You are paying for the wonderful location so choose a wonderful day

On Tuesday evening I was lucky enough to be invited to London’s newest hyper-fashionable dining establishment: Tom’s Terrace. The ‘Tom’ in question is the Michelin-starred chef Tom Aiken (he designed the menu and keeps the kitchen in order) and the ‘Terrace’ is the really rather fetching one of Somerset House. I may have been totally knackered and generally shagged out at dinner, thanks to no sleep in days, but I was together enough to know these two factors would result in an experience worth paying for.

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To deal with England’s propensity to rain even in mid-summer Tom’s Terrace is covered with a tortoise-shell-esque canopy. Once you get under its skin you’ll find they also have ceiling heaters laid on to deal with England’s other weather problem: the temperature (or rather, lack of it). The venue is not just a restaurant but also a grove-tastic bar that features a DJ a couple of times a week. The managing team are clearly trying to extract all they can from what is a great location that just begs to be heaving with mirth-charged merry-makers.

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Tom himself came out of the kitchen to tell us a little bit about his food and a lot about his recent running escapades; running for days across the Sahara desert sounded terrifying to this listener. Beyond presenting himself as a seasoned running nut he certainly gave the impression of a true food lover committed to making dishes that provide real pleasure. The menu that he had designed was short and, whilst not terribly exciting, had several offerings that one would feel safe ordering. I had a swig of their rather pleasing Chianti and chose my food.

I rather enjoyed the platter of charcuterie they gave us, particularly the foie gras and chicken liver parfait because it distinctly irked the vegetarian sitting next to me. Deary me, how could I end up sitting next to a vegetarian? Are they all colluding in some plan to accost me at quality dining events just so they can vex me with their twisted eating habits? She seemed a lovely person, but vegetarian? No. The other successes on the platter were the meat-tastic rillette and richly-flavoured chutney, both delicious.

Two of the starters stick out in my mind as being particularly good. The hot-smoked salmon was triple freaking-A grade fish. Fantastic flavour to it; hot-smoked salmon can be so very satisfying. I did feel that the portion size was a shade on the niggardly side, alas.

The Caesar salad (left) is also a recommended option. With thankfully not an over-whelming amount of [link2post id=”1531″]carcinogenic lettuce[/link2post], lots of tongues of crunchy, toasted bread, expertly executed dressing and some top bunny anchovies this was a ranking example of the genre. Yeah, good stuff.

Given my recent burger experiences at Hawksmoor I thought it worth trying Tom Aiken’s effort. You may have already guessed that, good as this example was, and it was a properly good, seriously meaty, skilfully composed burger, I found it to be lacking in comparison to Hawksmoor’s finest. Yet the Tom’s Terrace burger is an eminently enjoyable option that you can be confident is not going to scare any diner.

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The steak ‘open sandwiches’ (I don’t think you can call them sandwiches unless they consist of two slices of bread with the filling between them. I don’t often go for these ‘open sandwiches’, a perversion of the genre, but I am bonkers) had plenty of pleasing bits of meat covering them. They were dosed with a balsamic dressing of pleasingly complex character and parmesan shavings; these were inspired additions that considerably enhanced what could have been a mundane dish. I did think these open sandwiches were irritatingly more than a smidgen heavy on the ‘green stuff’ front, but then green stuff has always got on my tits. I just don’t see the point of bloody green bits of plant beyond, perhaps, acting as a transport medium for some tasty dressing, possibly fragments of quality cheese or ideally bacon bits from Sillfield Farm. Leaf-matter rarely tastes even remotely palatable and it is a distinctly unhealthy thing to be eating. I also suspect people who like leaf-type stuff are unhealthy in the grey lump above the suboccipital region; to enjoy such awfulness is a manifest sign of lunacy. But I cannot deny that the steak open sandwiches are clearly good with enough quality ingredients to keep you chortling. However, once again I did feel the portion size was a shade diminutive.

At this point I was so hilariously tired I had to go home and pass out (I actually got some sleep that night, hooray! Must be because I had a full stomach). I was also suffering from being a tad under-dressed on what was a bitterly cold evening. That was the real downer of the experience; the weather just did not live up to what is a fabulous location. Whilst the food is good it is not a wild roller-coaster ride of hoopy hallucinogenic substances in terms of displaying stellar quality. It is easily of sufficient quality to assist you in enjoying a warm summer evening inhaling the view across the Thames and South Bank. Even if you don’t want to dine the location is so totally top that it is well-worth dropping by for a civilised double espresso (they use the brilliant [link2post id=”1102″]Nespresso system for these; good choice by the Tom’s Kitchen team getting Nespresso plumbed in) or an improving glass or two of their fruity yet rigorous Chianti (the best wine on their brief list). Go on a nice day and spend some quality time surveying that great place that is London.

The Contemporary Ceramics Gallery is also in Somerset House so you have plenty of excuses to get your arse over there..

Contact details: It is in Somerset House on the terrace, man, you cannot miss it. To book a table telephone 020 7845 4646 or email tomsevents@somersethouse.org.uk

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