WLC’s resident foodie, Lucy Shaw, heads to Tom Kerridge’s debut London venture for ethereal fish and chips, heavenly white Bordeaux and a nostalgic treacle tart.
The concept: The incredible shrinking man, Tom Kerridge, seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to pimped up pub grub. In 2011, his Marlow pub The Hand and Flowers was the first in the UK to be awarded two Michelin stars. Last year, his other pub, The Coach, won its first star.
Like Heston Blumenthal’s colonisation of Bray with The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head, Kerridge has built a mini empire in Marlow, where he also owns The Butcher’s Tap, which supplies all of the meat for his debut London venture – Kerridge’s Bar & Grill at the swanky Corinthia Hotel near Whitehall.
The décor: One of the most hotly anticipated restaurant openings of the year, with its cathedral-like high ceilings, soaring Corinthian columns, racing green walls and burgundy leather upholstered banquettes, the grandeur of the room suits its five star setting.
Close to the entrances is a stately marble-topped bar filled with liquid treasures glinting like jewels in a cabinet. The 90-cover room is dotted with works by Kerridge’s artist wife Beth, including showstopper ‘Steve’, an eerie bronze statue of an invisible man in a suit. Behind him, cuts of meat glisten in glass display boxes like a strange contemporary art installation.
The carefully curated soundtrack is noteworthy too. With a perfectly pitched volume level, I entered to Amy Winehouse belting out Valerie, and the Brit pop classics continued throughout the night, taking in everyone from The Arctic Monkeys and David Bowie to The Cure.
Packed out on my visit, the buzz of the room reminded me of Berner’s Tavern and other striking spaces where people come to see and be seen.
The food: This is not a place to take a carb counter. Kerridge is on a mission to fatten us all up like Christmas geese. Full of pub classics with a fine dining twist, his menu is bold, beautiful and unapologetic. Even the bread is loaded with treacle.
When Kerridge is needed in Marlow, the site is left in the capable hands of head chef Nick Beardshaw, who helped him to his second star at The Hand & Flowers, and first at The Coach last year.
You’ll probably already know about the lobster thermidor omelette starter, a dish so rich you can put on a few pounds just by looking at it. Keen not to fill up too early on in the meal, I opted instead for Kerridge’s clever rice-less risotto, inspired by a Claude Bosi recipe, topped with a golden, crispy, oozing egg.
Dusted with salty flecks of aged Parmesan, the dish was as delicate as it was decadent. Breaking up the richness with the inspired addition of lightly charred pickled onions, which added a welcome sour tang to the earthy ensemble.
Signature dishes: No trip to Kerridge’s would be complete without at least one of your party ordering the brill and chips. At £34.50, it may be a little steep, but it’s the Platonic ideal of fish and chips that makes all others feel like cheap imitations.
The ethereal golden hunk of moist, meaty brill falls apart at the slightest suggestion of a fork. Encased in a feather-light, wonderfully crunchy batter, the fish is made more magnificent when dipped in adorable pots of chunky, caper-flecked tartare, nostalgic pease pudding and delicately spiced Matson sauce.
Standing to attention like miniature golden soldiers, the daringly crispy triple cooked chips were equally on point, and dangerously addictive when dipped in an accompanying pot of vinegar-laced mayo.
Kerridge has a sweet tooth and his desserts are unmissable. Both the bitter dark chocolate pud with malt biscuit and salted caramel, and the nostalgic, tooth-tinglingly sweet brown butter tart with buttermilk ice cream were exquisite, but the latter had the edge for us.
The drinks: We were left in the capable hands of affable Danish sommelier Oliver Espersen, who was dressed in a beautifully tailored grey suit on our visit. While the wine list is substantial, the by the glass offering is minimal.
Luckily, nearly all of the wines on offer by the glass are interesting. We started with golden glasses of Pinot Noir dominant English fizz Ridgeview Cavendish, which wetted our palates with its tart apple tang.
A 2015 Chardonnay from Château Ksara in Lebanon proved the perfect pairing for my mushroom risotto and crispy golden egg, the buttery opulence of the wine mirroring the creaminess of the dish.
To pair with my fish and chips, I was treated to a glass of Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2005 from Pessac-Léognan. A deep golden hue, the Semillon-dominant blend charmed with notes of Golden Delicious apple, caramel and toffee, and held its own alongside the mighty hunk of brill.
Who to know: Wine lovers should seek out assistant head sommelier Oliver Espersen, who is emblematic of the new wave of well travelled, open minded, contagiously passionate sommeliers in London that are helping to smash the stereotype of the fusty, unapproachable, intimidating wine snobs of yore.
Don’t leave without: Taking the time on your way out to peruse the artworks adorning the wall beside the bar, piled on top of one another Royal Academy style.
Last word: Judging by how buzzing it was on our visit, Kerridge is onto a winner. Having been lavished with rave reviews, the restaurant’s lofty prices don’t seem to be putting people off.
Kerridge has captured the zeitgeist. In these uncertain times, we want to be comforted and coddled, and his food does that in spades.
Assured, clever and executed with technical flair, this is butter-loaded food that will leave you button-poppingly full, but also with the pleasing feeling of having been really well looked after. Best of all, the space offers the enviable combination of grandeur and brilliance without arrogance or intimidation, as the focus is firmly on fun.
Kerridge’s Bar & Grill, 10 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5AE; Tel: +44 (0)20 7321 3244