Tom Ilic

Tom Ilic’s (pronounced Ilitch – he’s Serbian) eponymous restaurant sits on Queenstown Road in Battersea, sandwiched between an Argentinian place which my dining partner described succinctly as ‘crap’ and a few carpet and lighting shops. A cheery cartoon pig’s head lurches forth from the ‘o’ in the ‘Tom’, giving it the air of a motorway service station or Little Chef. Plastic creepers line the walls and electric heaters blast out dry warmth in an already stuffy space. I keep my spirits up however, with memories of rave reviews: “hearty and generous,” ” excellent value,”  “not for vegetarians.” I hope it’s one of those places that just bubbles away gently, quietly turning out consistent, delicious, unpretentious grub to the locals.

It isn’t. Sadly, our meal was mediocre and one element, inedible. Things started off OK I suppose. My tartare (it’s under the lettuce) and carpaccio of beef was fine, although frustratingly drowned by a cacophony of huge flavours: salad dressed liberally with truffle oil, sticky balsamic, bolshy parmesan. All lovely things but a powerful gang which swiftly beat the beef into submission. My friend’s starter of roast bone marrow (a single, squat stump) came with – you’ve guessed it – parsley, caper and shallot salad but no toast to spread it on and sat awkwardly alongside veal sweetbreads.

The ‘Degustation of Pork’ should have been great, seeing as Tom is considered something of an expert in cooking the swine; what I  received was clunky, disjointed and disappointing. Two lobes of pink fillet appeared juicy and inviting, but were surprisingly dry. A rolled segment doused in gravy suffered from the same problem. A clumsy quinelle of mash was, surprise, surprise, dry and could be cut like a cake, each mealy slice working its way around the mouth before I washed it down with some of the (perfectly decent) house white. A kromeski was much better – excellent, even; crisp crumb encased soft shreds of flesh. I could have eaten a plateful. A supporting mound of lightly pickled cabbage was a pleasant foil to so much meat and black pudding had been treated well, boasting crunchy edges and soft fatty nuggets within. All redeeming features of the dish were overpowered however, by a bully of a spring roll (containing more of the shredded stuff) that was so sopping with grease it was simply inedible. My friend said it made him feel sick.

The time arrived to brave desserts and I was met with the familiar problem of wanting both cheese and ice cream. We shared cheese (nothing significant to report), and the only dish which had an ice cream element: a cheesecake and chocolate affair. The cheesecake was forgettable; was it vanilla? White chocolate? A scoop of black pepper ice cream on top was far more interesting, as were some poached baby pears. In fact,  just those two elements together would make a confident and charming dessert.

The ethos of Tom Ilic is supposedly to produce unfussy, generous, boldly flavoured food at low prices but instead I found it confused. The number of elements on the plate is at odds with this approach and attempts at more complicated arrangements such as my degustation lacked finesse. Service was sweet, water was tap and the restaurant itself perfectly adequate, if a little dated. Without doubt the best thing about the meal though, was the fact that my friend, Chris, had bid £100 for it (considerably more than it was worth), as part of the recent Blaggers’ Banquet event, and so did a brilliant and generous thing by giving £100 to charity. Disappointing meal aside, that’s money well spent.

Tom Ilic
123 Queenstown Road

Tel: 0207 622 0555

Tom Ilic on Urbanspoon

Category: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , 26 comments »

26 Responses to “Tom Ilic”

  1. Niamh

    Wow! That’s a shame. I’ve never eaten there.

  2. shayma

    sorry you had a bad meal there- beef tartare and carpaccio should never be drowned in anything- the whole point of having fresh, scarlet meat. has the quality deteriorated?

  3. Lizzie

    Your description of the spring roll was enough to turn my stomach. Bleurgh!

    What a shame, but like you said – the money went to a good place.

  4. Chris

    Shayma: It was never that good to begin with. It got a rave review from Giles Coren because he’s his mate, but I much preferred it when it was the Food Room.

  5. Helen

    Niamh – Don’t bother!

    Shayma – Well exactly. It was such a shame. I had such high hopes.

    Lizzie – Exactly. If it wasn’t for that I would have left feeling most depressed.

  6. ginandcrumpets

    There’s so much going on with of those dish. Looks like insanely over ambitious cooking, where the chef sticks more and more on the plate in an attempt to wow you and ends up ruining good food. Shame.

  7. Kavey

    Well, your generosity in bidding for it in the Blaggers Banquet auction was much appreciated… especially as it was a very kind last-minute thing, after the original auction winner failed to pay and went incommunicado! Thank you for taking up the second chance offer, and very sorry indeed that it was so disappointing!

  8. An American in London

    I’d never heard of Tom Ilic before reading this post, but sorry to hear you had such a crap meal there. I completely agree with the comments made by ginandcrumpets above.

  9. gastrogeek

    This is so well written, really evocative descriptions. Shame it was such a duff meal though…Props to Chris for bidding, it being for such an excellent cause and that.

  10. Helen

    Ginandcrumpets – Exactly. Nail on head.

    Kavey – Well thanks but you are thanking the wrong person! It was Chris who bid on the item. Also, don’t apologise! £100 went to charity and it’s not your fault that the meal was bad. The ultimate outcome was positive, at least.

    An American in London – Ah well now you can save yourself the bother! I couldn’t believe it after reading such positive reviews.

    Gastrogeek – Thank you! I am so happy that something good came out of the whole thing.

  11. Jonathan

    What a shame. We’ve eaten here twice and enjoyed it. But I don’t have any urge to race back. Both have been through toptable deals which have yielded decent meals. Pork belly with scallops, jerusalem artichokes and toasted hazlenuts was very memorable. The rest…. erm… less so.

  12. Charlie

    damn, I heard great things about Ilic, and hes a real nice guy too….. massive shames!!

  13. mel

    Can’t understand your experience – I’ve been there three times and had out of this world food and service. It’s my fave place in Battersea and fantastically priced too.

    Suggest you try it again.

  14. Jeanne @ Cooksister!

    Sure I commented on this, but now I can’t see my comment :( What a pity the place did not live up to expectations. Is it just me or are those plates some of the more visually overwrought I’ve ever seen??

  15. Ryan

    I hope your dining companion wasn’t referring to Santa Maria Del Sur as the ‘crap’ Argentinean!!!

    It serves uncomplicated but perfectly cooked steak. I’d be there once a month but its suddenly become difficult to book since it got to the semi finals of the F-Word. I’ll whisper it very quietly…but I actually prefer it to Hawksmoor. Don’t tell anyone…

  16. Fatty Leslie

    U need to go to Hereford Road. U ready?

  17. Chris

    Ryan: Yes it was SMdS that I was referring to – I’ve been twice this year and had tasteless, watery steak both times. I did quite enjoy it the first time I went ( but that was before I’d been to Hawksmoor and Goodman, and well, basically it was before I knew there was better out there.

    The staff are lovely, the salads and the wine list is fine and it’s not a terrible restaurant. But the steaks are wet-aged, uniformly beet-red, bland and useless.

    I don’t understand how you can have had the steaks at Hawksmoor and prefer SMdS. But each to their own I suppose.

  18. All Inclusive Vacation

    ohh sorry you had a bad meal there- beef tartars and capacious should never be drowned in anything- the whole point of having fresh, scarlet meat. has the quality deteriorated?

  19. Helen

    Jonathan – It’s bizarre isn’t it. I hear such contrasting things. Our meal was just so disappointing. chris has been twice too and apparently it was very average the first time.

    Charlie – No! Don’t tell me that! Tell me he is the devil’s spawn!

    Mel – Really?! Well now I am baffled. I may try it again at some point, although probably not for a couple of months. Here’s hoping that my experience was not the norm. I love the concept.

    Ryan – Uh-oh – looks like he was!

    Les – Yes! Name the date and I’m there.

  20. Helen

    Sorry Jeanne – I just dug your comment out of spam – can’t find the first one though. Anyway, yes they do!

  21. Melanie Seasons

    Wow. Either way, that dessert looks spectacular. Gorgeous.

  22. Shay Riordan

    Worked with Tom for a while and that does not sound like Him at all. Food was always spot on and yeah every Kitchen has a bad day. He might not have even been even there that night. I would have spoken to him after the meal and aired my opinion. You get good value down there and you cant really judge the guy on one review.

  23. Helen

    Shay – Thanks for your comment. I was very surprised about the meal, because it was completely at odds with what so many people have told me. I agree that it is hard to judge a restaurant on one review but at the same time, many of us only get one chance to go to a restaurant and on this occasion, it sadly wasn’t very good. I do believe however, that this is not the norm for Tom’s restaurant, simply because so many people have told me good things and I am genuinely sad for him that I had this experience, as I really wanted to like it and I love his approach. I would try the restaurant again, and cross my fingers that he’s either there or that they were just having an off night.

    I’m afraid my experience that night was as I’ve written here and as far as that goes I have to stand by it.

  24. Deborah

    The pictures speak for themselves – perfectly cooked and presented. I have been to this place and found the food brilliant every time – it just isn’t pretentious, especially in price, which is what you seem to look for. Yet you manage to find truffle oil “a huge flavor”, balsamic “sticky” and parmesan “bolshy”. Well at least the you understand the cabbage.

  25. simon o' connor

    Have also found it brilliant every time and good value for money, service very good too. Don’t recognise these descriptions of awful food!

  26. Helen

    This restaurant truly baffles me!

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