What: Following a ravishing re-launch of his flagship Chelsea restaurant, Tom Aikens, the Michelin-star clad face behind the famed Tom’s Kitchen, has thrown a weekend bottomless brunch menu into the mix, perfectly timed for lazy Summer snacking. The redesigned space has seen the introduction of an array of seasonal British sharing plates, and a brunch with a no-nonsense approach, featuring all the championed classics. Tom’s Kitchen has two sites across London and one in Birmingham. The London locations include Chelsea which opened first in November 2006, followed by Canary Wharf.
The Setting: Despite being situated a stroll from the infamous King’s Road in Chelsea, the location of Tom’s Kitchen is intimate, located in a kind of labyrinth of smooth white terraced houses in an environment very representative of that luxe associated with Chelsea. There was a Saturday afternoon lull in the area when we wandered our way there, with people propped up on park benches book in hand and scanning the stalls at the green grocer. It reminded me of being in some concealed French town on market day.
The Look: Tom’s Kitchen stands proudly on its location in Cale Street, with its bold black exterior peering out into the street. Once inside it’s a very open and bright space with wooden tables wrapped around a semi-open kitchen and plenty of exposed brickwork. The colour scheme is quite alluring, blood red leather sofas accompanied by black embellishments in the form of lights and a large mirror that provides a reflection that opens up the restaurant. Pictures adorning the walls are black and white and embrace the natural, from boats in a harbour to a large staple painting by the focal point bar of, what appears to be, owner Tom Aikens himself peering over a large pan of food.
On the Menu: The brunch menu is bursting with choice, and I really champion it because of this. Typically, when going for brunch, expectation lies with a menu featuring only the classics; breakfast grills, eggs royale and benedict, croissants and French toast, and whilst these are all options featured on the all-day brunch menu, there’s so much more to enjoy on the 12noon serving. Brunchers can choose from small plates or main dishes that include more obscure options of chicken liver fois gras parfait, Duroc pork spare rib and mains of hake, risotto and lamb rump. In essence, it’s a head-turner of a menu, brimming with tasty choice.
What We Ate: We went in for brunch at half past two – in the afternoon, just to clarify! So, the morning brunch options weren’t in our eyesight as we wanted something heartier. My companion had the Duroc pork spare rib with honey glaze, peanut and sesame crumb, whilst I had the spicy Devonshire crab cake with cucumber and quinoa salsa. Both dishes were just enough size wise, and I adored the presentation of the one rib scattered with the sesame. The crab was bursting with flavour and whilst I’m not normally a huge fan of gazpacho I thought it worked well as the avocado curd against cold crab was a nice fuzzy flavour.
Onto the mains and it appeared I was hunting for fish like a magpie hunts for shiny objects, scrupulously perusing the menu until… Ah, hake! Roast Cornish hake to be precise with shitake mushroom puree, mushroom broth and tender stem broccoli. I like hake because it’s quite a mild fish so it can be balanced out by other flavours like the mushroom broth. I hadn’t had this combination before and I found that it worked well. Again, there was a very adequate portion so I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I think mushroom puree could have the tendency to be quite sharp in flavour but this offering was delicious. My partner enjoyed the chicken schnitzel with cherry tomato sauce, aubergine and coriander, and then persisted to tell everyone we met about it that evening – suffice to say, he enjoyed it rather a lot. To end we had the cheeseboard – greediness to a new level, but it was brimming with flavour and all the grapes a gal can ask for.
What We Drank: As much as a bloody Mary rocks my world, I have a tendency to associate them with a Sunday sore-head and, seeing as I was feeling as fresh as a daisy, myself and my brunching companion opted for a glass of Prosecco to start. What were we celebrating? The weekend! Following this, I opted for an espresso martini whilst my partner had a Peroni! The drinks on the brunch menu are kept tight-knit in selection, with juices including cucumber, apple and mint and apple, carrot and ginger cushioned by naughtier options (Prosecco, Bloody Mary, I’m talking to you, rascals). The Prosecco actually comes as free-flowing if that tickles your fancy, valid for 1.5 hours.
Go With: For brunch, I think it goes without saying – it has to be someone with the bloody Mary mentality of “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere”.
Where: 27 Cale St, Chelsea, SW3 3QP, www.tomskitchen.co.uk
Final Word: It was a very good experience on the whole, and it’s a place I know I’d revisit if I was trying to flaunt London to friends. An extra hurrah also goes to Talent, our waiter, who has a very apt name considering his attentive service.