What: I operate a long but, thanks to this job, ever decreasing bucket list of London restaurants I absolutely must visit at some point and Tom Aikens was always on it.
I used to live a stone’s throw away from the Cale Street restaurant, though you’d probably find testing this theory would land you with a sizeable Aston Martin repair bill in this corner of Chelsea, back when Tom Aikens’ Restaurant was THE place to be seen. I’d walk longingly past, but the eponymous chef had already won two Michelin stars by the age of 26 and his restaurant was simply impossible to get a booking at, even if you could afford it. So when Tom’s Kitchen, the cheaper spin off, opened in 2006 I was keen to book. Except as spin-off series go this was rather more a Joey rather than a Better Call Saul. The bistro was confusing and the food lacklustre, accompanied by a startling bill for what was basically a glorified caff.
All of which filled me with a little trepidation as I headed back to check out the all-new Tom’s Kitchen revamp, once bitten twice shy and all that.
Setting: Like I just said, it’s in Chelsea.
The Look: They’ve given the place a tarting up for the relaunch and it looks a lot swisher, the stark white walls have been toned down with more subtle hues and a bar is now a real feature of the space. It looks great! In fact it’s fair to say that Tom’s Kitchen is looking less and less like a kitchen. Which is good, because the focus is now on what’s coming out of the kitchen, and that’s the best bit.
On the Menu: The menu focuses on sharing dishes, a pet peeve of mine based entirely on greed. But in the same way that the older you get the more you like giving Christmas presents rather than receiving, the dishes, drawn from a revolving seasonal menu are so very rich, various and fabulous that you’ll positively want others to enjoy them too.
What We Ate: The juniper and gin cured salmon was just the beginning of a sharing extravaganza, with enough of the most delicious fish I’ve had in a good long while to make me wonder if it was a starter or main? I’m not really a beef carpaccio guy, surely I could walk up to a cow and slice off a bit of it’s shoulder and make it myself, right? Wrong, on several levels but I definitely couldn’t make something as moreish as Tom Aikens, it was splendid. The crab cake, too, was tip top. The mains, meanwhile, well you just have to try the salt marsh lamb rump, it’s brilliant, succulent and perfectly cooked, words can’t do justice (nor can my iPhone camera, so I shan’t share my pic of a half eaten-then-remembered-to-photograph rump), not to mention an excellent Cumbrian pork chop.
Pudding was an unnecessary but simultaneously non-negotiable luxury! Chocolate mousse with honeycomb and lime jelly was so tasty that it gave me flashbacks for days afterwards.
What We Drank: The bar is a major feature, you have to negotiate your way around it to get to your table and likely as not you’ll be stationed here while the staff root out your booking or make you wait for your table to become free. Which is great as you can get acquainted with a rather fun cocktail menu. Whoever was on our table before us was clearly as big a fan of the chocolate mousse as me because we had enough time to burn through both the Chelsea Fizz, which is whisky, lemon juice, egg white, gomme, soda and Port and the French 75, Champagne, sloe gin, lemon juice and sugar and both were fabulous.
With the meal we stuck to the house (cheapest), which is a very reasonably priced Italian Sangiovese.
Where: 27 Cale Street, Chelsea, SW3 3QP, www.tomskitchen.co.uk
Final Word: This was an entirely different Tom’s Kitchen to the one I visited a decade ago, if I ever won the lottery I’d consider only eating here (the normal lottery, I mean, if it was Euromillions I’d try and buy actual Tom Aikens). In short, it was very good indeed. Try it.