Sunday, 29 April 2012

Tom Aikens

As many chefs and foodies will know Tom Aikens restaurant resides in those quiet back streets, just off the Fulham Road, surrounded by gated residential properties. However, I didn't know where I was going, my Blackberry had lost touch with its mother satellite, a million miles away somewhere in outerspace.  I was running around like a headless chicken, already 15 minutes late, so I gave up and jumped into a taxi and was quickly deposited at Tom's Kitchen. Of course it was the wrong restauant! Even the famous taxi drivers of London didn't know where Tom's place was. Had I missed the warning signs?  Taking a step back in time, to be exact about a week ago, I was asked to book a table at Tom Aikens restauant and thought you have to be joking I'm not going to get a table for love nor money. Well, like the virtuous entering the pearly gates I was given a table without a hitch and even though I'd plumped for an early booking there wasn't that usual irritating request to leave the table after 90 minutes as we have more important, cash rich clients coming up behind.

Following Tom's recent infamous rise from the ashes, like the phoenix, the restaurant has been re-birthed by Turkish designers. Light wooden tables, bedecked with wibbly wobbly flower vases, salt and pepper pots hewn from volcanic rock and simple but effective napiery grace the tables. However, I'm not sure what the word clouds have to offer in a restaurant like this. As we'd arrived early the maestro himself came out to say hello and we learned about his exploits in the London Marathon and the Marathon des Sables. He is one tough cookie and in the restauant business you need to be.

Menus are presented in sytlish, colourful envelopes that open out to reveal a 'slot machine' approach with a design of cherries and flowers used to highlight what is included in the 6 and 8 course taster menus, priced at £55 and £75. On the main menu starters are priced from £12, main courses from £21 and desserts from £7.50. Minimilistic menu descriptions mean that you have no option, unless you don't care, to ask for assistance and they are more than ready to assist. Charming, attentive, cheery and knowledgeable is how I would describe the front of house team. Ok, they're wearing some wacky uniforms, a mix of tweed, open neck shirts and chinos, visions of lederhosen kept jumping into my head, but apart from that they know their Ark Chickens from their Roast Gems.

While we waited for our starters we were offered various amuse bouche which helped set the theme for the evening.  A starter of Jasmine Cured Salmon with viola flowers, pickled apple and jasmine oil was just one of the triumphs. Unfortunately, the accompaning 'smoke' was given to one of my guests but like an ex-smoker I managed to inhale enough to get my fix. Pot au Feu of New Season Lamb was exceptional, I don't think I've ever tasted such soft lamb before. Every course is presented on different styles of colourful crockery. Their glass bill must be excessive and god help anybody who breaks one! The fresh bread choices, including a delicious Cep was out of this world and a choice of three butters made this sublime.

Main courses: Chorizo baked cod with piquillo pepper and cod soup was colourful and well balanced, the cod being cooked to perfection and portion size was just right. Piglet with roast gem, pineapple fondant, sage and crackling was also amazing. The Roast John Dory with sweet cauliflower, cumin, cauliflower milk and brown butter is the dish I'll be ordering should I return. Exquisite presentation and flavours.

The wine list is a book not a list and an entertaining read it is but again you need to take advice from the Sommelier. My French guests were cooing over the choice of wines available as only the French can do. Check how many bottles they have in stock, there was only one bottle of Crozes Hermitage which was brilliant.

Cheeses were excellent but we decided the accompanying chutney and jams are just unnecessary.

Desserts were inventive and delicious especially the chocolate parfait. However, the White Chocolate Creme was just terrible and had no taste whatsoever. Fortunately, the coffee came with amusing Oxo boxes filled with marshmallows, pralines, Turkish Delight and sugary fruits. This more than made up for the disappointing dessert.

Overall a very enjoyable foodie extravaganza. I'll be returning again once I've joined the Sunday Times Rich list!

Tom Aikens
43 Elystan Street
020 7584 2003

Posted by Richard.

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