A staple of the Chelsea supper scene, Tom’s Kitchen enjoys an enviable location on discreet Cale Street where it churns out consistently good upmarket bistro food.
This was the first time I had actually tried the food of much fabled chef supremo Tom Aikens, but his reputation I was already familiar with. Aikens’ pedigree is pretty fabulous; first rising to fame as head chef at 2 Michelin starred Pied a Terre before setting up a restaurant of his own which was also bestowed with starry recognition. Following a few tricky incidents typical of the restaurant industry, his activities slowed with the focus of his output being poured into the Tom’s Kitchen group of more casual, everyday eateries. We on the foodie grapevine hear regular rumblings of forthcoming fine dining restaurants, but as of yet the chef appears to still be biding his time.
Tom’s Kitchen it is then. It’s on quiet but convenient Cale Street (also home to a Paxton & Whitfield and JoJo Maman Bebe, i.e. yummy mummy territory) which makes it easily accessible for pre or post shopping pit stops, and as such is ever popular with the Chelsea lunch crowd. We went on a Sunday night when it was very much alive and buzzing; the clientele a mixture of couples and local families enjoying a night off cooking.
The menu is appealing; four or five dishes from both starters and mains immediately stand out. First we pick scallops with black pudding and pine nut risotto, and a spicy crab cake with cucumber and chilli relish. The portion of risotto with the delicious scallops was enormous – it could have comfortably been a main course. The crab cake was also not stingy on the crab; a nice change to fish cakes that usually taste of seasoned mashed potato.
Next was Cornish venison loin and croquette with various preparations of pear and beetroot, and rabbit leg with squid, chorizo and mashed potato. Venison came beautifully tender and choosing to exclude potato keeps the dish from becoming overly heavy. The Spanish flavours in the rabbit dish were perfectly pitched, although the meat itself could have been a touch softer. We finish with apple and vanilla panna cotta and a chocolate orange mousse. Both are good, particularly the mousse which was elaborate evidence of the chef’s fine dining talent.
Aikens’ has the whole city covered; there are outposts at Somerset House, Canary Wharf, St Katherine’s Docks, and HMS Belfast. These restaurants hint at his fine-dining pedigree, but for the most part it’s fashionable, unfussy neighbourhood dining done very well indeed.