Tom Aikens Restaurant
The vibe Tom Aikens reopened in Elystan Street, Chelsea, at the beginning of 2012, as a much more relaxed and informal restaurant than its previous incarnation on the same site, which closed a few years ago. Local Chelsea residents and foodies from all over town have come back in droves, and right they were too, as in October, just ten months after relaunching, Tom Aikens was awarded a Michelin star. Décor is Scandi and rather (but nicely so) masculine – wooden tables, concrete walls displaying food-related quotations and funky lighting. The dressed-down staff look super cool, but are efficient and friendly.
The food Seasonal British ingredients, with a French twist, best describes the food here, which all comes looking like a pretty picture on a plate – but this does not detract from the incredible flavours. A little plate of foie gras mousse and breadsticks were brought to nibble on while we studied the menu. The set lunch option, which changes daily, is fantastic value at £24 for two course and £29 for three; but do push the boat out and opt for the à la carte menu, it is more than worth it. For starters, we had Venison Tartar (served with grated walnuts, wild sorrel, hazelnut purée and horseradish snow) and Marinated Foie Gras (served with beetroot and port, pickled raisins and dried plums) – both light, delicious and delicate. For mains, we went for Partridge (which comes with roast pear, chocolate and a foie gras mousse) and John Dory (served with black olive oil, artichoke, prawns and basil). One of the highlights is the hessian basket of warm breads which come with three flavoured butters (bacon and onion, mushroom and sea salt) - the bacon brioche is irresistible and we managed to polish off the lot! Leave room for a pud – we had to share one (maybe we should have held back on the breads) and were tempted by Candied Beetroot – a medley of beetroot meringue, candied beetroot, beetroot sorbet, beetroot crisp, yoghurt and beetroot roll, and yoghurt parfait, yoghurt espuma and yoghurt snow…almost impossible to describe but has to be tried. And just when we thought we could not manage another mouthful, out come the petits fours with the coffee. Yes, we ate the lot too!
The wine list pages are glued within a wine encyclopaedia – the idea being that you can read a bit more about what you are ordering. This is an extensive and impressive list, catering for all tastes and pockets and featuring over 350 international bins from France, Italy, Spain, California, Portugal, Oceania, Greece, Germany, Austria and South Africa. As we were here on a weekday lunch and the office beckoned, we had just one glass to accompany the partridge. On the sommelier’s advice, we ordered an Austrian red, which neither of us had tried before – a very good match.