'Consistently high quality food, drink and service'

Tom’s Kitchen, Chelsea

Open Mon–Fri 8am–11.30am, midday–2.30pm, 6pm–10.30pm; Sat 10am–midday, 12.30pm–3.30pm, 6pm–10.30pm; Sun 10am–midday, 12.30pm–3.30pm, 6pm–9.30pm

The blurb

‘Tom’s Kitchen Chelsea was opened in November 2006 by Michelin starred chef Tom Aikens. Located in a townhouse on the former site of The Blenheim pub, the Modern British brasserie serves comfort food favourites in a relaxed and informal environment, from breakfast to dinner, seven days a week. It also offers two rooms for private dining, drinks parties and canapé receptions on its second floor.

The ethos of Tom’s Kitchen is simple: use the very best seasonal and locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The restaurants work with British suppliers and farmers that are as passionate about growing as the chefs are about cooking. The team is committed to serving fresh, ethically sourced ingredients and goes to great lengths researching the finest sustainable produce.

All Tom’s Kitchens work closely with British suppliers and farmers who are as passionate about their produce as we are about cooking and serving it.’

The style

High end, functional chic. White metro tiles line the walls, tables are pine, pendant lights fashioned from industrial metal, napkins roomy and white, bordered with two blue stripes, mimicking professional kitchen tea towels. Huge floral displays in galvanised buckets adorn the marble-topped bar that runs along one side of the room; blown up, mounted black and white photos of the restaurant’s suppliers (a butcher posing with a pig’s head, natch) play up its sustainable produce credentials.

The beautiful spring lunchtime we visited, the airy, high-ceilinged room was flooded with light, from both its wonderfully large skylight and the windows looking out onto leafy, blossom-strewn Chelsea. The charmingly casual, white aprons-over-jeans appearance of the staff belies their knowledgeable efficiency.

The crowd

At lunchtime, uniformly comfortably off and well-heeled, if at different stages of their lives. Yummy mummies with toddlers; slightly older yummy mummies making hay while the kids were at school; a large group of silver foxes with their silver vixen wives having a riotous time at the back of the restaurant; several young and very pretty girls, some English, some American, hair universally long and blonde, slightly less riotously celebrating a birthday (late teens, at a guess); a Prada-clad Chinese family with very well-behaved children.

The only demographic conspicuous by its absence (within this admittedly narrow window of affluence) was businessmen on expenses—though this is no doubt a different story at the Canary Wharf and St Katherine’s Dock branches.

The food

The motto above the door is ‘food for everyone and anyone’, and this was borne out by the ‘today’s specials’ menu, which had my husband chuckling at its blatant kowtowing to both ends of the affluence spectrum: ‘superfood salad—mixed leaves with quinoa, olives, kale, sun-dried tomatoes, beetroot and red onion’ (£14)—was followed directly by  ‘tomahawk steak (to share) with chips and béarnaise or peppercorn sauce’ (£80).

From the similarly wide-ranging lunch menu, we shared starters of chicken liver and foie gras parfait with brioche, chutney and cornichons, and dill-cured salmon with vanilla, pink peppercorns and dill crème fraiche, both of which were sublime. The vast slab of parfait came with two thick slices of exemplary homemade brioche, and though the richness of the foie gras was tempered by the relative delicacy of the chicken liver, we were glad, nay relieved to be sharing—this was an extremely generous portion for £9.50. Vanilla was an ingenious addition to the melt-in-the-mouth salmon’s time-honoured dill cure.

To follow, I had poached Cornish brill with pea and mint sauce, garden herbs and mint oil, which was a delight to behold, spring on a plate, the pearly white fillet sitting atop a sea of vivid green, underneath a pleasing tangle of baby shoots. It tasted as good as it looked, fresh, light and delicate, the herbs’ fragrant grassiness underpinned by the earthy sweetness of the peas. My side dish of spring onion mashed potato, as smooth a puree as one could wish for, did an excellent job of soaking up the delectable sauce.

Andy’s roast tenderloin of pork with spring cabbage, grain mustard sauce and roasted heritage carrots wasn’t quite such a work of art on the plate, but seemed to hit the spot nicely.

I finished with a trio of sorbets—mango, raspberry and rhubarb, whose colours were even more joyous than those of my main course, and whose individual textures were just as evocative of their respective fruit as their flavours—from the silky, dense smoothness of the mango to the lighter, almost granular consistency of the rhubarb. Andy’s wild berry posset with hazelnut praline and caraway shortbread was another winner, its creamy sweetness offset by the berries’ tartness, the praline and shortbread adding a further dimension of nutty crunch.

The drink

The wine list is as extensive as one might expect at a place like this, the whites ranging from a Sicilian Trebbiano, Pieno Sud at £19.50 to a Puligny Montrachet premier cru ‘Chalumeaux’, JM Boillot at £85, the reds from a Sicilian Sangiovese, Pieno Sud at £19.50 to a Tuscan Tignanello, Antinori at £110.

There are also several roses, champagnes, after dinner cocktails, liqueurs and digestifs on offer, but as this was lunch (an indulgent lunch, yes, but still lunch) we limited ourselves to a couple of bottles of Pinot Grigio from the Dolomites, and a glass each of divinely honeyed Sauternes (la Fleur D’or) which was recommended to accompany our puddings.

In a nutshell

This is a really well run operation, with consistently high quality food, drink and service at very reasonable prices. If his other restaurants (Somerset House, Canary Wharf, St Katharine Docks, HMS Belfast and Istanbul) are anything like as good as this flagship, one can only say hats off to Tom Aikens.

Tom’s Kitchen, 27 Cale Street, London SW3; www.tomskitchen.co.uk/chelsea; 020 7349 0202

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