Note this is a write-up of a freebie as we were guests of the restaurant. We pay for almost everything we review and when we occasionally do a freebie event we’ll tell you and be as critical as usual. See our reciprocity promise here.
Tom’s Kitchen has been open about a year in the refurbished Mailbox complex. It is buried in the shopping mall on the first floor by the entrance to Harvey Nichols. The restaurant borrows its light from the atrium, its wall open to passing shoppers with buggies and bags. A screen provides some level of privacy but it still has a bit of an air of food court. It’s not food court prices though; dinner here will set you back £50+ a head with a glass of wine or two.
The interior is traditional plush bistro in style, all warm leathers and wood, we were quite comfy for our wintery meal. Staff were friendly and knowledgable, and our waitress knew exactly which dishes to avoid for a shellfish allergy. We had some carafes of fab wine, Cabernet Sauvignon was good, and the Rioja was great.
We ordered a cashew dip and crackers with our aperitif. Either I have an allergy I was unaware of or it was past its best, with a distinct but mild tongue fizz, similar to that found in fermenting guacamole.
For starters I had the confit duck ballotine. I had incorrectly assumed this would be a hot dish, but it was served almost fridge cold. I liked the bed of cauliflower heavy piccalilli and sharp fruit chutney, and it was a pretty plate of food. I would have preferred and expected the duck to have been warm on a winter menu, overall it was just a bit disappointing. The rabbit terrine faired no better. Pickled baby carrots added a zing to the rabbit meat, though some of it was quite bitter, and again the dish was too cold.
The week we were dining there was a special on game, so for my main I took the partridge from the specials menu. Service was a little slow, we’d arrived at 18.30 and mains arrived at 19.45, just as I was getting fed up of waiting. The partridge was a little dry and more of the delicious sauce was required. The parsnip puree was good, sweet and earthy flavours complimenting the meat. The parsnip crisps were a mixed success with some quite limp but others crackable. The pear was underripe and flavourless. Presentation was pleasingly dramatic. We also had the lamb steak on bulgar wheat. It was tender and strongly flavoured, we were unsure whether the bulgur wheat salad worked with it, and we didn’t like the puddle of sauce it sat in.
Special mention to the truffle chips with parmesan. They are possibly the very best chips I’ve eaten, and they have some strong competition. Crispy and golden on the outside, fluffy and steaming inside, and with wonderful pungent truffle finish.
We’ve heard mixed reports of the food and service here, and we’ve been told by people whose foodie views we trust that they’ve had really excellent food. Perhaps we were just unfortunate, but I’m not sure I’d want to risk £100 for dinner for two here knowing I could go to, say, Opus, or Harborne Kitchen and be guaranteed a great meal. Consistency is so important at this price point and I’m afraid on our trip it didn’t hit the spot. Disappointing.