Tom’s Kitchen – London restaurant

Give a man food, and he can eat for a day. Give a man a job, and he can only eat for 30 minutes on break. – Lev L. Spiro
Tom’s Deli. The counter in front is filled with sweets of all sorts,
but the picture was unfortunately blurry.
The one on their website is quite dark,
which does not do justice to the sun-bathed room I had walked in.

I discovered Tom’s Kitchen in Sommerset house, when, famished after a photography exhibit, my nose was tickled by a rather unusual smell in museums – good food. Not wanting to sit down, I went to the restaurant’s little unpretentious brother, Tom’s Deli. The general ambiance of the place was equally as fun as its lunch menu; full sandwiches, generous salads and freshly baked goods. So many good things, so little money…I frantically rumbled through my pockets and purse and found just what I needed to get a soy mocha and a gluten-free chocolate and pistachio round cake. Although the coffee was too bitter for my taste, the cake was heavenly: moist and airy on the outside, half-baked inside, the little bastard kept me going for the rest of my day.

But little did I know then that the real thing was in the Kitchen, which I discovered a few weeks later.
I went to the Chelsea address and honestly enjoyed one of the most refined diner I have had in London. The food, the portions, the design of the place and the staff were simply spot-on. Ok, it’s not the cheapest place to go to. But then again, it’s London and if one should allow oneself a little luxury, this should be it. For a glass of wine, a starter, a main and a dessert, the bill amounted to 50£, tip included. For a student budget, it’s a guilty pleasure, but I guess that those who are fortunate enough to have a job won’t have hands-wringing guilt trips over handing their trembling credit card.
The Food
My starter was a fresh mix of cured salmon, vanilla, pink peppercorn, cucumbers and grapefruit. The salmon was refined and its flavor perfectly complimented by a hint of vanilla, the discreet herb mix (the dill looked as if it had just been picked), the freshness of the grapefruit and the crispiness of the full, round pink peppercorn. An excellent summer plate mastering a subtle combination of rare savors.
As for the main, I had a crunchy, perfectly cooked black bream (as they say on the menu, the chefs snub disappearing species: one more point for Tom) on a broccoli purée, mixed with delicate brown prawns and roasted almonds. The purée was just the right consistency, quite light and not overwhelmingly tasting of engorged boiled broccoli, which is a hard balance to reach (laugh all you want, but broccolis are often a recipe for disaster. Ask the kids). Again, there was a perfect equilibrum between tender textures and tastes, boosted by the crunchy, almost caramelized skin of the fish. Was I supposed to eat that part? Couldn’t care less about civilities or etiquette at that point. It. Was. Good. Granted, I’m no reference; as my dad likes to repeat, I’m impermeable to good manners. But I was so absorbed by the food in my plate that I wasn’t even feeling sorry for it. And that’s the recipe of success (excuse the lousy pun): when all else disappears, only to leave a pure food coma.
As for dessert, I got a lemon meringue tart, which could have gained from a punchier lemon part (but it’s a personal taste; I simply love those very acid lemon tarts that make your face fold inwards). Now, here comes the pest’s critic: all the desserts on the menu looked a bit heavy or creamy, which was not overly tempting by such a hot, humid and sticky weather. That being said, the lemon tart was still a frank success; the bottom was crunchy, thin and not overly buttery, the lemon filling, honest, and the meringue, artfully and deliciously caramelized at the tips, yet still soft in the middle. All this served by an extremely attentive and affable staff, a rarity in London.
The Chelsea venue, picture from the restaurant’s website.

 

I also quite enjoyed the exposed kitchen, whose constant buzzing activity contrasted with the immaculate tilled walls and the wooden tables arranged within a hip but cozy space. The style of the venues, recalling those of a candy factory and an old-fashioned refectory, made me instantly comfortable and created a very friendly atmosphere where one could peep at the crowd at will, admire the huge black-and-white pictures on the wall or be bemused by the frenziness of the kitchen, contrasting with the assured know-how of the barmaid. I left the restaurant in that blissful, intensely satisfied state, promising myself to find a job that would allow me to return.
…food critic sounds good, in all possible ways.

 

Overall:

Venues:

  • Chelsea: 27 Cale Street, Chelsea, London SW3 3QP, Tel: 0207 349 0202
  • Somerset House (Tom’s Deli and Tom’s Kitchen): Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA, Tel: 0207 845 4646

Reservations: Recommended at the Chelsea venue.

Foodie’s praise: the exquisitely balanced food and the gruff, yet slick design, providing for a laid-back, old-fashioned feel.

 
Pest’s critic: the price and the dessert card, which could gain in variety. However, this minus should honestly be written in teeny-tiny characters, as the quality of the ingredients compensated for the bill and the weather had arguably been shitty for weeks, which could have justified a heartier deserts list. At least I’d like to think so.
 
Will I go back? Yes, as soon as I can accumulate 50£ in sofa-cracks, old clothes’ pockets and street-picked change.

Disclaimer: don’t conclude from the amount of food described above that the portions were the size of dwarf appetizers or that I have a lumberjack’s stomach. The whole truth is that I was with my mum; we both have rather small appetites, but quite a fondness for food. Therefore, in order to try as many things as possible, we shared all these plates.

The little card in which the bill was brought.
Was it meant to tame the clients before they took a look at the dreaded numbers staring at you angrily between the auhtoritative “Total” and the curvy “£”?
Well, in any case, it worked. Admittedly, I was already sold at that moment.

 

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