Suing a customer for an attempt to pinch an authentic silver spoon resulted in excellent PR for the culinary master. Tom Aikens has triumphed on his slightly unorthodox road to success and is now the owner of one of the most popular restaurants of modern French cuisine in London, as well as of a bistro and a fish-and-chips place (scheduled to open this summer). Trained with the great Pierre Koffmann, in 2003 Aikens decided to open his own personal culinary Mecca; just a year later he earned his first Michelin star.
His Chelsea restaurant doesn't confuse the customers with a tastelessly exaggerated décor: everything is light, sophisticated and classical. You will notice Londoners of all generations and walks of life among the diners, and yet they all have come here with the same objective: they want to taste quality food. At this charming restaurant you will be showered with personal attention and find it easy to feel superior, enjoying the champagne aperitif and all sorts of complimentary surprises through the meal. The head chef himself has been known to appear for a chat with his customers.
Forget about finding your own way in the menu - you will want to taste everything. If the size of the tasting menu (available for the whole table only) helpings is too small to appease your hunger, order a larger serving of the gourmet treat you liked best.
The sommelier is quick and helpful: he will have no problem to find in the encyclopaedia- size wine list the royal beverage best suited for the taste and budget of each guest.
The presentation is excellent; each course is served on a number of plates, emphasising the smallest detail of the food. The traditional oysters are served steamed at Tom Aikens, with lemongrass and avocado. Foie gras marinated in port with a spicy pear is also delightful - as is steamed pigeon with chestnut cannelloni. The milk lamb can be eaten practically raw: the soft and white meat is nicely complimented by two kinds of goat's cheese and zucchini.
It may sound like your grandmother's cookbook but the London super chef has also included pork chop in his menu - except instead of the traditional tenderised piece of meat you will be served juicy pork of a special breed, complete with delicious crackling. Floating Island is served not in one but in several dishes at once, and the meringue is nicely caramelised. Amidst all that a complimentary treat suddenly arrives; it may even be the chef's greatest pride: a sort of little jar with beetroot prepared in a number of ways. The bottom layer is a jelly, then comes a beetroot mousse followed by foam. You taste each of the variations separately with a tall spoon, enjoying the pervading wonderful flavour of balsamic vinegar.
Tom Aikens has also made a great deal of foie gras, serving the delicacy in four different kinds of silver spoons placed on a wood board. Plum cordial is served in a bottle with the old-fashioned wire cork but after you've had your dessert the chef makes you feel as if you were visiting a research lab: a row of test-tubes is placed in front of you, each with a different kind of beverage.
Tom Aikens' take on traditional cuisine has become very popular among guests of the city and Londoners alike, so do book one of the 70 seats in advance. No smoking.
Open: Monday to Friday
Lunch: 12 pm - 2:30 pm
Dinner: 6:45 - 11:00 pm
43 Elystan Street, London SW3 3NT
Phone: 020 7584 2003
Keywords: London, restaurant, modern french cuisine, Chelsea, Michelin stars