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Restaurant Tom Aikens


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[surface tension - wanky art term relating to the (agreeable) arrangement/juxtaposition of paint/objects on a canvas/page etc.  Some chef's are masters of simplicity - Aikens comes on like Pollock/Kandinsky/Matisse on speed

Thanks for the explanation.

During Aikens demo at the recent Restaurant show, he said something like "I don't have any method when it comes to plating, I just chuck it all on."

Who could have guessed?

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Of course you meant to say "my fellow eGullet members who happen to disagree with my assessment of this particular restaurant but for whom I have the utmost respect." 

Oh no I didn't :smile:

What do you by mean by Aikens sense of "surface tension"? I'm not familiar with that term in a culinary context.

surface tension - wanky art term relating to the (agreeable) arrangement/juxtaposition of paint/objects on a canvas/page etc. Some chef's are masters of simplicity - Aikens comes on like Pollock/Kandinsky/Matisse on speed

And there was me thinking it meant that his sauce had got a skin on it from being under the lamps too long :laugh:

BLH, I've already been once and loathed the food. What's changed to make me go bakc. Is the winter style of cooking much different to the summer menu?

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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BLH, I've already been once and loathed the food. What's changed to make me go bakc. Is the winter style of cooking much different to the summer menu?

If you hated it before, you'll hate it even more. :biggrin:

Personally, I can't get enough of this place.

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Hmm - first time I went I heard the angels singing. Second time I thought maybe it was the plumber's choir down the road.

Third time's a charm I guess.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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i went once and thought it much ado.

went back and absolutely loved it.

I had a similar response to the fat duck - first time was what's the fuss all about; second time - bloody hell when can I come back

BLH -- that's no way to talk about circeplum.

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why do you define Aikens as being of the "classical school"?  And what makes a chef avant garde? 

Aikens is of the classical school because, although his food is highly technical, its all based on established methods. The avant garde chefs are investigating and employing methods of preperation and presentation outside of the classical canon e.g. Ferran Adria, Grant Achatz and Heston Blumenthal.

Well - I remember one thing I had that knocked me out at Tom Aikens was foie gras beignets <sp?>. Maybe someone else thought of this first - but I never heard of it before.

Of course - this dish was fried (I think) - which is a traditional form of cooking.

So does the dish have to be new - or does it have to involve some strange new chemistry of cooking - for the chef to be considered avant garde? Would cooking in an Advantium oven count (that's new - best I can tell - no one's figured out how to use one yet :biggrin: ). Or does the server have to bring a tank of some kind of gas to the table?

I'm not being facetious here. I'm asking these questions in all seriousness. I'm more familiar with "avant garde" when it comes to art than food. About 95% of all the new art movements I've seen are total garbage. Of course - there's the other 5% that is destined to go down in history. So is new for the sake of new what you're looking for? In the quest to find that 5%? I find that fun when I'm doing art things. Because worst that happens is I walk into a museum or gallery - hate the stuff - and walk right out. On the other hand - when it comes to food - I'll have wasted a night and a lot of money in a wonderful (but expensive) city like London. Of course - London is your home turf - so if you waste a night - or many nights - you still have 1000's more in your future. Robyn

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hmmm avant-garde or post-modern art deco?

The taste and texture combinations occasionally bewilder my palette (except the amuses)....more through composition "on speed" than cooking process, although the latter, at times, distinctively avant-garde.

Which reminds me...next time I'm in I must pinch a mother-of-pearl spoon!

Edited by Marlyn4k (log)
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I think we might better leave discussion about what's avant garde or not off this thread my lovlies and perhaps concentrate on Aiken's food, which I think we agree is not avant garde. Robyn, there are lots of other threads about Trio, Fat Duck, El Bulli, Moto et al that I'm sure you're aware of where you can discuss this.

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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I wasn't up late....I'm in Barbados and so 5 hours behind the clock....surfing on the hotel's free broadband access.

Went to "Tides" last night - less fashionable than The Cliff or Lone Star but very very good and a relative bargain. The chef/patron is an englishman by the name of Guy Beasley, who came out for a chat and said his last stint in the UK was 3 years with the Rouxs back at the turn of the decade before last (when Ramsay was a nipper in Albert's kithcen).

Sorry nothing to do with Tom Aikens....

Edited by Marlyn4k (log)
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I think we might better leave discussion about what's avant garde or not off this thread my lovlies and perhaps concentrate on Aiken's food, which I think we agree is not avant garde. Robyn, there are lots of other threads about Trio, Fat Duck, El Bulli, Moto et al that I'm sure you're aware of where you can discuss this.

I don't know whether I agree with your conclusion without discussing definitions. But - if no one wants to talk about it here - that's ok with me <shrug>.

Seems to me that the point of a good ---> great restaurant is delivering a good ---> great meal - and that merit stars - or brownie points - or whatever you want to you call them - shouldn't be added - or subtracted - simply because a self-appointed arbiter decides that a particular eating establishment is or isn't avant garde. FWIW - avant garde is defined simply as the advance movement in a particular area. By that simple and widely accepted definition - drive-in burger joints like McDonald's were avant garde at some point in time. And there's a lot of really awful art that has - over the years - fallen into the avant garde category.

That said - like I said quite a few messages back - I really enjoyed my meal at Tom Aikens - and I wish I lived a lot closer to London so I could dine there more than once. Certainly in a city as large as London - there's a place for a chef of Mr. Aikens' caliber. And many other chefs/restaurants who deserve more criticism than a lot of people seem to be heaping on him here. Robyn

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[surface tension - wanky art term relating to the (agreeable) arrangement/juxtaposition of paint/objects on a canvas/page etc.  Some chef's are masters of simplicity - Aikens comes on like Pollock/Kandinsky/Matisse on speed

Thanks for the explanation.

During Aikens demo at the recent Restaurant show, he said something like "I don't have any method when it comes to plating, I just chuck it all on."

Who could have guessed?

Goes to show that people are rarely the best critics of their own work.

I though that deep frying salami was grotesque, but deep-frying foie gras? Yikes.

I agree it is not really avant-garde; there are a few foams about, but foams have now gone straight from avant-garde to cliche, from what I read here.

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  • 4 months later...

Why haven't more people been talking about Tom Aikens's? Gordon Ramsay is yesterday's news compared to him (though I think Ramsay utterly wonderful). And WHY DIDN'T HE GET AT LEAST A SECOND STAR? Sorry for shouting, but I feel strongly about this. Surely it can't be for the past 'misdemeanour' stuff?

Anyone agree with me that he's the best chef in London today?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Going on friday for dinner, really excited, haven't been out in ages!!

Was wondering what hotel recommendations are out there?

I went into a French restaraunt and asked the waiter, 'Have you got frog's legs?' He said, 'Yes,' so I said, 'Well hop into the kitchen and get me a cheese sandwich.'

Tommy Cooper

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For cheap and (almost but not quite) cheerful, there are a number of convention hotels around the Earl's court area - which is a short distance from Tom Aikens (5 mins by cab, 15 by bus, 30 by foot).

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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  • 3 weeks later...

We had our first trip to Tom Aikens last Tuesday. Approached with some trepidation – rarely has opinion on this site been so divided. So would it transform our appreciation of what ingredients could become; or would it be pointless frippery and excess, destroying food with art ?

The verdict: we are huge fans. This restaurant is doing something different – it is delivering exceptional cooking but bringing to it an energy and style that I simply haven’t seen anywhere else in London.

The pea soup (with rabbit and pancetta and chive jelly, and etc, etc, etc…There are always a lot of “etcs” with Tom Aikens) was an explosion of freshness and flavour and essence of pea soup. Bluntly, it knocked the (£32 !) vegetable risotto I had at Le Manoir into a cocked hat.

Sea Bass and Turbot were both superbly cooked whilst about them sang a whole choir of asparagus, chives, herbs and lemon – sometimes 'plainly' cooked, sometimes in jellies or mousses or sauce.

All the dishes, including some exceptional desserts were a joy to behold and a wonder to taste. However, possibly the highlight, was a stunning cheeseboard. It was introduced with messianic enthusiasm and a welath of opinions ! A separate ‘tasting plate’ was provided to allow you to sample the possibilities before going firm on your selection. And the board itself contained fantastic and interesting variations on the new and familiar, all perfectly kept. More than just the usual suspects.

Finally, the staff (waiter, ex-GR@RHR; sommelier ex-Pierre Gagnaire etc) clearly loved the style of the place and its food, and conveyed that enthusiasm with an engaging approach that managed to avoid compromising professionalism and didn’t make you feel like you’d been kidnapped by a bunch of over-attentive cultists.

So what of the criticisms of the ‘Nay to Aikens’ brigade ?

Some of them (e.g. Andy’s initial cheese grudgingly dished out) or references to poor/cold service I just can’t reconcile with our experience. So either it’s been erratic in its highs and lows or – God forbid – since these criticisms were made, it’s listened and addressed them !

Others – too much going on in each dish; small, or swamped main ingredients; confusion of flavours. These I can relate to. The ‘Rabbit’ which was listed as the main ingredient of my pea soup starter, appeared almost peripheral, as two small slices of sausage (albeit lending a welcome dab of savouriness to the dish). Following this starter with the Sea Bass would have resulted in an excess of sweetness (something the meal as a whole sometimes teetered towards). Although there was a clear central theme to each dish, not everything built towards this in a way which meant the dish was truly composed. Sometimes senses were overwhelmed. For me, sometimes the translation of an ingredient into a jelly or mousse or foam, whilst delivering the very essence of its flavour, proved too much of a disconnect from the ingredient itself.

But, God it was exciting and interesting and energetic. Energy on its own is not enough; and innovation without skill can be disastrous (see Andy’s thread on City Inn q.v.) But, overwhelmingly, this is being done with balance and skill and accomplishment. It is an absolute delight. An entirely different delight from the classical perfections of GR@RHR, agreed, but long live the availability of such choice – and the chance to choose a restaurant to reflect different moods and occasions.

So dust off your jaded palettes, and go and relish the flavours and the refreshing verve of it all !

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