As Ramsey said in the movie The Great Escape, “there’s madness in their method” and that might not be too far off the truth at this new restaurant in fashionable Loughton; perhaps Essex’s answer to Crouch End.
Owner Lee Newton, who also happens to own the media agency upstairs, clearly knows a thing or two about great escapes as he used the name of the movie’s three tunnels as a code before leaving his previous job to set up a new agency. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find a real tunnel dug between the agency and the restaurant to fast track to the food and wine.
There’s clearly a touch of media savvy in this all day eatery; the mix of vintage and contemporary furnishings are bang on trend as is the bar counter dining. There’s a baby grand piano for late-night revelling, an open plan kitchen, an outside terrace and on Sundays, a build your own Bloody Mary bar and family roasts to carve at the table. And, in a genius move, kids get a free dessert if they eat all their grub.
But Tom, Dick & Harry’s isn’t just media hype and no trousers. Head chef Michael Carter is a seasoned pro who’s earned his chops so to speak and changes the menu daily depending on what is available from local farmers and from his Cornish seafood supplier.
For me, the beating hearts of TD&H are the Nibbleinis™, generous sharing plates of very tasty concoctions. Two stood out for me: Cauliflower cheese with Parmesan crisps (£6) and St. Austell mussels in a fennel, dill and white wine sauce with toasted sourdough (£8). Both absolute triumphs. Having said that, the sliced cured meats with courgette puree and toast (£7) and mustard-glazed pork spare ribs with apple salad (£8) were highly rated runners-up.
Curiously, It was almost with regret we had to move on to the mains, but move on we did. Manager Brian whispered in my ear “the herb-fed chicken, squash puree roasted chestnut salad and bacon vinaigrette (£17) is bang on season and delicious. Trust me.” And I did and it was. On the other side of the table, the baked aubergine with feta, walnuts and spring onions (£14) was eliciting encouraging sounds of contentment. Perhaps it was the smokey aubergine or the creamy feta. Either way, it was a winner. A nearby table seemed equally at home with their mains; 50-day aged chargrilled beef 340g rib-eye (£29) and what seemed to be chargrilled tuna with a romesco sauce, spring onions and almonds. (£17.50)
TD&H has a very impressive wine list that embraces whites, reds and Champagnes, but it’s the collection of Rosés that are the queens of the crop. An absolute palace of pink abounds, everything from the finest Provence has to offer and beyond. And here’s another nice touch; the house wines are by the glass (£6) and you can help yourself from a magnum and just pay for what you’ve taken. It’s a clever strategy, do all day dining and then cater for the late night drinks crowd when the kitchen’s closed.
The distraction caused by the wine menu was only fleeting as our dessert materialised. An absolute and total cup of divinity; vanilla pannacotta topped with fresh berries and pear (£6), the ultimate meal finale for me. Of course, there was a strong supporting cast, dark chocolate mousse with candied peanuts and peanut butter ice cream (£7) was a contender together with sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream and salted caramel (£7).
Tom, Dick & Harry ’s may be a newcomer to Loughton’s growing High Street food scene but it ticks all the boxes for me. Open 7 days a week from brunch to dinner, great wines, family friendly and a very talented chef who’s a stickler for sourcing quality fresh produce. All this at a very affordable price point.
I suspect as far as great escapes are concerned the only digging you’ll find around here is when they ultimately expand into next door.
Tell me more about Tom, Dick & Harry’s Restaurant.
Tom, Dick & Harry’s ,153 High Road, Loughton 1G10 4LF
T: 0203 327 3333
Open Monday – Friday 12 to 00:30; Saturday 12 – 00:30; Sunday 12 – 2200.