He may have had something of a ‘rolling stone’ career, but Tom Ilic is one of the darlings of London restaurant critics – some still speak breathlessly of his New End in Hampstead, which shone brilliantly, for all of five minutes. More recently, he has cooked at Bonds, in the heart of the City – again to some acclaim.
Ilic’s new home is a hotel near Tower Hill, where he is in charge of both the fine dining room (as they seem to be called nowadays) and the brasserie. The latter – a striking room with an impressive wall of windows, overlooking pretty gardens – is much the more interesting-looking of the two, and so we plumped for it on our visit.
It is difficult to see this as a place destined for greatness. Certainly service was very pleasant, and one starter – a ‘polenta terrine with red pepper and goat’s cheese mousse’ – was notable, Nothing else we ate, however, was of any note. A pumpkin soup looked good, but lacked punch. A shoulder of lamb had been braised till it was almost a paste. Smoked haddock Benedict was too dry. A ricotta cheesecake, straight from the fridge, was too cold to be very enjoyable.
All this might, just, be forgivable if the prices were more forgiving, but the main courses – generally of pretty humble ingredients – are usually £15 or more (and, if you want spuds, that will be £3.50 extra). If we had not shared our pudding, the bill would have nudged £100 for two. At those sorts of prices, you can – even in the City – begin to hope for cooking of some interest. Perhaps it’s worth spending a few quid more and trading up to the fine dining room? Perhaps it is – watch this space.