Tom Kerridge is arguably the archetypal ‘people’s chef’, loved across the nation for his three Marlow gastropubs which serve deceptively simple, best-of-British fare. He has just launched his debut London restaurant, Kerridge’s Bar & Grill, at the Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall. We caught up with him to hear all about the new opening.
Additional words: Ben McCormack
Following the huge success of his pubs in Marlow, including two Michelin-starred The Hand & Flowers, an opening in the capital for Tom Kerridge seems like the obvious next stage on his journey to becoming one of the most famous chefs in the country. What might be less obvious is that the move to London was done in part to keep Kerridge’s Marlow team alongside him.
“As we grew as a company,” Kerridge explains, “we had invested so much time in people, but more importantly, these people had invested so much time in us. They didn’t want to leave the company and we all wanted to grow together. A move to London felt entirely natural.”
The road to opening in London wasn’t a smooth one, however, with Kerridge’s original partnership with the Jumeirah Carlton Tower coming to an abrupt end in late 2017, when the hotel reopened its Rib Room instead of Kerridge’s restaurant. But while the chef admitted at the time to being “hugely disappointed”, he couldn’t be happier in his new home. “We were looking for the right partnership, and we’ve found a great one with Thomas Kochs [the hotel’s managing director] and Corinthia. This relationship has a great foundation.”
For a start, Kerridge says that he couldn’t have wished for a better space. The designers at David Collins Studio have made the grand dining room (formerly Massimo’s) more intimate, with customers grouped around clubby horseshoe leather banquettes. The high-ceilinged room also makes a stunning showcase for the artwork of Kerridge’s wife Beth.
On the food front, all the best-of-British elements are present and correct: coronation chicken terrine, pig’s cheek pie, raspberry trifle. And while some Hand and Flowers dishes may have been given an added gloss of London luxury – the signature smoked haddock and Parmesan omelette is pimped up with lobster – you could still come here for a plate of fish & chips, albeit with an emphasis on provenance you might not usually encounter. “We use the best premium British fish that we can find, served with amazing chips, mushy peas and curry sauce.”
Kerridge is aware that he’s entering a crowded market. “There are so many great restaurants in London,” he admits. “We are very blessed that the food scene is eclectic and diverse and there’s some truly world-class cooking.” The two best meals Kerridge claims to have ever eaten were at Core by Clare Smyth and two Michelin-starred Claude Bosi at Bibendum.
But if Kerridge is hoping that his London restaurant repeats the Michelin success of The Hand & Flowers and The Coach, he’s not saying so overtly. “We aim to cook for our guests first and foremost and to hit the same standards that we have throughout all our sites. Guest satisfaction and happiness is always our main focus.”
With Kerridge’s Bar & Grill, the chef’s London fans have plenty to be happy about – not least Hand & Flowers quality food, right on their doorstep.
Kerridge’s Bar & Grill is now open.