Lunch Mon–Fri midday–2.30pm; dinner Mon–Sat 6.45pm–11pm
Tom Aikens’ eponymous restaurant – sleek in its monochrome swagger – is tucked away in a quiet Chelsea road. A few years back you may have seen the Michelin-starred chef being described as volatile (including a heated kitchen incident). However the only thing packing a punch on my visit was the flavour.
The restaurant has recently undergone a £1m renovation and with several awards in the bag including Restaurant of the Year, Sommelier of the Year and a Michelin star, my foodie friend Reena and I had more than high expectations for this meal.
We walked into a completely empty restaurant; not the sort of entrance I expected. Waiter Matteo felt it necessary to explain to us that it was a quiet time of year for them (it quickly picked up half an hour later). Reassured by the dashing Matteo, we scoured the extensive wine list. Exhausted by the options, I asked the award-winning sommelier to recommend a chardonnay and boy was it a good ‘un; a buttery vintage Chassagne-Montrachet (£66). As we were browsing the menu we were brought a ‘present from the chef’; mini teaspoons of silky olive and duck jelly and little crispy cheese balls which was followed by a varied selection of freshly-baked breads, from buttermilk to olive.
To start I ordered the poached Cardigan Bay lobster with apple conserve and pork belly (£32). The acidic apple conserve overpowered the lobster but was a welcome contrast to the rich crunchy pork, all of which was slumbering on millimetre-thin discs of apple. Reena had the scallops with beetroot purée, caramelised onion and beetroot dressing (£25). (Aikens is great at serving the same ingredient in two or more different ways i.e. beetroot purée and dressing.) The scallops were generously-sized and subtly sweet served in a chunky onion bed; the beetroot perfectly earthy and smooth.
For mains I ordered John Dory with roast cauliflower purée, brown butter and smoked eel (£30). The robust fish was complemented by the intense charred flavours of the eel, although the aroma of the cauliflower was a little unpleasant. Reena had herb-crusted Romney Marsh lamb, aligot potatoes and dried green olives (£35). She found the mash was overly cheesy but the lamb was perfectly cooked. We both agreed that our dishes were oversalted.
The service was flawless; the waiters are polite and smiley but without being nauseous; the sommelier kept our glasses topped up and there was no lingering around between courses.
As dessert loomed we had both got to the point of the night were the conversation was flowing and decision making wasn’t a priority, so asked our Matteo who suggested, ‘the pistachio; it is heaven’. We went for that and also a cheeky chocolate number. The pistachio millefeuille (£15) consisted of parfait, praline and cassonade; heavenly light. The chocolate Dacquoise (£15), with its truffles, chocolate dust and salted caramel, was decadently rich.
We managed to share one of the petit fours (made in-house) and Matteo boxed up the rest for us along with a ‘surprise from the chef’ – gorgeous handmade chocolates. We had been thoroughly spoilt.
Meal for two approximately £200 with wine and service.