Tom Aikens’ new flagship restaurant Muse opens in the heart of London’s Belgravia on January 11, serving multi-course menus – of three (£50), six (£95) and 10 courses (£145) – that promise to entertain and challenge diners before they’ve ordered. Rather than listing dishes and ingredients in the typical manner, the menus – drawing on the celebrated chef’s childhood and career experiences – offer anecdotes containing clues to the cuisine that will be conjured in his kitchen, much like a crossword puzzle.
The three-course set lunch menu, for example, begins with a first course entitled Just Down the Road, with the description: “Many hours have been travelled and many more have been spent finding the very best producers to supply us with our ingredients. We celebrate Old Hall Farm as one of them because it is very close to my Norfolk roots.” Guests are left to guess what dish this tale might suggest. The main course is equally intriguing, named Always Playing with Fire – a hint, one might assume, at the spicy nature of the dish, while the Wait & See dessert proffers a “seasonal sweet delight.”
The six-course tasting menu has the addition of We All Have Our ‘Beech Tree’ Moment – a name recalling Aikens’ fearlessness as a child and offering a clue to the ingredients used in a dish of langoustine, pork fat and apple. “We had the tallest and most beautiful copper-beech tree in our garden that I simply had to climb again and again. As chefs, we must always challenge the norm,” he reflects. And there are plenty more gourmet surprises on the 10-dish menu, including The Love Affair Continues, a reference to Aikens’ time working alongside French chefs Pierre Koffmann and the late Joël Robuchon. “From early on, I’ve been captivated by the guessing game – of receiving a surprise that leaves one speechless,” Aikens says of his inventive conundrums.
The good news for those who prefer not to leave their choices to chance is that, once guests are seated, more information about what they’ll actually be eating will be provided. And the interior of the restaurant is much as one would expect from a fine-dining venue. Situated in a converted mews house, the Rebecca Korner-designed scheme sets the scene for laid-back luxury over two floors with a palette of rich woods and marbles in jewel tones.