and Denmark's pride Noma. The opportunity to be part of this promising culinary creative was apparently too hard to resist for pastry sous chef Cathy Wang who had resigned her position at 2am:dessert bar after a two year stretch.
"My biggest expectation for Pollen is that it will be well-received by Singaporeans," Atherton humbly affirmed. "And that they would be able to enjoy this labour of love."
Indeed, what could be more intrinsically delish?
Pollen is at Flower Dome, Gardens By The Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive; Tel: 6604 9988. Open daily for lunch and dinner.