Tom's Kitchen

Chelsea, London

A Tuesday night in the middle of February sees comfort in high demand. Thankfully, at Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea, a cosseting feeling of being made welcome is just what you get. Opened in 2006, the townhouse’s intimate ground-floor dining room wears a new look following last year’s refurb. The floorplan now sees a focal bar up front, for both counter dining and drinks, while subtle hues and plush upholstery complement the high-gloss white tiling in the open kitchen. There has also been a menu shake-up, with British small plates now starring alongside time-honoured house classics like beer-battered fish and chips, a 600g Cumbrian côte de boeuf with béarnaise, and the peerless Niçoise salad. Tellingly, the easy space is full on the night we visit, which, even for a chef of Tom Aikens’ standing, is no mean feat.

The evening begins – as they all should do, in our book – with a beautifully balanced Bellini. Small sharing plates follow, priced at a reassuringly good-value £7 each. The Brixham crab makes a brilliant first impression: two delicate fingers of golden Melba toast topped with a string of piped rosettes; lemon, avocado and basil enhancing the fresh-from-Devon sweetness of the crab. The house-cured beef bresaola is equally indulgent, the meat having been marinated for two weeks in a blend of wine, citrus, rosemary and thyme, before being hung for 4-6 weeks, and then presented on a plate dressed with butternut squash, pumpkin and apple sauce which, in its entirety, resembles what you see when you look through a kaleidoscope.

Mains on this occasion are a generous slab of expertly chargrilled Cornish halibut, with a garnish of greens from the restaurant’s own farm, and a knockout chicken schnitzel topped with aubergine and coriander, featuring the crispiest, crunchiest of crumbs and a cherry tomato sauce that tastes simply of sunshine. Sides of triple-cooked chips and truffled leeks are exemplary, while a cheerful 2015 Grace Bridge Californian pinot noir is an ideal accompaniment to all.

They say that all the best parties end up in the kitchen and, with that being the case, you could do far worse than end up in Tom’s. Did somebody say hot chocolate fondant and vanilla ice cream? Done.

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