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Inside kitchens: equipment at Tom's Kitchen

09 November 2006

The accent as on theatre and visibility when Hansens was commissioned to build the two kitchens at Tom Aikens's new Chelsea restaurant

The dining experience at Tom's Kitchen is designed to be as much of a feast for the eyes as for the taste-buds. That much is evident from the layout of the four-storey building housing Tom Aikens's new opening just around the corner from his eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant in Chelsea.

"The idea was not to replicate what we're doing up the road," says Aikens. "This one is about home-style cooking - soups, salads, burgers - at a lower price for everyone. I wanted the kitchen to be an open space so all the cooking could be seen and all staff to be on show because it's nice for the customers to see what they're doing."

Ollie Couillaud, formerly of La Trompette and the Dorchester, heads up the 12- to 14-strong brigade. "The menu is all about sourcing the best possible ingredients from small independent farms, some organic and some free-range," he says.

The main menu will offer a mix of French and English brasserie-style dishes and will change every two months, while blackboards will advertise daily-changing specials. Average spend excluding drinks is forecast at £40. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and on Sundays an additional menu will offer traditional brunch fare such as muffins and eggs Benedict.

Underlining the relaxed, informal dining atmosphere, the menu card lists starters subdivided into soups and salads, eggs, risotto and pasta, meat, and fish sections. Main courses are arranged in protein types - beef, pork, lamb, veal, birds and fish - and an extensive list of side orders includes Savoy cabbage with smoked bacon, wilted spinach and mashed swede. A big feature is made of the suppliers with profiles on the menu and images adorning the walls.

All manner of special equipment has been put on display to be operated in full view of the customers seated in the 90-cover, ground-floor brasserie. The ground-floor kitchen houses all the main cooking equipment, sectioned off from the oak tables and chairs by a grey and white marble counter.

In the corner sits a Wood Stone gas-fired stone oven for cooking meat, such as the rack of lamb with a herb crust for serving with mustard mash and confit garlic, and fish such as the fillet of baked sea bass with red pepper relish and olive-oil mash. And spit-roast chicken will be visable to the customers as it turns in front of the "wall of fire" in the Rotisol Olympic two-spit rôtisserie.

Space constraints dictated the choice of a linear modular Charvet cooking suite featuring two open burners and four solid tops with two ovens underneath, and a salamander above. A single-tank, two-basket Falcon Infinity fryer and a Bakers Pride chargrill for steaks complete the line-up and there's plenty of Foster under-counter refrigeration keeping ingredients close at hand.

In addition, the dining room plays host to a specially built lobster grill and lobster aquarium. The grill works on solid fuel such as coals and wood and has an adjustable rack height. It's built into an existing brick fireplace, next to which sit the unsuspecting lobsters in their fresh seawater tank, tempting customers into placing an order. "The lobster grill and tank are something a little different," says Aikens. "The fireplace was already there so we uncovered it to use."

Space below stairs is given over to two special features which are both functional and more theatre for diners.

A cheese and wine room is bookable for tastings for up to 12 people and is temperature-controlled at 14-16°C. It houses the wine collection and English and French cheeses are displayed on marble shelves.
A glass wall separates the area from a coldroom built by Foster, divided into three sections including a dedicated meat hanging fridge. A further feature is a glass block in the ceiling providing customers in the dining room with a view of the carcasses hanging below.

A second glass wall sections off the cheese and wine room from the well-lit prep kitchen, where chefs are on show as they go about their business with a 10-grid Rational combi-oven, a tilting bratt pan, a 30kg blast chiller to pull down temperatures to +4°C and -19°C and a Robot Coupe ice-cream machine. Also in the prep kitchen is a 30-litre Bear Varimixer which kneads the bread dough for a selection of breads including brown, white, rosemary, black olive, red pepper, and ciabatta, all baked in a Tom Chandley deck oven. As upstairs, refrigeration here is by Foster, and Hansens custom-built all the stainless-steel benches. A dumb waiter serves all four floors.

The brief

Having installed the kitchen at Tom Aikens's first Chelsea restaurant in 2003, Catering equipment distributor and CEDA member Hansens was retained to build the two kitchens in his new venture, Tom's Kitchen, also in Chelsea. Besides the traditional cooking and prep equipment, the installation included some more unusual kit to provide a theatrical aspect to entertain diners.

Contacts

Charvet: 01342 717936

Falcon Foodservice Equipment (Infinity): 01786 455200

Foster Refrigerator: 01553 691122

Hansens Kitchen Equipment: 020 7351 6933

Jestic Foodservice Equipment (Wood Stone/Bakers Pride): 01892 502410

Mono Equipment (Bear): 01792 561234

Rational: 01582 480388

Robot Coupe: 020 8232 1800

Trident Rotisserie (Rotisol): 01778 425800

Tom Chandley: 0161-336 5444

Tom's Kitchen: 020 7349 0202

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