Tom's Kitchen opens

Friday, November 24th , 2006

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Tom Aikens would seem an unlikely character to open a brasserie. Known for his ultra-elaborate concoctions when cooking at Pied a Terre, and now in his own restaurant in South Kensington, he might seem the last chef in London likely to produce simple, down-to-earth food. Yet this is exactly what he has done at Tom’s Kitchen in Cale Street, near his main restaurant.  He has done very well with chef selection, getting Ollie Couillard as head chef.  Ollie was head chef at La Trompette when it was at its best, and here he seems even more at home. His goujons of sole were a masterpiece, fresh fish with a light crispy batter accompanied by a tangy tartare sauce. See the London section of this site for a full review of the restaurant, but in summary I felt that it was extremely successful. For the last year I have been disappointed by “bistro cooking” at places with fawning press reviews (Galvin’s, Arbutus) that I felt were pleasant but lacked any real excitement in the culinary department. Tom’s Kitchen easily surpassed these, paying attention to detail where it matters. For example bread is baked here rather than bought-in, and the sourdough is superb; a chicken schnitzel dish is pictured. A place that deserves to thrive, as it seems to already be doing. There have not been many new openings in London this year to get excited about, but this is one to celebrate.

My regular favourite Zafferano also delivered, with the return to the menu of the pasta parcels (ravioli) of pheasant flavoured with rosemary. Zafferano does superb pasta, and here the rosemary lends a wonderful fragrance to the rich taste of the pheasant, wrapped inside a delicate wrapping of tender pasta, resting in the cooking juices of the pheasant.  This is another restaurant which goes the extra mile on ingredient sourcing, exemplified by the stunning Parmesan cheese offered alongside some salami as an appetiser. For those who have only experienced ordinary Parmesan (or, worse, the horror of pre-grated packet Parmesan) it is hard to imagine just how good it can really be. I bought some superb Parmesan earlier this year at St Remo market in Italy, and the one tonight was just as good as that. I find it mildly amusing that the best Italian food in London is here, yet the chef is English.