The ‘Aikens Experience’ at Somerset House

 

Living in Waterloo, it is not every day that you have Michelin starred chefs opening new ventures in the vicinity. Not only that, but when such a chef is a lively and lovely twitterer and decides to follow yours truly as well (my claim to fame), it becomes almost impossible not to try this chef’s latest efforts.
 
Tom Aikens, after some tribulations (he went bust) has taken over the ailing ‘Admiralty’ restaurant at Somerset House (I am guessing it was ailing as it was always on Top Table and similar sites with very convenient offers, yet we were never tempted to try it somehow). Tom has also opened a ‘Deli’ within the premises, and, for the summer season, the terrace facing the river, with a restaurant con bar, aptly named ‘Tom’s Terrace’.
 
We tried the Deli first – the easiest of course. On a lazy July Sunday morning we strolled over the bridge and made our way to the pleasantly decorated cafe. Very bright, and airy, the windows overlook the magnificent courtyard. At around 10,30am it was fairly empty and quiet, we were pretty much the only customers. The counter has a mouthwatering array of breads, cakes, pastries, and they also offer some ‘English breakfast’ fares. I ordered a blueberry muffin and a cappuccino, while Robster opted for a bacon bap, a sausage bap and a pain au chocolate (yes he was that hungry!)
 
We sat in one of the rooms, on a table that I feel is recycled/reclaimed material, in keeping with Tom’s sustainability efforts, which I wholly support too. The paper plates, cups and cutlery is also compostable – I recognised it as I also use it at home when hosting parties and such. Top marks for this. Around the room are Tom’s products: books and olive oil, all for sale.
But the food? My muffin was superb – not too moist, well baked and flavoured. Coffee was pretty real too. The bacon and the sausage baps were good too, and so was the pain au chocolate.
 
The good impression left by the Deli prompted us to book dinner at Tom’s Terrace a few days later, as we had my parents visiting and wanted to take them somewhere ‘impressive’ but not too far. 
Chefs at the Terrace
The setting is surely impressive. The white canopy reminds me of summertime in Italy, maybe on the Sardinia coast where handsome people have their evening meals. So does the music playing (maybe a bit too loudly) on the bar side. The food choice is not very extensive. For starters, we had a Coronation crab salad (very good), chicken liver and fois gras parfait which was delicious, but fairly small. We also had a Ceasar salad, which was quite normal and a tartine of red onion and aubergine compote, which looked like a giant bruschetta but was well put together and an interesting dish.
After a long wait, we finally got out mains. My Loch Duart salmon was definitely a winner, with a balanced flavour and a delicate dressing; my mum’s chicken paillarde was also quite good and came in a large size. The disappointment was certainly on the beef burgers that dad and Robster choose. The burgers were massive, but very dry and stodgy making it a difficult eat.  To sum up, what had started as a very promising experience, was slightly dampened as the evening progressed, not helped by the somehow lazy service (and incompetent – our waitress tried to convince Robster to order beer as they had run out of cider, insisting it was the same thing).
Shepherd’s pie

A few weeks later, when the main restaurant finally opened, we booked a table for a Saturday night at Tom’s Kitchen, eponymous of the Chelsea predecessor. When we arrived, at 8pm, there were only a couple of other tables. I do like the venue, well, the inside as the outside is a given. It has white wall, low industrial style lights (although strangely not properly centered on the tables) and some artwork on the walls. The ambient is pleasant but, with such a low number of diners, felt a little on the quiet side.

The lamb
Gazpacho

The service here is certainly way better than at the outdoor venue – attentive, friendly and knowledgeable. We had a bottle of Pinot Grigio (Banear) which came very cold and despite being one of the cheaper wines (still over 20£ though) was definitely a good choice. Our starters were gazpacho, light and gently garlicky, and chicken Caesar salad – so, very similar to the menu outdoor. I liked my gazpacho, which was made with rich tomatoes, and my husband liked his Caesar salad too. My main was rump of lamb, with Israeli cous cous, toasted almonds, dried fruits, rosemary jus which was cooked extremely well and priced kind of fairly (well for the type of venue at least!) at £19. Robster chose Shepherd’s pie which had a touch too much black pepper but was otherwise enjoyable. Finally, gosh knows why, we decided to share a Baked Alaska. At £13, it is pricey but it would be enough for 4 or 5 diners. Sadly we left half of it (you cannot really ask for a doggie bag on the Alaska!) but enjoyed what we managed to eat. 

Giant Alaska

Overall, I am quite happy with my experience at Tom’s Somerset House venues. I like him as a twitterer, I appreciate his sustainability efforts and his supports to marine conservation charities. Ultimately, I also enjoyed the food and the locations.

 

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