In the centre of the dining room of Kerridge’s Bar & Grill are a large pair of golden trousers and an equally iridescent jacket, standing out against the racing green walls of the room within the Corinthia Hotel London. The suit is both decoration and dedication, a sculpture by chef-in-chief Tom Kerridge’s wife, Beth. Until recently, her work had been on hold as she dedicated herself to the Kerridge empire of poshed-up pub food, centring on the two-Michelin-starred Hand & Flower in Marlow.
Today, the brand is soaring, not least with this major London restaurant in a space formerly occupied by Massimo Bottura. So, Mrs Kerridge is back in the studio, and the sculpture is a homage to her and a nod to her husband’s own success in the 13 years since he opened his first restaurant. It’s quite a journey from country pub to five-star hotel in Whitehall, and the question of whether Kerridge’s food will translate to its new gilt-edged home hangs heavy. Not that Kerridge, who’s making his genial rounds of the dining room on a sunny Sunday afternoon a few days after opening, looks at all concerned. He looks like the cat that just acquired the creamery.
The menu is shorn of excess fat, much like the man himself these days, with eight starters and nine mains, all in the hale-and-hearty vein. My lobster thermidor omelette arrives, golden brown, in a skillet, with large hunks of lobster in a bubbling lava of thermidor sauce, below which is a perfectly formed layer of omelette. It’s a beautiful confection, cheesy and so rich it could start a revolution. My friend orders the Loch Duart salmon with apple pancake, douglas fir and avruga caviar. The serving of salmon is generous but its delicate flavour is lost under the weight of the accompaniments. At any rate, it works well with the Davenport white suggested by the sommelier.
The main courses are presented in the minimalist style of a chef confident in his own judgement. The pig’s cheek pie is a small sphere on a large white plate, the pastry golden, thin and yielding and enclosing the rich pork meat, which is coddled in a cabbage leaf. A raw-cream mash with specks of black pudding is almost obscene in its excess. My companion describes his beautifully pink Cotswold lamb with smoked aubergine, feta, olives and moussaka, as “a Sunday roast with a Greek accent”.
Desserts are in the gastropub mould; we share the treacle tart, whose richness is prevented from becoming oppressive by the addition of ginger and a few flakes of sea salt.
Service is a little patchy; we have to prompt our waiter to take our drinks order and plates sometimes linger on the table a touch too long, but such modest failings are understandable — and forgivable — given this is opening week.
This is a confident restaurant, offering unfussy but exquisitely cooked food. Kerridge and his wife deserve that gold suit and more. Three-course lunch with wine and service for two around £195.
As featured in Issue 3 of National Geographic Traveller Food.