Avid viewers of the Great British Menu may recall a larger-than-life character bowling onto their screens for the first time in 2010. Tom Kerridge had a thick West Country accent, a broad smile and a knack for delivering flavour by the barrel load in his subversive pub-inspired dishes. He was a genius, rewriting the script on what pub grub could be before our eyes, while masquerading as the affable landlord of a small Bucks boozer.
By the time he won the Great British Menu main course dish with his slow-cooked Aylesbury duck, there was a 12-month waiting list to get a primetime table at his Michelin-starred gastropub, The Hand & Flowers.
Fast forward to 2018 and Kerridge is the proud recipient of three Michelin stars across two pub-restaurants as well as the owner of butcher-pub concept The Butcher’s Tap. He’s a TV personality across several popular shows, a successful cookbook writer, and founder of food festival Pub in the Park. Yet, it has taken him until now to make the move to London.
But here he is: the marquee signing of The Corinthia Hotel’s push for culinary dominance among fellow five-star residences. This is the chef’s first ‘proper’ restaurant – away from beer pumps and bar stools – but the comfy burgundy leather banquettes and hotchpotch of quirky artwork (some courtesy of Kerridge’s sculptor wife, Beth) give this place an age beyond its years. What does remain the same is a tight focus on punchy unfussy cooking utilising the Great British larder.
There’s a large rotisserie twirling flirtatiously in one corner of the room with stuffed quails, loins of venison and truffled slow-roast celeriac. Elsewhere, the a la carte reads like a British bulldog barking the national anthem at you: deep fried brill and chips with pease pudding; rib of beef with bone marrow sauce; and a pig’s cheek pie (of course, there’s a pie) moulded into the shape of a snout for added porcine humour.
This is not restrained or dainty or subtle cooking, but it’s not without its clever refinements and flourishes
But my head has been turned by a starter making its way into the dining room. In a cast iron skillet is glazed lobster thermidor omelette, all bubbling and bronzed from its cheesy thermidor sauce, it’s an instant order even at £29.50. Once it’s placed in front of me, the rich indulgence of the lobster thermidor is perfectly tempered by the lightness of its omelette casing. Sure, it’s heartburn on a plate, but when it tastes like this who could possibly care?
The pie delivers a one-two punch of sausage meat and melting pork cheek. On the side comes a devilled sauce and a silky raw cream mash topped with black pudding crumbs.
This is not restrained or dainty or subtle cooking, but it’s not without its clever refinements and flourishes. The little cheese and onion tartlet amuse bouche comes with the snap of a wafer-thin casing. Bold on the surface, elegant in the execution.
Still, this is cuisine to be enjoyed in the best of company, with large appetites and a bold wine choice from the eclectic list.
A Sicilian grillo by Marco De Bartoli cuts through the omelette with its salty peach notes, while a shouty pinot noir from Germany’s Baden territory is a big match for my pie.
Kerridge may have taken his time to come to London, but it was sure worth the wait.
Kerridge’s Bar & Grill, Corinthia Hotel, Whitehall Pl, SW1A 2BD; kerridgesbarandgrill.co.uk