By Alastair Sadler
As the blue steel cables of Tower Bridge vault over the Thames, just a stone’s throw from the London Assembly (affectionately known as the Headlamp) stands a large cluster of nondescript modern buildings of brick and glass.
Hidden amongst them is Tom Simmons Tower Bridge, something of a gem among the area’s dining establishments. Like the box that holds an engagement ring, the outside contrasts greatly with the sparkling stone within – in this case, blue granite from the Preseli Mountains of west Wales, as Welsh as an eisteddfod and just as spectacular. Tom Simmons himself is Welsh through-and-through, and the interior of his restaurant brings in gentle references of that land, from the sanded oak table tops and the blue slate of the bathrooms, to the black and white photographs of Pembrokeshire that say “this is where we’re from, and this is why we’re here.”
This is a taste of modern Wales. Quality sourced ingredients cooked with skill, passion and heart.
So, who will guide us through this land of mist and mystery? All the team are attentive, knowledgeable and share Tom’s passion for food. But it’s left to Tom’s partner (and the restaurant’s assistant manager), Lois Thomas, to talk us through the oft-changing menu. Thomas recommends a very nice Riesling from their extensive wine list. He clearly knows and loves wine and this choice was perfection. It changed and shaped its character for each dish like a poet of ancient times reading the mood of his audience. As the first glass was poured, it was as if dawn had broken over Cardigan Bay and the softest of golden lights sparkling off the rocky outcrops lead us along an ancient path towards the distant Preseli hills. The wine floated across our tongues like a light cordial full of promise and anticipation, and as the path reached the hills, the flavors swirled like the morning mountain mist, pierced by shafts of sunlight that hinted of a sunny day to come.
Yes, it was that good!
And what of the food? For a starter, it was Portland crab with coriander and watercress aioli. The main? Lamb from the hills of Wales, raised on lush green grass, so tender that every morsel seemed to melt in the mouth, releasing the joy of spring as it went. And dessert was every inch the equal of its predecessors: Welsh Whisky panna cotta with espresso jelly topped with aerated caramel foam.
Authentic Welsh cuisine has indeed arrived.
Contributor Alastair Sadler has taught salsa professionally in London since 1995 and created the world’s first Salsa Rapido 1-Day Intensive Salsa Course. His hobby is stand up comedy, and in addition to acting as MC of Streetbeat’s Camden Comedy, he regularly takes his show to the Edinburgh Fringe. You’ll find him at http://www.streetbeat.co.uk/