Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social in London has been an instant hit with a large number of people it seems. If reservations are now easier to get, it still counts among the city’s most popular eateries. Whilst Atherton is usually associated with the UK, he also runs a restaurant in Shanghai: Table No 1.
As with Pollen Street Social, the concept here is very clear and rather unusual. The entire room is filled with communal tables and the well-dressed service staff add more to a comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere. This feeling of an easy-going restaurant without too much fuss is also reflected in the cheap prices: A three-course lunch costs as little as RMB 178, with dinner a mere 22 quai more.
Luckily enough, Atherton didn’t choose to serve pretentious or gimmicky food like at PSS here. At Table No 1 it’s simply to the point and easy to like. A dish of three meaty prawns, simply seasoned with salt and pepper is perfectly cooked and shows what good comfort food should be.
The same goes for a loin of pork with potatoes, lentils, carrots and thyme. What you have on the plate is a collection of harmonious, bold and well-known flavours that work more than well. It’s nothing that you didn’t have before, but its very well executed, which can’t be said of many restaurants in Shanghai (Western ones).
Even the desserts here do not disappoint. An olive oil polenta cake with orange syrup, or a lemongrass jelly with coconut foam and pineapple sorbet are both delightful and fun to eat. All of this gives you the impression that Table No. 1 is Jason Atherton’s more interesting restaurant. It can do without a dessert bar, a “special gift” or grumpy staff. All it serves is honest and tasty food. This is much more admirable an achievement than the slightly arrogant attitude of Pollen Street, and much more enjoyable for the dinner.