The Mailbox has a welcome new addition in the shape of super-stylish restaurant and deli Tom’s Kitchen. Amy Norbury discovers more
When a restaurant offers a clear view of the kitchen allowing diners to see their dishes being prepared, and a butcher’s cuts window showcasing their impressive meat selection, you get the feeling they take their produce seriously.
And at Tom’s Kitchen, the latest hotspot on the Birmingham dining scene, produce certainly is king.
Tom’s Kitchen is the brainchild of award-winning chef Tom Aikins; the Birmingham restaurant is the latest one to open, and the first UK-based Tom’s Kitchen outside of London – there’s also a Tom’s Kitchen in Istanbul which opened in 2013.
Situated in the swanky surrounds of The Mailbox, in the heart of the city centre, it certainly offers a prime location for dining, as well as room at the bar for anyone wanting to pop in for post-work or shopping spree drinks. So when the J’AIME team were invited to give the restaurant a whirl, we didn’t hesitate.
First impressions were certainly favourable; the restaurant hits that fine line between buzzing and relaxed perfectly, and the industrial chic decor oozes style.
We were warmly welcomed and shown to our table before being introduced to Alex, who would be our waiter for the evening.
First order of the day was pre-dinner cocktails to sip on while we perused the menu. As a gin lover, I was immediately drawn to the Bimber Distillery specials; Bimber Distillery spirits are all-natural and handmade, and the Tom’s Kitchen team has come up with four mouth-watering cocktails offering experimental combinations and fantastic ingredients.
The Legacy – a heady combination of Bimber dry gin, lemon juice, English breakfast tea gomme, soda and pomegranate seeds – was the perfect refresher, full of clean flavours which really showed off the gin to its full potential.
My husband was equally impressed with his classic Manhattan, a powerful mix of Woodford Reserve bourbon, martini rosso and angostura bitters.
I was tempted by the classic combination of the chef’s special starter – pan-fried scallops with peas and bacon – but after a little bit of persuasion from the hubby we chose the chicken liver and foie gras parfait and the dressed Devonshire crab on toast with the intention of sharing.
After a quick recce of the wine list, we asked Alex for his expert recommendation; we’re red wine fans and would normally go for something like a montepulciano or an Argentinean malbec, something with plenty of mouthfeel but fairly easy on the tannins. His choice was a 2014 Telmo Rodriguez ‘Al Muvedre’, a monastrell from Alicante which fit the bill nicely, with plenty of deep red fruit flavours and a citrusy note which Alex thought would complement our food choices.
While we waited for our starters we were presented with a pot of mixed olives, which had been marinated in an incredible zesty brine created in-house. These were perfect for enjoying alongside our cocktails, and were just enough to get the tastebuds tingling in preparation.
The starters were a feast for both eyes and palate, with beautiful presentation showing off each dish to the full. The parfait, which was served with toasted brioche, a sweet spiced chutney and cornichons, was a wonderful example of a classic. The addition of the foie gras gave it a real luxurious feel; smooth, rich and buttery, it was just divine.
The parfait was so good that I didn’t really want to share, but the crab looked so pretty and there were plenty of happy murmurings coming from the hubby so share I did. And the crab was another hit. The creamy dressed crab was piled atop delicately thin and beautifully crisp toasts and smooth avocado puree, with slivers of sharp-sweet apple and pickled shallots to cut through the richness and add a burst of freshness.
Moving onto the main event, I’d had my eye on one of the chef’s specials – roasted halibut with barbecue leeks – but the lure of the butcher’s cut chateaubriand for two proved too great, much to the delight of my steak aficionado husband. Priced at £65, this sharing cut comprises 650g of finest Scottish chateaubriand, served with triple-cooked chips, bearnaise and peppercorn sauces and a watercress salad. We also opted for a heritage tomato salad on the side.
The platter we were presented with was a steak fan’s dream. Simply seasoned and cooked a perfect rare as requested, the meat had been chargrilled to perfection, creating a beautifully smoky crust which gave way to a wonderfully tender garnet red interior. The meat was truly melt-in-the-mouth, and the intense flavour meant that the accompanying sauces were strictly reserved for chip-dipping; the steak really didn’t need anything else. The chips were a delight though; thick-cut, with a crispy exterior and a fluffy inside, they were exactly what a good chip should be. The sauces, too, were worthy accompaniments, with the bearnaise a particular treat, while the watercress and heritage tomato salads added a fresh, clean dimension to the meal. Both were packed with flavour, making the most of their simple star ingredients.
After two superb courses we only had room for dessert to share. On Alex’s recommendation, we opted for the chocolate and peanut butter marquise with salted caramel ice cream and peanut brittle. Coated in a super-shiny ganache, the dessert once again looked the part. It wasn’t as rich or heavy as expected either; the sponge was delightfully light and we found the whole thing was just enough to satisfy any sweet cravings.
A further round of cocktails finished off the evening in style; another Manhattan for the hubby and an A Guell Adventure, another Bimber special – this time with Bimber gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, peach schnapps, lemon juice and egg white – for me.
From the stylish setting and relaxing ambiance, to the exemplary service and, of course, top notch food, Tom’s Kitchen certainly impressed. They say the best parties are to be found in the kitchen, and Tom’s Kitchen proves they’re not wrong.