By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Situated just moments away from both Tower Bridge and the City, the St. Katherine Docks branch of Tom’s Kitchen, and its new al-fresco area, seems perfect for London dining when the temperature is exceeding 30 degrees. Looking over a marina filled with luxurious, gleaming white Yachts as the sun blazes down onto the water, almost blinding everybody in site, we find ourselves seated on the cusp of the restaurant and its terrace. During our busy lunchtime visit, Canon-carrying tourists, suited Businessmen that chortle loudly as they sip from glasses of Whiskey and dine from the speedy In & Out menu, surround us as we begin our late lunch.
Having, outstandingly, become the youngest British chef to ever receive two Michelin Stars, it’d be wrong to expect high-end haute cuisine from the chef’s chain restaurants, but given the a la carte menu that’s comprised of seasonal offerings as well as a selection of classics, we feel as though having been transported into a rolling countryside Gastro Pub. Of course, luxury fine-dining that fills one’s belly and empties one’s wallet is always an excitement, but sometimes its difficult to beat locally sourced, robust British grub that you’re ideal local would serve on a cold Winter afternoon. The exact kind of food that Tom Aikens prides himself on providing, using the very best seasonal and locally sourced ingredients wherever possible.
On the menu, the seasonal starters include the likes of Treacle Marinated Salmon (£8), Beetroot Venison Carpaccio (£9), and New Season Asparagus served with Pheasant Eggs and Lemon & Caper Dressing (£12.50). However, it’s the classics that we’re unable to resist. Both my companion and I ended up ordering similarly structured dishes: a jar of creamy Chicken Liver & Foie Gras Parfait (£12.50), topped with Pea mousse that gives off a nuclear green hue, tangy Chutney and Toasted Brioche, is delicious. While the Harrogate Loaf (£8.50), a terrine of Veal, Pork and Pistachio, served atop a chopping board with Chutney and toasted Sourdough, is also delectable. Thus far, Tom’s is onto a winner.
Unfortunately, the Cumbrian Ribeye Steak (pricey at £29.50) is overcooked, still tasty yet less appealing than ordered. Although the flavour of the accompanying Peppercorn Sauce is divine. My Rabbit dish (£22) chosen from the “seasonal” side of the menu, on the other hand, is satisfactory, yet strange. Served in a dish with Chorizo dice, griddled Squid (some overcooked, some perfect), delicious Rabbit portions, and char-grilled Red Pepper, laid atop a bed of creamy mashed Potato then drowned in a Red Pepper sauce. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the dish, just the two elements of Pepper overpower the delicate Rabbit and transport the dish from the British Comfort Food that the menu suggests, somewhere into the Mediterranean. Fortunately, the desserts bring redemption. Spiced Pineapple Carpaccio from the Specials Board is a welcome palate cleanser, yet it’s my companion’s Eton Mess (£6.50) that’s the real star of the show. Crumbled Meringue, topped with fresh berries and artery clogging cream that’s more solid than liquid all make this writer very jealous.
The overall experience at Tom’s Kitchen, minus the mild quibbles with the mains, is an enjoyable one. As far as chain restaurants go, Tom’s provides real quality, if only he could introduce a little more of his culinary flair into the restaurant’s kitchen as well as into the menu.
Tom’s Kitchen St. Katherine Docks can be found at 1 Commodity Quay, London, E1W 1AZ.