16.5/20. Classic Kerridge. The power of a heavyweight, exemplary technique, the touch of an angel. Big place, big flavours, big pleasure. Big bill.
Tom Kerridge has ventured forth from the fastnesses of Marlow, where he has but an impregnable fortress of eateries through the Hand & Flowers, The Coach and The Butcher’s Tap. Tom Kerridge’s Bar & Grill, housed in the Corinthia Hotel, itself a sparkling example of glossy metropolitan doss house, is his first outpost beyond the Home Counties.
And I think it suits Tom’s style of hospitality rather well. Like the man, himself, it’s on an impressive scale. The space is large, verging on huge, or it feels that way because the baize-green ceiling leaps high over head. Below there’s a bar serving fine beers and other refreshments, true to the pub origins of the Kerridge brand. The larger area devoted to the eating is anchored by two statues by Beth Cullen-Kerridge, Tom’s wife, that erupt like stelae from their plinths. Around them spread the tables with ox blood-coloured banquettes and other seats studded with Chesterfield buttons. To my sense, the restaurant has a distinctly masculine feel, a rather Edwardian synthesis of clubland and bankland, even if at the moment the service is at the charming and enthusiastic stage rather than the charming and assured stage. That will come with time. However, whichever way you look at it,TK’s Bar & Grill doesn’t suggest Corbinista radicalism.
But then, neither does Tom’s cooking. It is founded in the classics, buttressed by classic techniques, polished to a classic finish. I’m not saying that water-bath, Paco-jets, thermomixers and their like don’t have parts to play the Kerridge kitchen, but the fact that a splendid old school rotisserie occupies a substantial part of the room and plays an important part in shaping the menu, tells you something about where the big man’s culinary heart really lies.
And if one of the distinguishing characteristics of such contemporary star British chefs as Tomos Parry, Tommy Banks, Lisa Allen and Ben Chapman, is their individuality, personality and culinary vision (frequently enlivened by humour), Tom’s is no less individual, personal and visionary, even of it is stamped by orthodoxy rather than novelty. This is particularly true of the Bar & Grill at present. It will take a restaurant of this scale at least 6 months, possibly a year, before the kitchen will feel confident enough to jazz things up a bit.
Having written that, the present menu does very nicely and does things very nicely. Sensibly, it plays to the strengths of Mr Kerridge’s back catalogue. I’ve tasted glazed omelette ‘Lobster Thermidor’; crispy pig’s head with mustard mayonnaise and pickles; whole stuffed rotisserie quail with glazed English onion and bread sauce; Creedy Carver duck liver parfait with apple and rose chutney honey cider jelly and toasted brioche; rib of roast beef with chips, bone marrow sauce and gherkin ketchup; truffled celeriac (it’ll have a cult following); and brown butter tart with buttermilk ice cream, many of which echo combinations and techniques hone in Marlow.
And I’m not going to complain. Each has Tom Kerridge’s unique combination of amplitude, seductive flavours, refinement and visual elegance. For example, the duck liver parfait has an ethereal silky quality; the pastry on the tart (and for the tartlet that serves as an amuse bouche) is a miracle of crispness, and the thickness of graphene; the precise contrast between the cashmere-soft pig’s cheek and the delicate crunch of the deep-fried exterior. And so on and so on. The seductive effects are presented with Mr Kerridge’s customary precision and contain many more minor felicities that add layers, angles and consequence to each dish. I could bash on about the culinary sophistication and technical cleverness of this and that, but the real question is, is it much fun?
Well, I’d say it is, even if the fun is more likely to appeal to suits and tweeds than it is to jeans and T-shirts, if you see what I mean. This may be partly a function of price. However you look at it, Tom Kerridge’s Bar & Grill isn’t cheap. The fixed price lunch is very fair value at £24 for 2 courses and £29.50 for 3, but if you wander off onto the sunny uplands of the a la carte menu, and you may well be tempted to do so, then the bill will rise quite steeply.The cheapest first course is £9.50, the most expensive – Glazed omelette ‘Lobster Thermidor: unbelievably yummy – is £29.50. The cheapest main course is £21.50, the most expensive £34. And with wine and whatnots on top of that, and you’re unlikely to meander out into Northumberland Avenue for much under £75 a head.
Is it worth it? Well, that’s up to you. As for me, oh yes, even if it’s as a treat rather than for regular refreshment.
Tom Kerridge Bar & Grill, Corinthia Hotel, Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2BD
Tel: +44 (0) 207 321 3244