Muse by Tom Aikens marks the renowned chef’s return to fine dining.
Muse is an intimate 25-cover restaurant situated in a converted mews house. Recently given its first Michelin star, its menus are inspired nostalgia and the pivotal moments and people in Tom’s personal life and career. Tom and his team work closely with British suppliers and farmers to ensure the highest quality, local produce is served. We spoke to the man himself about his earliest culinary memories, a childhood spent baking, and his local Belgravia favourites…
What inspired you to become a chef and how did you get where you are today?
“I can remember from about the age of 8 or so, my twin brother and I would love helping my mother in the kitchen, making cakes and getting involved in home baking. I have a very real memory of her making milk bread and I sometimes think that it was just a dream as the smell was incredible! We had a very good home garden where we grew our own fruit and vegetables, along with strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries and much more. I loved digging the garden for fresh vegetables, seeing things grow and come to life was beautiful.
My father and grandfather were both in the wine business; in the late 70s and early 80s my grandfather ran Coleman’s Wine Merchants of Norwich. In around 1982-83 that closed and my father started a wine shop and also an importing and exporting wine business – not only with French wines but new world as well. He was very successful, and I would say a true pioneer of his time. This meant that from the age around 12, I started spending a lot of my time on holidays in France, travelling with my father (when he met new suppliers or wholesalers). There were some days when he would drop me and my brother off with a supplier while he would spend lunch with them doing business. We ended up working some days with the suppliers in the vineyards, sweeping out the cellars, sometimes having lunch. From an early age my exposure to food and wine was quite significant and looking back, this was probably the starting point in my thinking that being a chef was a career choice I would love to pursue.”
Tell us about your favourite aspect of working in your restaurant…
“Muse is a small and intimate space of just 25 covers. I really do believe that I have the most incredible team that is very close-knit, hardworking and each member of staff is passionate and dedicated to the job. That is what makes coming to work an absolute joy. I love that we prepare pretty much everything fresh on a daily basis, working with the best suppliers there are.”
What’s your go-to dish to make at home in the autumn?
“At home I love to cook a roasted chicken for Sunday lunch and home-baked sourdough for making chicken sandwiches using the leftovers!”
Where’s your favourite place to go in Belgravia (not including your own restaurant!)?
“I love the new Hagen Coffee shop on Pimlico Green.”
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
“My first true gastronomic experience was in a restaurant that my father had booked following the recommendation of one of his suppliers in France. We turned up at the hotel and two waiters came out to the car wearing white gloves and bow ties. Myself and my twin brother had thought that our father had definitely made a mistake booking this place as it was completely unlike him. I was 12 years old and had my first real explosion of tastes.
My mother and father were eating nouvelle cuisine style portions of frogs’ legs and snails that where all the rage back then, whilst my brother and I had the most delicious and simple tomato salad with the freshest tomatoes that were packed full of flavour, shallots, a most amazing olive oil, sea salt and a little red wine vinegar. We then had a beef fillet larded with beef fat and hand cut chips cooked in beef dripping. It was just amazing and melted in my mouth. For pudding, we were served a very simple poached peach in vervain with vanilla ice-cream that was utterly sublime. No matter how many great meals I have professionally cooked or attended in all these years, I can still remember those first tastes and flavours very distinctly that will stay with me forever.”
Discover Muse by Tom Aikens at 38 Groom Place, Belgravia, London SW1X 7BA. Call (+44) 0203 301 2903 for reservations.