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Tom's Place

1 Cale Street, London, England, SW3 3QT, United Kingdom

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This closed its doors in August 2008, so the notes below are of historical interst only.  I rated it 12/20 based on my solitary visit.

Tom’s Plaice Place is nothing if not eco-friendly, a chippie with a sense of porpoise. Fish are from sustainable sources, the plates are of recyclable material and the wine list is solely English. As it happened, the day we went we were able to bring our own wine with no corkage, but this was a temporary licensing issue so don’t get your hopes up of something better than English wine when you visit. The premises are quite snug but pleasantly decorated, the main dining room up a spiral staircase with a few tables at ground level near the kitchen. The tables have no tablecloths and you perch on some quite small chairs. There are a couple of portholes with a little video of the sea playing, and a plasma screen on an endless loop showing Tom Aikens out on a fishing boat; at least the sound is turned down. There was no music playing in the dining room (missing an opportunity to play classics like “It’s a moray”,  “Mahi’s making eyes at me” or “It haddock be you”). 

The crowd on this lunch time visit was casually dressed but a Chelsea touch was provided by the couple dining next to us, who said to the waitress “we’d like to order some fish and chips to send out to our chauffeur outside; can you add this to our order”. This did not raise an eyebrow here but I suspect is not a line that is uttered too often down the East End. As well as the various fish and chip variants there is line caught sea bass and mackerel, which looked tempting.

Scampi was breaded rather too much, so although the underlying langoustine was nicely cooked there was not enough of its taste relative to the coating (11/20). I could not carp about the pollack (£12), which was correctly cooked with a good beer batter (12/20). Squid showed good technique, the flesh avoiding rubberiness, though the cooking floundered when it came to a deep-fried ray: this was just half a ray removed from its cartilage and the flesh was entirely dried out inside its batter (10/20). Chips were pleasant, reasonably crispy from their frying in beer dripping (13/20) and mushy peas were a cut about the norm, avoiding the over-mushiness that often occurs and tasting properly of peas. 

Desserts are home-made ice cream (£2.75), and of the ones tried banana was pronounced excellent, though I found my dark chocolate to be a different kettle of fish; I’m not sure what chocolate this was made from, but it did not have great flavour. Coffee was pleasant (13/20) and service was friendly and capable. Overall it was a pleasant experience, though I prefer the Two Brothers in north London.  I’ll just have to resume my search for the perfect chippie, which is perhaps an impossible bream.

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  • Joshua

    I tried Tom's Place with a grouper of five last Saturday and enjoyed it. The staff was particularly friendly and it was interesting herring from them about the restaurant's sustainable practices. The pollack was, as you say, well prepared, with a particularly good texture; and the chips, while far, far short of Blumenthal's (clearly Aikens has not poached the triple-cooked recipe), nonetheless succeeded; the mushy peas were even better. On the whole, this spot cod be a winner!

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