Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tom Aikens: It’s like being a kid at a playground waiting for the next delightful discovery!

How do I begin? Every time my fingers touch the keyboard, my mind wanders off to a faraway land dreaming of the meal I had here. I then had to shake my head to get back to reality to start writing this and before I know it, my mind wanders off again. It’s so hard to break the cycle! Sorry for the really long post and some shaky pics.


Before dwelling into the details, I have to mention that there were some good and some not-so-good parts to the whole experience; BUT the good definitely blows the not-so-good parts away! Now onto the details.


My first view upon arriving was its simplistic and Zen-like front of black and white. Enter its doors and a smiling lady greeted me. She even remembered my last name as noticed by my dining companion; I was too distracted perusing the decor that I did not notice. We were one of the first few tables to arrive and were greeted by the plethora of wait staff huddling near the kitchen as we made our way to our table. I think it’s great, I never like seeing wait staff just standing around the tables looking bored while waiting for dinner service to get into full swing!

I have to say that before coming here, I had not heard too much about Tom Aikens. The few times he was mentioned related to positive dining experiences but not the gushingly positive that it is a must try. There was also the other news that made headlines in 2008. I did get a snippet of his cooking when I went for the Taste of London festival ala Daylesford seven hours confit lamb with balsamic onion and mash. It was hearty, bursting with flavours and good enough to place his creations on my list of places to eat.

Our dinner party opted for the 6 course Tasting Menu.


A huge tray of breads came and greeted the table with its goodies. There were so many varieties that by the time we were told the different varieties, I had forgotten the first few. We eventually selected a green olive version, bacon & onion version and one made with cepe powder. I really enjoyed the more unusual flavours of breads available.


We were presented with a trio of amuse bouche next.


My favourite was the last one which is like a liquid ball of green olives only just held together by the thin skin encasing it. A tiny snap was all it took with your teeth and the liquid olives burst in your mouth.

As we took our time with the amuse bouche, our first course came and was served to us even before we finish the amuse bouche. Slight hiccup there in terms of timing but it was the only time it happened.


Roast Scallop, beetroot purée, caramelised onions, beetroot dressing

Maybe it was the angle of the plate placed in front of me I had the strip of beetroot dressing right centre of my vision, a visual feast for my eyes as they walked the red carpet to the centre to behold the main stage.

It was a nice change to be greeted by a first course that is sweet as that is usually reserved for desserts. Everything worked well and I really like the beetroot purée and dressing.

Foie Gras
Cured Foie Gras, pickled mushrooms, foie gras mousse, cep dressing


I thought that the cured Foie Gras was too overpowering as a substantial chunk of it was given. Not a fan of the cured version, perhaps if a thinner slice was given, it would have worked better.


The Foie Gras jelly with truffles was another story though, this was light and lovely. I have to give credit as the chef presented you with Foie Gras made two different ways in one course.


Mushroom were used here as well but this time being pickled and it complements the Foie Gras.

John Dory
Roast John Dory, pumpkin sauce, braised veal shin

This was really interesting. In the previous courses, I felt like the chef was showing his skills by not only offering different takes on a single main ingredient but by also using the same seasonal ingredients cooked differently to give difference in flavours and textures (eg. Onions, mushrooms, Foie Gras)

With the John Dory, it was roasted such that the texture of the fish is firmer and the veal shin being braised which gives it a more tender texture. So what you get is the veal being softer in texture compared to the fish when you normally expect it to be the other way round.

The pumpkin sauce was meltingly smooth and tasty. The rest was slightly over seasoned with a tad too much salt. A pity!

Loin of Romney Marsh Lamb, aligot potato, dried green olive

Again, slight over seasoning with the salt, especially with the aligot potato which remain near untouched on my plate. Otherwise, this would have been thoroughly enjoyed.

The lady who removed our plates actually noticed the near untouched potato and actually stopped to enquire if there was a problem with it. Most impressed as I have never been asked at any other places.

Fresh Honeycomb, Greek Yoghurt, poppy seed ice cream, confit lemon, fennel, Ginestière cheese

Who would have thought fennel in a dessert? Another surprising ingredient but it worked really well with the confit lemon to bring tartness to the dessert. I couldn't get enough of it.

The fresh honeycomb was too sweet and took dominance over the other ingredients that it was eaten with. The Ginestière cheese seems a little out of place as much as I am adventurous about unusual combinations.

I still like it very much as there were so many different elements with the standout wining combination being the lemon confit with fennel.

Chocolate Dacquoise, chocolate mousse, peanuts, chocolate pops, milk ice cream

This was hands down the main star of the entire meal. A waft of silence presided over the table as we all dig in. Where do I begin?


Let’s start with the milk ice cream laid on top of a chocolate mousse. Seven layers consisting of coffee and chocolate with a fleck of gold paper laid on the side. With the coffee and chocolate teasing at your tastebuds, it was moist; it was rich with just the right balance.


Next was the snow. Snow that is cold but doesn’t melt! There are two different types here. One which has nuttiness to it. So instead of biting into nuts, I get nutty flavoured snow with a healthy dash of chocolate pops.


Four chocolates are lovingly placed next to the snow. Again, things are not what they seem. Two had a chewy gooey texture, one with dusted nuts and the other with shaved chocolates. The other two was a harder texture with different toppings.

I seriously feel like a kid in the playground, not quite knowing what I’ll be eating or expecting next!


Last was the chocolate log with a crunchy peanut butter base. It’s chewy and fluffy with deep richness from the chocolate and savoury from the peanut butter all at the same time. My tastebuds are going into overdrive!


When you start eating this, you forget and can forgive everything before, this is some seriously genius creation. My dining companion who doesn't like desserts named this the favourite of the entire meal. It was sooo good that it even made me said, I want to train under his dessert chef!


It was so entrancing that as you can see here, we stared at our last bite for 5 minutes and didn't want to touch it as that last bite meant it will be over, the end! Finally, we resigned to ourselves and ate that last bite.

I was seriously stuffed by this point and was happy and satisfied to forego the petit fours (can you believe it?) It was the non-dessert person who insisted that we have to try everything after the delectable Dacquoise dessert.

Coffee and Petits Fours


It was another sensory roller coaster ride with the petit fours. Like the Madeleines were all different flavours, orange rose, rosemary and praline. I was so happy when we were down to the last chocolate which is one of my favourite flavours, salted caramel!

This tasting menu has to be one of the highlights of my dining experiences. The dishes are interesting; there are twists to the textures and flavours, not to mention the combinations that you never quite know what you're going to get.

Tom Aikens, I love your work. It's refreshing, intricate and creative. Definitely better than a lot of similar one Michelin star peers. Where it is let down is in the over seasoning of the salt. Too salty in one dish is forgiven but when it arrives in consecutive courses, that is all you remember no matter how good everything else is. Tweak that and this place should have gotten/be a strong two Michelin in my opinion.

The ultimate test, will I come back? £85 is a lot of money but I can happily come back here again and again. Just need to lighten up on the salt and I would have been blown out off the water.

Tom Aikens, 43 Elystan St, Chelsea, SW3 3
Tom Aikens on Urbanspoon


  1. Talented as he is, I can't see past his crappy behaviour re: his suppliers. Just cos it's legal doesn't make it moral.

  2. Mr Noodles - I know what you mean. I thought he was working with his suppliers to work something out no?

    One chef that I can't see past is Marcus Wareing (re: ranting at a blogger on the phone for half an hour for a less than positive review)!

  3. The desserts look amazing! I would definitely like to try it. How long did it take to complete the tasting menu?

  4. Winkypedia - Hi! I'll say a good 3.5 - 4 hours for the tasting menu. The desserts are definitely worth it...Do let me know what you think when you try it. =)

  5. That last dessert course and the Colours in the Scallop and Beetroot dish look like a work of art. Hope it tastes as good as it looks! I was here a few years ago when it first opened. I thought it was a bit hit-and-miss then, but looking at your pics, may be worth a visit back at some pt.

  6. Hi Guan,
    That last dessert is definitely worth it as you can see by the sheer no. of pics I took of just that! LOL!


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