Tom’s Kitchen, Wharfside Street, The Mailbox, Birmingham
There are three things wrong with Tom’s Kitchen: the price, the food, and the crockery. Something nice: the decor.
Let’s start with the price, which is the root of all the other problems. Breakfast in Tom’s Kitchen is the most expensive we have had in Birmingham to date, and that includes breakfast in Harvey Nichols, The Button Factory, or Selfridges. If you are going to charge £14.50 (!!) for a full English, you had better be serving something spectacular. Instead, it is a fairly nice, but definitely ordinary version of the dish. Everything is well-cooked, and the ingredients are individually quite nice, but definitely no more than that. At £5.50 more than Harvey Nics would charge, or £.4.50 more than the Button Factory’s version (where I already had reservations about the price), this is a massive let down.
So what are you really paying for? Not the Mailbox location (Harvey Nics is literally next door). Maybe the decor? It is quite a nicely decorated space. It reminds me – as a dedicated Grand Central shopper – of Carluccios, with a similarly open front area which opens directly onto the shopping walkway. Tom’s Kitchen prefers to sit people inside though, where you can relax on the heavily luxurious chairs and look up at the darkly panelled walls illustrated with stylised prints of various animals. It is all leather and glass and carefully polished wood, drawing on a sort of Victorian gentleman’s club palette. It has lovely soft orange lighting, and the atmosphere is quiet and grown up; maybe you are paying to sit in this lovely space?
If you do though, don’t make the mistake of ordering the pancakes. I have never been unable to actually finish a breakfast dish before, but this pancake defeated me. It was so tough. And chewy! And I had to saw it with my knife, and then gnaw it with my teeth. It had a literal crust. I am confident I could have used it as a frisbee and its structural integrity would have remained intact.
And don’t order the eggs Benedict, unless you like your eggs absolutely rock, rock solid. The muffins on the eggs Benedict were nice – fat and soft – and the ham is lovely, but a bit of soft boiled yolk is essential in my book. I know it’s tricky to do, but when you’ve charged £10 for the pleasure, I sort of expect at least one egg will be properly cooked.
One bizarre criticism to make, which I swear I wouldn’t even include except I’ve now been twice with two different people who independently commented on it, is that the teapots get hot to the touch. They are a fat, chunky design – fairly stylish I suppose – but the handles conduct the heat of the water within to the extent that one friend actually used a napkin to pick up her teapot. What a truly weird thing to have to report.
Finally, there is only one toilet, which was in use when I wanted to visit. Luckily, the actual Malibox toilets are right outside (including a specific baby change facility), and are perfectly civilised. The Tom’s Kitchen staff directed me out to use them, and they were fully equipped with soap and loo roll.It’s a slight disconnect to have to leave the restaurant if someone is in the loo, but it is no trouble at all as they are so close.
Price: expensive: £14.50 for a full English, £10 for eggs Benedict,£9.50 for a pancake
Atmosphere and design: leather, polished wood, beautiful tiling: Victorian gentleman’s club chic
Food: nice quality of ingredients, but nothing special: eggs overcooked, and the pancake inedible
Toilets: only 1 in store, but you can pop to the Mailbox toilets next door which are well-maintained
Enjoyment: a lovely quiet relaxing place to brunch, if you have money to burn and don’t care about the quality of what you are eating