BACKGROUND The second of Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens’ Tom’s Kitchen eateries opened officially this week in London’s Somerset House after a soft opening last month – the first, in Chelsea, has been in operation since 2006. Housed in rooms previously occupied by the Admiralty restaurant, it is open for lunch and dinner, with breakfast and weekend brunch to follow (date to be confirmed). It joins two other Aikens venues at Somerset House – Tom’s Deli (open since July) and Tom’s Terrace (open since April and until September 26).
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Aiken has found a prime setting at Somerset House. The Kitchen is accessed by walking through the central courtyard from the Strand entrance to the riverside part of the building. It is set across four adjoining Georgian rooms – a smart bar with a central marble bar you can sit at leads on to three dining rooms, the largest of which is at the far end. High ceilings with low-hanging lights and muted pale grey walls create an elegant, relaxed feel, aided by jazzy music and the murmur of diners. Arched windows look on to the Terrace on the riverside, which offers views of the London Eye and Oxo Tower. The seating is a mixture of wooden tables and chairs and curving red leather banquette-style seats, and arty shots of produce hang on the walls.
THE FOOD Aikens describes the Kitchen’s cuisine as “the sort of food that might be prepared at home – but taken on to another level. It’s our take on traditional English fare but with a twist to lift it out of the ordinary.” Presentation is attractive but unfussy and there is a strong emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce. The menu, which is the same as at the Chelsea branch, crosses the board from burgers, macaroni cheese and shepherd’s pie to Daylesford seven-hour confit lamb, veal blanquette and baked Loch Duart salmon.
To start I had chicken liver and foie gras parfait (£12.50), which was deliciously smooth and creamy and served with sweet shallot chutney, crunchy gherkins and thick slices of brioche. My dining companion had steak tartar with sourdough bread (£12.50) – I tried it and it was tangy and tasty, with some lemony rocket adding bite. For our mains we both had grilled sirloin steak with watercress salad, big chips and béarnaise sauce (£23.50). It was great – a lovely, tender cut of meat, though mine was rarer than I would have expected for a medium steak. The chips were perfectly cooked, as was a side of buttered leaf spinach (£4, though there wasn’t a great deal of it). To accompany it we had a Six Foot Six Australian shiraz (£29.50), which was light yet full of flavour.
Be aware that the portions are very generous. My two courses definitely left no room for dessert, and our neighbours also commented that their choices – Loch Duart salmon rillette, lamb and grilled marinated Cobb chicken – were larger and heavier than they had expected.
THE SERVICE Friendly, helpful and efficient. The barman offered to suggest some drinks, and our waitress was attentive yet unobtrusive.
VERDICT A great new central option for business travellers visiting London. A lovely setting, relaxed atmosphere and top-notch food – though a light lunch might be wise if you are planning to come here for dinner.
PRICE A two-course meal for two plus wine and service costs about £90.
OPENING HOURS Lunch 12pm-3pm Mon-Fri, dinner 6pm-10pm Mon-Sat. Breakfast/brunch opening dates TBC. Bar open Mon-Sat until 11pm.
CONTACT Tom’s Kitchen at Somerset House, Strand; tel +44 (0)20 7845 4646; tomskitchen.co.uk/somersethouse