MasterChef star Tom Simmons’ eponymous restaurant is anchored by a humble patriotic spirit, but don’t expect leek soup and Welsh cakes – there aren’t any gimmicks here, writes Codelia Mantsebo
In the age of celebrity chefs and Michelin stars, it is harder to find chefs who put diners first when cooking and creating menus. Pembrokeshire-born Simmons (who reached the quarter finals of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2011) has chosen good food over gimmick, cooking dishes far less extravagant and complex than most alumni of the show.
It’s easy to see how he made it so far on MasterChef; Wales isn’t particularly known for its culinary delights, yet Welsh ingredients infiltrate his menu and he knows just how to be subtle about it in the dishes.
In light of all the food fads littering restaurant menus all over London, Simmons’ menu is small and simple. You won’t find decadent made-for-Instagram food bowls or food you can’t pronounce on his menu. Instead, you’ll find simple dishes that champion Welsh produce. The magic here is in the ingredients as Simmons lets them speak for themselves. You’ll taste various flavours in a three course meal.
During my visit, first out was fresh bread and leek butter, filled with subtle leek tones that complemented the bread. As an introductory course, lightly coated cockles came with Pembrokeshire seaweed mayonnaise – an ingredient hardly seen in London. For starters, I had the salmon and crab starter which was light, delicate and delicious – a classic combination of creamy salmon and sweet crab with cool, crisp cucumber, and tangy Granny Smith apple. The crab with Granny Smith apple is a clever recipe which completely satisfies the taste buds. On the opposite end of my table, the Orkney scallops starter was paired with a succulent pork belly which made a delightful combination.
On to the mains, the short rib of beef had been prepared over 48 hours, slow cooked to submission, melting on the tongue and rich in flavour. Complementing the softness of the beef, luxuriously rich and silky pommes puree completed the dish with pancetta, beef jus and the sweetest baby onions. The beef was cooked to perfection without losing its texture.
To finish, the dark chocolate delice was another example of simple cookery exceptionally executed.
The restaurant is still trying to find its character; however, the Welsh theme is as present and subtle as the food. The glass-fronted dining room is modern but the natural wood and greenery inside softens the atmosphere. You’ll find traces of Simmons’ heritage and upbringing in the decor; there’s a photograph of a Highland cow – taken in a Pembrokeshire farm, alongside pictures of shoes, stitched by his mother, a shoe artist in Wales. The tables and chairs are made from Welsh oak and such natural decor complements the natural Welsh ingredients used in his dishes.
Simmons’ restaurant was the first to open in the brand new One Tower Bridge development, with yet another Ivy Brasserie opening nearby. The famed franchise might help bring a bit of bustle to the location but it certainly doesn’t harbour Simmons’ brilliance – the food served at his restaurant is commendably bold and provides a fine introduction to Welsh food and produce in London. Although the food isn’t exclusively Welsh, Tom Simmons Tower Bridge is simple, delicious, and proportionately patriotic. He has created a great, unpretentious restaurant here and I will certainly be returning for a Sunday roast – and maybe next time, I’ll get the lamb.
Codelia Mantsebo is Online Writer at Spear’s