Monday, 10 May 2010

Tom's Terrace at Somerset House - al fresco dining in London

The absolute best thing about Tom's Terrace is the triple cooked chips with truffle oil and parmesan. Phwoar. Crispy, fluffy, hot, rich and decadent all at once, I would eat them for breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Dessert. Every day.

Tom's Terrace recently opened on the terrace of Somerset House under the name of Michelin starred chef, Tom Aikens. As a guest of Tom's Terrace - with fellow bloggers, Gourmet Chick, Mathilde's Cuisine, The Graphic Foodie and Ms Marmite Lover - I was lucky enough to meet the man himself, who was just back from running 6 marathons in 5 days across the Sahara dessert (suggesting Tom is completely mentally insane, despite all appearances of being perfectly astute and lovely - at least he can probably eat those truffley chips to his heart's content).

Admittedly, as we sat on the terrace under a canopy, the heaters working overtime on a "crisp" springtime London evening, it did seem that the chefs in their open air kitchen had the best view. This was mine.

More could possibly have been made of the opportunity for Thames watching.

However, it is definitely a funky bar/casual bite destination that is likely to be a popular summer spot among the Central London after work crowd - particularly if the London sun ever revs up (1000 notches) to generate a bit of heat. Until then, wear socks. There was talk among the TT crew of introducing blankets (a great feature of the roof top bar at The Albion in Shoreditch).

The menu is a short offering of straightforward but slightly posh picnic or BBQ nosh. It's surprisingly (but purposefully) simple coming from a Michelin starred chef, so don't go in expecting fireworks (or an outdoor version of Tom's Kitchen at Chelsea) but be prepared to pay over the odds for the privilege in some cases.

After some crispy grissini with a lovely black olive tapenade, guacamole and hummus (£9), Aikens brings us the charcuterie board to start - a tasty mix of creamy foie gras parfait, slices of duck breast, chutney, pork rillette, Bayone ham and thick, crusty slices of toast (£22).

My coronation crab salad (£10.50) is tasty, although ultra rich. A generous layer of crab and mayo topped with toasted almonds sits prettily in a glass on top of shredded lettuce, finely diced tomato, spring onion and a lovely lemony avocado base.

My steak sandwich (£17.50) is an open sandwich of sliced steak nestled upon a thick slice of chargrilled bread, with rocket and a hefty layer of sweet red onion relish which becomes somewhat overpowering half way through. (Excuse the phone photos - the camera had mistakenly found itself in the same long term storage trunk as my sunglasses). The red onion and aubergine "tartine" (£12.50) is almost identical, with aubergine and parmesan simply replacing the steak on the chargrilled bread.

The hot smoked Loch Duart salmon (£17.50) involves a smattering of cold salmon over watercress, with a herb mustard vinaigrette, served on a wooden chopping board. It was missing the soft boiled egg listed on the menu, and the price seems mighty hefty for the volume and skill involved.

My Eton Mess (£8) with blueberries and raspberry coulis was quite nice, although it needed a higher meringue to cream ratio.

Service was friendly, although some of our orders were confused along the way (perhaps an early teething problem). The food is reasonable, although it has its ups and downs, and is sometimes overpriced. Only the thick cut truffle chips with parmesan (£6.50) were particularly memorable.

Bottles of wine start at around £20, and there's a fair selection by the glass at reasonable prices. Cocktails are around £9.50 (the same price as some of my favourite cocktails in London, at Bob Bob Ricard, and so those at Tom's Terrace would do well to compete with them). Bar snacks are also available.

I'm a big fan of dining al fresco, however plenty of warm heaters and blankets are going to be required to make this a comfortable option on most London nights for all except those with the hide of a Siberian husky. Bill's cafe in Brighton apparently offers hot water bottles to customers in winter - love it. Unless Tom's Terrace joins them in this magnificent gesture, take along your own blankie and warm the cockles with some of those delectable truffle chips.

Tom's Terrace, Somerset House, The Strand, London, WC2R 1LA (Ph: 020 7845 4646)
Tom's Terrace on Urbanspoon


  1. Great review - I agree the chips were fabulous and blankets would be even better

  2. Talk about getting in there early! As a big fan of Mr Aikens (both culinarily and aesthetically - phwoar) I'm tempted to give his Terrace a try but hang on - £6.50 for CHIPS?! Even truffle-y ones? And £17.50 for a steak 'sandwich' that's missing a slice of bread? The USP here is the location but it sounds like they're not even making the most of that; coupled with those scorching prices I'm not convinced that even a glimpse of the gorgeous Mr Aikens in all his auburn glory is going to be enough to win me over.

    Great review though - as comprehensive & entertaining as always.

  3. Triple cooked chips? With truffles? And parmesan? I'm on my way.

  4. Ouch! That is expensive.

    Although the food looks and sounds good I think the price, lack of view and the cold would be a definite turn off.

    Great review :)

  5. Typically overwhelming prices from Mr. Aikens. Would you be prepared to spend £17.50 for a steak s/wich on your own steam?

  6. Ouch - like many of the others above, it does sound like you are paying a premium for the location and name. That said, if the chips are that good, I'd probably pop in just to give them a spin (or swallow).

  7. Gourmet Chick - Agreed!

    Hugh - I was surprised to see the steak sandwich missing its hat, and along with the salmon I thought it one of the most overpriced things on the menu. However, since you are such an admirer of the auburn glory, perhaps you could just go for a drink to catch a glimpse?

    Emyr - You are clearly a woman of fine and admirable taste.

    The Ample Cook - thanks!

    Douglas - I probably would, but not this one.

    Grubworm - my thoughts exactly!

  8. I am so curious in that first photo. Is that photo means that they cook outside. That is so cool. I love seeing foods that is grilled outside. I love seeing smokes of grilling place.


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