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Restaurant Tom Aikens


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On the Tom Aikens subject i eaten there five times since it opened and the first meal blew me away about 2 months after it opened and since then then they have got worst and worst!!!

In your opinion?

The recent lunch I had there (my sixth visit in the last 12 months) was the best I have had. It's also very good value at £29. The scallop starter was particularly good, although there were only 3 and I couldn't swear that they were hand dived.... :wink:

Edited by Stephen W (log)
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I would have thought running a successful London Restaurant was synonymous with managing a business.

Uh-uh. Again you're getting confused mate.

Your mistaking critical success and great food with commercial success. Surely you know the first rule of haute cuisine: Its a bitch to make money at the top end.

You just ask Pierre Gagnaire ***

Or Richard Neat *

Or Marc Meneau ***

Or Christine Mansfield

Or David Cavalier *

ad infinitum...

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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On the Tom Aikens subject i eaten there five times since it opened and the first meal blew me away about 2 months after it opened and since then then they have got worst and worst!!!

The recent lunch I had there (my sixth visit in the last 12 months) was the best I have had. It's also very good value at £29. The scallop starter was particularly good, although there were only 3 and I couldn't swear that they were hand dived.... :wink:

Haha lets not have another one of the "I had a good meal here" "no I had a bad meal here" arguments (or even its bastard half-child "I had this dish and it was orgasmic" "no I had the same dish and it tasted like poo") here :raz::raz::raz:

Believe me there is no answer!

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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I think you are right Jon, being a great chef and being a great restauranteur are two VERY different things. Having two stars at the flagship Tom Aikens restaurant would certainly help with any future restaurants, especially if he is seeking similar michelin recognition in them. I wonder if his twin (who is also a chef but who has been working in corporate catering) is going to work at one of the restaurants to help him out, he deffinately needs a larger support base than he has at present, and there have been rumours.

Chefsimon, I have to say I disagree with you about TA. I have been on a number of occasions in the past year, and certainly don;t think that it has slipped in any way since it first opened - if anything it has got better (IMHO) - and their chees board is divine (as are their breads!).

If a man makes a statement and a woman is not around to witness it, is he still wrong?

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I would have thought running a successful London Restaurant was synonymous with managing a business.

Uh-uh. Again you're getting confused mate.

Your mistaking critical success and great food with commercial success. Surely you know the first rule of haute cuisine: Its a bitch to make money at the top end.

You just ask Pierre Gagnaire ***

Or Richard Neat *

Or Marc Meneau ***

Or Christine Mansfield

Or David Cavalier *

ad infinitum...

J

Certainly not ad infinitum..., but anyway...

What are you saying here, that Aikens is critically successful but is not making any money?

I don't have access to Aikens' financial details so I can't argue with this, but the fact that he is branching out suggests that he has access to at least enough funds to do so. On the other hand, following your 'rule', then he has no choice but to branch out in order to consolidate his critical success.

Perhaps you think he should hold on until he wins the lottery.

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I don't have access to Aikens' financial details so I can't argue with this, but the fact that he is branching out suggests that he has access to at least enough funds to do so.

Um yes. And I'm sure the same logic was applied to J-C Novelli. And Leeds United.

Access to capital is not the same thing as longterm commercial viability.

On the other hand, following your 'rule', then he has no choice but to branch out in order to consolidate his critical success.

No I'm not saying a haute chef has no choice but to branch out. Some are perfectly happy to carry on doing their thing without spawning dozens of brasserie half-bastard offspring and/or tv shows (david everitt-matthias at the champaignon sauvage, for example). You can live a perfectly tolerable existence without doing this.

However it is undeniable that the real money in the haute cuisine world does come once one has made ones name and can start to cash in on spin-offs. That's simple commercial reality - invariably the spin-off brasseries are higher margin businesses than the flagship.

My point is this: Those who generally succeed at the haute money-making game generally establish a solid reputation and firm foundation at the upper **/*** level before branching out. My concern is that Aikens, like J-CN before him, has not yet laid this firm foundation.

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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I think you are right Jon, being a great chef and being a great restauranteur are two VERY different things.  Having two stars at the flagship Tom Aikens restaurant would certainly help with any future restaurants, especially if he is seeking similar michelin recognition in them.  I wonder if his twin (who is also a chef but who has been working in corporate catering) is going to work at one of the restaurants to help him out, he deffinately needs a larger support base than he has at present, and there have been rumours.

Chefsimon, I have to say I disagree with you about TA.  I have been on a number of occasions in the past year, and certainly don;t think that it has slipped in any way since it first opened - if anything it has got better (IMHO) - and their chees board is divine (as are their breads!).

Who’s cooking in the kitchen there if he’s busy empire building? His former head chef Dylan McGrath is running Mint in Dublin since early summer (pretty impressive in a torturously small kitchen). He said that Aikens was very hands-on during his time there. I recently picked up a copy of his book as I’ve never eaten in his restaurant and was interested to see how it compares with what’s on the menu at Mint. He’s a good looking guy, but why so many “achingly cool” B&W reportage shots? Tom wrapped up in a snuggy jacket out walking, Tom on the phone, Tom reflected in the mirror…

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My point is this: Those who generally succeed at the haute money-making game generally establish a solid reputation and firm foundation at the upper **/*** level before branching out.  My concern is that Aikens, like J-CN before him, has not yet laid this firm foundation.

Fair enough. My point was though that he had done enough (even if he could achieve more). I don't think the comparison with JCN is fair either, by all accounts the man went completely expansion-bonkers, and there is no reason at all to suppose Aikens' project is of the same order of lunacy.

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Fair enough. My point was though that he had done enough (even if he could achieve more). I don't think the comparison with JCN is fair either, by all accounts the man went completely expansion-bonkers, and there is no reason at all to suppose Aikens' project is of the same order of lunacy.

Amen to that!

His various bits of pig on a plate thing too good a dish to let run to seed to standards drop!

Corinna what did you think of the book? I was actually sorely disappointed... It just didn't "feel" like it came from him

My amazon.co.uk review:

A disappointment.

This has the feeling of a heavily ghost-written book (although admittedly there is no collaborator mentioned in the acknowledgement), scattered with banal interpolations. See the page at the start of the seafood section going through fish. Has he got anything more insightful to say than that john dory tastes "sweet"? Clearly not as he repeats the same insight for turbot just down the page. See also the comment on prawns, crabs, lobster - his prawns come from madagascar - so what?

Having dined several times at TA in London the recipes are far less inspiring than the cuisine we know Tom is capable of. There are limited references to Tom's delightfully haphazard plating and approach to food. There is nary a mention of his signature cassonades. The recipes themselves simply do not inspire and are sometimes inconsistent - for example, how do you sear the skin-side of a darne of seabass??? (the skin goes all the way round a darne - there is no skin side!!!).

It's one redeeming feature is a good outline of the process for preparing Joel Robuchon's pomme puree.

If you want an example of a contemporary chefbook I can recommend David Everitt-Matthias "Essence"

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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Jon, the cookbook only arrived a few days ago (pretty cheap on Amazon now!), so I've just had a quick look through. This may sound picky, but I hate grey type, a real form over function style mistake in my book, so that put me off immediately. At a glance, it looks like pretty straightforward stuff; it sounds from your comments above like it's dumbed down... and well... not revealing too many secrets.

Since you mention cassonades, could you tell me what consistency they should be? For instance, should they be the consistency of Japanese savoury custards (which I've had on quite a few occasions) or more liquid? There was one on the tasting menu at Mint last Fri and it reminded me of the Japanese approach with little surprises hidden in the middle. However, it was a bit looser than I've had before.

Re Essence, Santa brought that one and I agree, it's a fabulous book.

Edited by Corinna Dunne (log)
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I have to say I was massively disappointed in the book. I thought some of the plating was dreadful, and there is a pie that my mum would be ashamed to cook and put in front of me - the pastry looked like it had been done by a 1st year NVQ student! Not at all what I expected from someone with as deft a touch and incredible skill as Tom. One dish in the book had been plated so badly that it looked like soeone had eaten most of it, sent it back to the kitchen only for it to be photographed and displayed in full colour on one of the pages!

If a man makes a statement and a woman is not around to witness it, is he still wrong?

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Since you mention cassonades, could you tell me what consistency they should be?  For instance, should they be the consistency of Japanese savoury custards (which I've had on quite a few occasions) or more liquid?  There was one on the tasting menu at Mint last Fri and it reminded me of the Japanese approach with little surprises hidden in the middle.  However, it was a bit looser than I've had before.

If I recall right cassonades quite a light texture. Much lighter than say a pannacotta. More like a Japanese chawan mushi custard - falling apart almost - so your Mint experience sounds about right.

As I said, the book has the banal feel of a ghostwriter, though none is credited. Thats isn't to say of course ghost-writers can't be a good thing. The reason why I feel many of Gordon Ramsays early books were so good (and later ones so naff) is that Roz Denny collaborated with him over the first three or four titles.

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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what I hear of Tom's Kitchen simply fails to excite me. 

I had a fabulous meal there just before Christmas, everything we ate was delicious. The baked alaska for two, flamed at the table was a highlight.

I've been to Toms kitchen a couple of times now and consider it a great addition to the area. My leeks braised in meat juices with lentils and black truffles was absolutely delicious as a starter, as is the celeriac remoulade and bayonne ham. Mains i have sampled included a delicious raost fillet of halibut with olive oil pommes puree, and confit peppers and spinach and one of the best pork chops (mustard and caramelised apple glaze) with crackling was equally successful. Weekend brunch - blueberry pancakes/french toast/waffles/eggs benedict etc were all very competent too, and the drinks offerings deserve special praise too - wines from £14 to £100 and some of the best cocktails i've had in ages. I would recommend it heartily :biggrin:

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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I think you are right Jon, being a great chef and being a great restauranteur are two VERY different things.  Having two stars at the flagship Tom Aikens restaurant would certainly help with any future restaurants, especially if he is seeking similar michelin recognition in them.  I wonder if his twin (who is also a chef but who has been working in corporate catering) is going to work at one of the restaurants to help him out, he deffinately needs a larger support base than he has at present, and there have been rumours.

Chefsimon, I have to say I disagree with you about TA.  I have been on a number of occasions in the past year, and certainly don;t think that it has slipped in any way since it first opened - if anything it has got better (IMHO) - and their chees board is divine (as are their breads!).

My meals have deinatly deteriated imho, obviously yours not and i agree the breads have always been amazing. Also i d like to say the somelier fantastic i think he has been there from the beginning

To be a great restauranteur you have to have a great team like gordon did and now there all in very good places, the majority of his head chefs now were there at the begnning!i think thats where tom could struggle i did a stage there at Tom Aikens for a senior position beginning to middle of last year and none of the staff apart from Dylan the head chef who has now moved had been there more than a year and none of the staff there were very happy! in my opinion whether you got the money to or not thats not a good position to be starting a restaurant empire!!!whether they be just round the corner or not!

Also we all know what michelin think about spreading yourself to thin before you get the top accolodes! so 2 stars could be a way away!

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I think you are right Jon, being a great chef and being a great restauranteur are two VERY different things.  Having two stars at the flagship Tom Aikens restaurant would certainly help with any future restaurants, especially if he is seeking similar michelin recognition in them.  I wonder if his twin (who is also a chef but who has been working in corporate catering) is going to work at one of the restaurants to help him out, he deffinately needs a larger support base than he has at present, and there have been rumours.

Chefsimon, I have to say I disagree with you about TA.  I have been on a number of occasions in the past year, and certainly don;t think that it has slipped in any way since it first opened - if anything it has got better (IMHO) - and their chees board is divine (as are their breads!).

Who’s cooking in the kitchen there if he’s busy empire building? His former head chef Dylan McGrath is running Mint in Dublin since early summer (pretty impressive in a torturously small kitchen). He said that Aikens was very hands-on during his time there. I recently picked up a copy of his book as I’ve never eaten in his restaurant and was interested to see how it compares with what’s on the menu at Mint. He’s a good looking guy, but why so many “achingly cool” B&W reportage shots? Tom wrapped up in a snuggy jacket out walking, Tom on the phone, Tom reflected in the mirror…

I am lead to believe the head chef is a guy called Dominic cant tel you more than that, i think thy worked together at some time before

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My point is this: Those who generally succeed at the haute money-making game generally establish a solid reputation and firm foundation at the upper **/*** level before branching out.  My concern is that Aikens, like J-CN before him, has not yet laid this firm foundation.

Fair enough. My point was though that he had done enough (even if he could achieve more). I don't think the comparison with JCN is fair either, by all accounts the man went completely expansion-bonkers, and there is no reason at all to suppose Aikens' project is of the same order of lunacy.

I wouldnt say tom is trying to expand at the haute money making as his his new offerings are not trying to be Restaurant Tom Aikens, if anything there there to make money to help Tom Aikens, i am in no way saying Tom Aikens doesnt make money but we all know how hard it is for top end fine dining restaurants

I also wouldnt agree you have to get to 2 star 3 star to expand, but i would say you have to have a solid team and i would say if you expand before you get to that level, its very hard then to get to the 2-3 star level which again we all know Tom Aikens wants to, So maybe there is the question whether he has decided lets just make some fucking serious money?

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Who’s cooking in the kitchen there if he’s busy empire building? 

As it happens, I talked to Tom about this a month or two after Tom's Kitchen opened. He said he was running service Monday to Friday at the eponymous place until all covers were on desserts and coffees, then heading down to Tom's Kitchen to "help out" until gone midnight. He was also doing full shifts in Tom's Kitchen every weekend, but promised he'd look to give that up once the place was ticking over efficiently. That was at the same time he was promoting the book.

Tom, I'd suggest, takes perfectionism to the point of an obsessive compulsive disorder. He seems completely unable to delegate. I'm not in the least bit surprised that he has a problem with staff turnover -- it must be a nightmare to work for him, stuck in that tiny basement kitchen where the boss is always looking over your shoulder and telling you exactly what you're doing wrong.

If all the "empire building" is taking a toll on quality (and I'm not convinced that it is), then it's most likely to be because he is in his kitchens far too much, not too little.

Edited by naebody (log)
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Who’s cooking in the kitchen there if he’s busy empire building? 

As it happens, I talked to Tom about this a month or two after Tom's Kitchen opened. He said he was running service Monday to Friday at the eponymous place until all covers were on desserts and coffees,

So whos doing the desserts then, because i know a number of pastry ches who ve been through the door

Tom, I'd suggest, takes perfectionism to the point of an obsessive compulsive disorder. He seems completely unable to delegate. I'm not in the least bit surprised that he has a problem with staff turnover

Which doesnt put him in good stead for expanding, i m not doubting his quality but you have to have the team behind you, thats one of the differences between being a great chef and a great restauranteur, i know its a very old saying but a true one, your only as good as your brigade

-- it must be a nightmare to work for him, stuck in that tiny basement kitchen where the boss is always looking over your shoulder and telling you exactly what you're doing wrong.

Yeah it is, i ve seen it and i wouldnt reccomend it there, but all good places are hard work

If all the "empire building" is taking a toll on quality (and I'm not convinced that it is), then it's most likely to be because he is in his kitchens far too much, not too little.

Dont understand this comment?

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i m not doubting his quality but you have to have the team behind you, thats one of the differences between being a great chef and a great restauranteur, i know its a very old saying but a true one, your only as good as your brigade

That's a very good point. Interesting that his longest-standing employee is the sommelier, and the kitchen at his new place is run by his twin brother.

Perhaps it's best not to speculate about specifics. But, generally, it may be plausible that if an employer tends not to trust his employees to do their jobs properly, he tends to be left with employess that are not worth trusting. Vicious circle.

If all the "empire building" is taking a toll on quality (and I'm not convinced that it is), then it's most likely to be because he is in his kitchens far too much, not too little.

Dont understand this comment?

Spoken like a true chef. :wink:

If I were to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and insisted on overseeing every single aspect of my business, the basic quality of everything I did would suffer. And it would not be too much of a surprise if I started accusing people of stealing teaspoons, or attacking co-workers with pallet knives.

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i m not doubting his quality but you have to have the team behind you, thats one of the differences between being a great chef and a great restauranteur, i know its a very old saying but a true one, your only as good as your brigade

That's a very good point. Interesting that his longest-standing employee is the sommelier, and the kitchen at his new place is run by his twin brother.

Perhaps it's best not to speculate about specifics. But, generally, it may be plausible that if an employer tends not to trust his employees to do their jobs properly, he tends to be left with employess that are not worth trusting. Vicious circle.

If all the "empire building" is taking a toll on quality (and I'm not convinced that it is), then it's most likely to be because he is in his kitchens far too much, not too little.

Dont understand this comment?

Spoken like a true chef. :wink:

If I were to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and insisted on overseeing every single aspect of my business, the basic quality of everything I did would suffer. And it would not be too much of a surprise if I started accusing people of stealing teaspoons, or attacking co-workers with pallet knives.

i ve only just learnt to write, you know us chefs

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i m not doubting his quality but you have to have the team behind you, thats one of the differences between being a great chef and a great restauranteur, i know its a very old saying but a true one, your only as good as your brigade

That's a very good point. Interesting that his longest-standing employee is the sommelier, and the kitchen at his new place is run by his twin brother.

Perhaps it's best not to speculate about specifics. But, generally, it may be plausible that if an employer tends not to trust his employees to do their jobs properly, he tends to be left with employess that are not worth trusting. Vicious circle.

If all the "empire building" is taking a toll on quality (and I'm not convinced that it is), then it's most likely to be because he is in his kitchens far too much, not too little.

Dont understand this comment?

Spoken like a true chef. :wink:

If I were to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and insisted on overseeing every single aspect of my business, the basic quality of everything I did would suffer. And it would not be too much of a surprise if I started accusing people of stealing teaspoons, or attacking co-workers with pallet knives.

Is the that Toms Kitchen run by his brother or is Ollie Couillard in charge?

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i ve only just learnt to write, you know us chefs

I was actually referring to your tendency to think that a 168-hour working week is the bare minimum the job requires.

Kitchen Rat denied its earlier claim that Ollie was to leave, so I guess we have to believe that Robert is in Kitchen at the moment to help out.

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You are failing to make the distinction between running a kitchen and managing the business. I have no doubt that Aikens knows what he is doing in the kitchen. As you will have read, I have every respect for his cuisine. However moving on to take over a business empire is an altogether different step up. Experience shows that the chefs who have been successful at making that step are invariably the ones who are least well-established **, and preferably ***.

Maybe I am missing your point entirely but I do not think your criteria is as fit all as it appears. It seems TA has two ventures at the moment and is planning to open a third? To me that is not really an empire, it is three businesses. This has been done (is being done ) seemingly quite sucessfully by some other chefs, who are not ** 0r ***. To name but a few........

* Nigel Haworth: Northcote,Three Fishes and new venture The Highway Man Tunstall.

* Richard Corrigan: Lindsay House, Bentleys and The Mill Restaurant.

No *'s Anthony Flinn: Anthony's, Anthony's at Flannels and Anthony's Patisserie.

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It's the speed at which the third restaurant has been announced which prompted my JC comparison, especially given that Tom's Kitchen was far from bedded in when I ate there in December. Maybe the last month or so has made all the difference.

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