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Go green or else! Chef Tom Aikens is serious about the environment
The place for green fish TOM AIKENS’ SIMPLE FISH ‘N’ CHIPS CONCEPT COMES WITH IMPECCABLE ECO-FRIENDLY AIMS
ondon’s swanky SW3, commonly home to upmarket and Michelin-starred eateries, is not the most likely place to go for a plate of good old British fish ‘n’ chips. But Tom’s Place, chef Tom Aikens’ third restaurant in the area, nay the street, is about as far from the characteristic open fryers and smeared glass counters of a traditional chippy as you can get. If it sold pickled eggs, and it doesn’t, you wouldn’t be surprised if they were quail. With its funky red recycled-plastic furniture set against a stark backdrop of silver and black fixtures, it’s the epitome of a modern, utilitarian restaurant. In keeping with Aikens’ greatest food passions, his first chippy is designed to be eco-friendly. Educating people about what fish to eat and where it comes from is part of the deal, he explains. “We looked at what people want, and all the criteria here in SW3 fitted a fish restaurant. The concept of Tom’s Place is different in that we serve fish as simply as
possible – grilled, poached or fried – and do nothing to take away from that. “It had to be environmentally correct with sustainable sources,” he says. “One of the main aims was to raise awareness of other species of fish that don’t commonly get used such as pollock, ray and Cornish sardines.” This commitment to sustainability is carried right through the venture, from the food down to its fixtures, fittings and even the take-away packaging which is made of corn starch. GREEN-EYED DESIGN The two-storey site needed considerable structural work before the fit-out could even begin and was subject to strict criteria because of its residential setting. Although no changes were made externally, the building now has one of the most distinctive interiors in the area. Portholes help to create a nautical feel, while the restaurant’s front window show-
cases a fun feature of plastic fish encased in wacotech – a recycled mesh-type plastic that is commonly used for insulation, but is used here to resemble fishing nets. Tom’s project manager Tony Reps, who has worked with Tom to take all three of his restaurants from concept to build, says going green has cost a lot initially but is confident in better deals in the future. “There were two sides to the green challenge – making the building as energy efficient as possible and sourcing new, recycled materials,” he says. “We ended up paying a premium of up to 40 per cent to go green but found that people who produce recycled and sustainable materials are much more passionate about what they do. “Now the supplier contacts are established it will be easier to replicate Tom’s Place and build the brand. They believe in their products and after-sales care and you know that you’re going to get a better deal on the back of that.”
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HAVE YOU TRIED THE GURNARD?
Tom’s Place aims to introduce its customers to the more unusual but tasty fish from sustainable sources
From the recycled-plastic chairs and environmentally approved wood floors, to the Avonite serving counters, kitchen cupboards and tabletops – plus Barrisol stretched plastic ceilings like massive ketchup splodges – the mission to make Tom’s Place predominantly sustainable appears to be a success.
already making close to 50 per cent more than we expected. Our fish is quick, easy, value-for-money and very tasty, and that’s what people want.” Apparently, we are entering a new era, where people may come to expect sustainable credentials with even something as basic as fish and chips. Tom has already charted his search for eco-friendly fish supplies in a documentary and plans to invite local fishermen from across the UK into his restaurant to educate its diners.For now then, SW3 is the most likely place to look for a thoroughly modern take on the traditional British fish supper. ■
VENUE DETAILS WORDS DEBORAH HATCH
FOOD FOR THOUGHT But in an area of London where gasguzzling Chelsea Tractors are still a popular mode of transport, do people really care where their fish comes from or how eco-friendly their local restaurants are? Aikens remains positive. “The restaurant has had the right reaction and we will probably open a few more of Tom’s Place. It’s been very well received and for a lot of people it’s an easy place to come in and eat fish or get a take-away, while consciously doing their bit for the environment. “Four weeks after opening, we’re
A quick look at the menu at Tom’s Place confirms this is no place for plain old plaice. Marine Stewardship Council-certified cod is the most recognisable staple from the British chippy, though here it swims among a list of more unfamiliar stocks such as pollock, grey and red gurnard, ray and megrim sole. Theme’s choice of gurnard and pollock both arrived in a tasty and crisp batter, a far cry from the sticky, pappy coverings you often get. Chips were large and thick, with delicious homemade ketchup and sides of onion rings and mushy peas. There was enough room – just – for a delicious orange marmalade ice-cream.
Tom’s Place 1 Cale Street London SW3 Tel: 020 7351 1806 www.tomsplace.org.uk