Tom Brown's solo venture in Hackney
Cornerstone is the new brainchild of chef Tom Brown who formerly was the London right-hand man of 2 Michelin starred Nathan Outlaw. Outlaw’s at the Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge is a boutique hotel and this was headed by Tom Brown, earning it a Michelin star for 6 years and now he has ventured back to his home town to go solo with Cornerstone. This was a competent meal although perhaps a fraction of an anti-climax. Perhaps I had too much expectation. There were some quality dishes and a revisit will occur in a different season.
Sourdough came in from Coombshead from Cornwall and was good quality and the first dish to try was a ‘pastrami’ of salmon with the fish from Loch Duart farm. The salmon was cured for 5 days with wine, sugar, vinegar, mustard and coriander seeds which was pleasant but a little bit of a stretch to say exciting. Brill tartare was made with capers, mint and a hen egg yolk, as well as asparagus and this was nicely done. Better still was the mackerel pate from Cornwall, using Cornish seaweed, cider vinegar gel.
And served on a black treacle soda bread – a very nicely balanced mackerel pate with complimentary additives. A hand-dived scallop was served in its shell with a wine butter sauce and with a squeeze of lime and full marks for the team not overdoing the scallop with numerous decorations as can happen. I really enjoyed the crab with butter with aged cheddar that was served in welsh rarebit form. I’ve always loved the latter and this was a really good take on it, served on top of an excellent and crispy muffin.
Hake was served with Japanese Katsu (a curry powdered sauce based on exports to Japan from the Colonial days of the British Empire in India) and came with fried Julianne potato. This held up well and the texture of the Julianne strips of potato were great with the fish in its bath of appropriately spiced katsu sauce which worked fine. The second fish was Cornish John Dory and from limited experience an absolute bugger to fillet. Thankfully Tom Brown knows what he’s doing(!) and the butter chicken sauce with button mushrooms was a worthy sauce to compliment the soft, white fish. It was also pleasing to make sure I wasn’t going insane and it confirmed that the Dory I had at Sorrel not many days before this meal was indeed a tad over and that in this case, Mr Brown’s Dory was ahead of a current Michelin starred version.
Dark chocolate torte was the first dessert which had a good biscuit at the base, a dark chocolate mousse with coffee jelly and milk ice cream. No frills on this but the mousse was the lovely part. Finally, a rhubarb pavlova with ginger was had which was an example of straight forward and competent cooking and well-sourced rhubarbs.
All in this was £97 per head with limited drinks and just as can happen at places inviting several small dishes, the bill will not be as small in the end. One thing about this meal that I actually have as bit of an issue with was at the end when the credit card machine was extended asking if the guest would like to add a gratuity and this is on top of the ‘optional’ service charge that has already been added. This is excessive to me and designed to make the diner feel a little emotionally blackmailed in to just doing it as opposed to the indignity of pressing the ‘no’ button. I actually go the other way when this happens and directly ask what this is for when the service charge has already been added, as I did on this occasion – the answer was predictably not very forthcoming. I simply think that restaurants will have more kudos if they elect for their card machines to not ask for this.
Apart from this small, little bugbear of mine, this meal had some pleasing things and was competently executed in an unlikely setting for a restaurant of this up and coming calibre.
Food Grade: 74%
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