Tom Brown’s fish restaurant Cornerstone is the new kid on the block everyone is talking about. Tom reached notoriety as Nathan Outlaw’s head chef at the Michelin-starred Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, after many years working at top restaurants in Cornwall. His solo project brings together his Cornish background with everything he has cultivated in kitchens over the years, including his obsession with sourcing the best quality ingredients he can find.
Located on a quiet corner in Hackney Wick, Cornerstone has, of course, a strong seafood focus. Since great fish is hard to come by in the Big Smoke, Tom wants to provide Londoners with a trusted spot where seafood is not only served fresh, but presented in new and surprising ways.
The constantly updated menu is shaped in response to what is in season and available fresh on the market. Rather than come up with the recipes first, Tom keeps himself on his toes by letting his findings in the market dictate the starting point of the dishes.
The Cornerstone experience begins with its chic understated decor. Black curtains and a palette of greys provide a soft, elegant background. A few plants and plenty of natural light in the daytime add to the relaxed atmosphere. The open kitchen takes centre stage, and not only spatially. Occupying most of the room,
it invites interest in the chefs’ activity as they busily prepare delicacies. It also serves as a counter bar where guests can enjoy a pre-meal drink.
The menu consists of a range of small, seasonal dishes. Three or four plates per person are recommended, and sharing is encouraged. The chef’s selection is a great introduction to Brown’s cuisine. The general rule to add little or nothing to fresh seafood is not followed strictly here, but the stronger avours often seem to work. Delicate with tangy notes, oysters are coupled with horseradish cream, celery and dill.
A perfectly roasted hake is accompanied by pumpkin purée and a garlicky thyme dressing. The cured gurnard’s slight smokiness is complemented by the freshness of grapes, the nuttiness of almonds and sherry vinegar: a very well-balanced combination of avours and textures. Even unassuming vegetables are given a chance to shine, such as the sweet roast carrots served with cod’s roe and pistachio.
Not every single item on the menu is exceptional, but it’s all under control: if he finds he is not entirely satisfied with a dish, or if it does not get a great response, Tom will remove it from the menu. “It’s either 10 out of 10 or nothing”, he tells us. Considering how quickly his popularity is rising, now is the perfect time to grab a table at Cornerstone and sample Tom’s intriguingly, creative recipes.
Review by Mersa Auda