Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tom Aikens: Art on (many) a Plate

As much as I love food photo taking, I needed a night off from surreptitious snapping at the dinner table. It didn't quite work. Especially when plate after plate of exquisitely arranged morsels arrive and you're at a restaurant no lesser than Tom Aikens. I had been gifted a cheese and wine pairing at the restaurant as a present last year, but as the restaurant could not guarantee when the next class would be at the time I rang, they offered to convert it into "spend" at the restaurant. Good move.

Whilst the Big Boy camera stayed at home, I was grateful that my baby compact (always at handbag reach away) captured these highlights...

From the word go, beautiful little things were presented for our delectation. The cep bread reminded me of a French fleur-delys, and the buttermilk roll had delicate olive oil and sea salt flavour.

Who would have expected a trio of amuse bouches? An olive "sphere" was pure olive essence, with tiny bits of crunchy olive on top, and burst in the mouth with salty aplomb. Ferran Adria anyone? The duck liver sabayon was deep, smoky and full of body given that it was basically a foam. My favourite was the parmesan beignet. A savoury doughnut in bite-size form! Genius!

Sometimes I think these fancy chefs deliberately give simple names to dishes, to amaze you when it turns out to be far from simple. My "Crab and Avocado Salad" was more like the Garden of Eden. Sweet crab, creamy avocado and slight bitter crunch from the endives. All punctuated with herbs and micro-veg. Gotta throw a cheffy phrase in there.

For the fashionistas in the crowd, doesn't this stunning composition invoke a dreamy Erdem dress, oh so Spring 2010?

Images from

I was still in Eden with the red mullet and pistachio risotto for my main. I'm a sucker for beautiful fish and this was no disappointment. I was taken by the silky fish, earthy pistachios and extremely decadent piles of greenery. Can greens be decadent? They can be at Tom Aikens. 

If there was a prize for a dish inspired by a Christmas carol, the partridge with pear and a truffle mash could have taken number one. Rich and superbly cooked game.

By the time these gorgeous petit fours came along, I was ready to get liposuction. We tried the Earl Grey, Jasmine and Armagnac truffles from the chocolate selection and the Lemon & Thyme financier and doughnut from the cakes. Doooughhhhhnuutttttt, Homer Simpson style, is all I can say. 

Probably one of the most decadent meals I've ever had, with finesse at every step. It's a slick operation with your-wish-is-my-command type service. You can't have this every day, but you can certainly have it once in a while. And definitely when you need to feel special. 

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