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Tom's Kitchen launches at Somerset House

Tom Aikens (r) at the Terrace of the venue 

Tom's Kitchen at London's Somerset House is the sequel opening to the Chelsea restaurant of Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens. Sat Bal sampled tradition with a twist at the official opening of the new Compass Group-backed venture following its soft launch this July. (15 Sep 10)

Summer's on the wane but the water fountains of Somerset House continue to pump out their welcome. Over the venue's expansive courtyard and inside the Kitchen a warm oaken bar receives arriving guests, its marble-top surface dotted with flutes of champagne and a curious confection of cocktails. 

Tom's Kitchen now replaces the House's Admiralty restaurant and opens to three dining rooms. Here, furniture is oak-wrought and supplemented with banquettes. The overall feel is grand Regency but the bare walls of the room that we settle into give off a spartan feel. Organisers tell us that this is because we're at day one of a three-day launch and promise that stimulating visuals are en route.    

Let's be clear about one thing - diners looking for culinary exotica will be missing the point of Tom's Kitchen. This is confirmed by a glance at the main menu which reveals beef burger with big chips, grilled fillet steak and shepherd's pie among the fare. “It’s really the sort of food that might be prepared at home – but taken on to another level,” explains Tom Aikens. “It’s our take on traditional English fare but with a twist to lift it out of the ordinary."  
Certainly there was nothing ordinary about the Daylesford seven-hour confit of lamb with balsamic onions and mash; the succulent meat succumbed equally well to knife and mouth.

Later, when Tom Aikens came over to introduce himself and ask about our menu choices we weren't surprised to learn that his day had started around 6am. Seven-hour lamb aside, you'd have to be up early just to create the creamy smooth texture that was the starter dish ofchicken liver and foie gras parfait with challot chutney and brioche chunks. My guest was equally impressed with her starter of pan fried foie gras served with Clarence Court duck egg and Ventreche bacon. 
The only thing that grated a little was the arrival of some dishes on wooden tablets and a bland looking oven dish for the lamb. While this might have promoted the good, earthy home food ethos it felt more like Aunt Mabel's kitchenware and somewhat incongruous with the grandeur of Somerset House. Still, such small sorrows were a drop in the wine list which featured stars such as a Puligny Montrachet 2007 (£75 a bottle), Brunello di Montalcino 2004 (£75) and late bottled vintage port (£42.50). 

It was the bottle of crisp F.Girard Sancerre rosé 2009 which ultimately did the trick. At this point my guest decided to issue the challenge of concocting a perfect Russian Bride, something of a dying commodity apparently. The cocktail was off-menu and the efficient waitress smiled off to the bar area and returned with the smile but no drink. The head barman was working on it.

Soon enough the Russian Bride arrived, a brown cross on its cream white face, happily consumed. And another. And another. And then over came Paolo, its creator, who was curious to meet the Bride botherer. Paolo confirmed that the cocktail wasn't one he regularly made and he was keen to get feedback. The point is that the service here is attentive but discretely so.

Returning to the food the size of the earlier portions meant that the dessert menu was passed over by us, though no doubt delights such as the chocolate hot pot with pistachio ice cream andspiced crème brûlée will delay many a diner. Instead a nightcap under the canopy of  the riverside Terrace Café outside was indulgence enough.

Cost

Starters 
Chicken liver and foie gras parfait : £12.50
Pan fried foie gras with Clarence Court duck egg and Ventreche bacon : £13.95 

Main 
Daylesford seven-hour confit of lamb : £21 per diner

Drinks
F.Girard Sancerre rosé 2009 wine : £36 bottle
Lanson Gold Label Vintage 1999 : £95 bottle
Russian Brides : Ask Paolo!

Venue vitals
 
  • Mon-Fri Breakfast 8-11am; Lunch 12noon – 3pm; Dinner 6-10pm
  • Saturday Brunch:10am-4pm; Dinner 6-10pm
  • Sunday Brunch: 10am-4pm; Closed evening
  • Bar offer Mon-Sat until 11pm. Closed Sunday evening

Contact +44 (0)20 7845 4646; www.tomskitchen.co.uk/somersethouse

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