Restaurant review - Tom at 101, Stockton Heath
PUBLISHED: 00:30 19 April 2013 | UPDATED: 16:25 17 January 2017
Stockton Heath has plenty of decent eateries. But Tom at 101 is probably the best and ‘buzziest’. Review by Ray King
Stockton Heath is one of those Cheshire villages with a very distinctive vibe of its own.
Come nightfall and especially at weekend, the main street comes alive as people out for a good time pile into more than a dozen restaurants and bars.
Tom Rogers, who opened the doors of Tom at 101 Restaurant Bar & Grill in 2004 can lay claim to being a pioneer of the local scene, for where he led, many others, including national chains, have followed over the past nine years. His experience in the hospitality business, not least as a former executive chef at hotels across the country and notably the Park Royal in nearby Stretton, has kept his resolutely independent operation in the vanguard of Stockton Heath’s burgeoning rendezvous.
It’s early Friday night as we climb the stairs at Tom at 101 and the place is buzzing. To the left, the attractive New York-style bar with its tall tables and stools and spectacular plants is dispensing signature cocktails. To the right, the spacious dining area – dominated by a striking skyline painting of the Big Apple - sports banquette seating along one wall and free standing unclad tables arranged on the wood-boarded floor, is already very busy. They can and often do cater for 1,000 customers a week here and no wonder.
We stake our place in the bar with a drink and study the menu while we await our friend who lives in the village. The menu does take some studying, for the venue’s unapologetic yen for populism produces an eclectic range of dishes with more than a nod towards foodie bling. So on the a la carte’s list of ‘small dishes’ – a term used instead of starters – you find global favourites like orange spiced duck spring rolls, diver caught scallops, sticky chilli prawns and Thai fishcakes alongside lobster and crab cocktails, and oysters freshly shucked on ice.
Likewise, among the ‘large dishes’ – mains – the likes of Tom’s lobster and Alaskan king crab legs are listed amongst the steaks, fish and chips, fajitas, piri piri, tagine and fish pie. Salads and pasta dishes come in small and large versions. Something for everyone appear to be the watch words here, supported by live music thrice weekly and a plethora of offers and money saving promotions.
I begin with a small (but still generous) crab and tiger prawn linguine (£7.80) liberally endowed with flaked white crabmeat and large juicy prawns with just-so pasta lifted by a piquant lime, chilli and coriander pesto; delightful. Both Mrs K and friend Andy from around the corner enthuse over their retro – but luxurious – lobster and crab cocktails (£9.95), traditionally served with brown bread and butter. The top dollar price tag provides delicious nuggets of sweet seafood.
Not quite on the money is Mrs K’s main course, twice roasted orange spiced crispy duck with Chinese greens, chilli, garlic and plum sauce (£16.95). The dish comprises three small, rather overcooked duck legs; if she had known duck meant duck legs, she says, she wouldn’t have chosen it. Next time she’ll ask. That however was by and large the only downside of the dinner.
My 8oz rump steak (£14.95) came exactly medium rare as ordered and offered tenderness and good flavour along with excellent ‘real’ chips and a classic grill garnish, though the extra £2.50 for sauce – in my case a good, creamy béarnaise – smacks of the mythical practice of charging for the cruet in Blackpool guesthouses of yore. Andy’s slow roasted belly pork with apple and celeriac mash and cider gravy (£17.50) was the spot-on rendition of a classic combination; the tenderest of meat being especially delicious.
Small dishes plus large dishes equals not much room for pudding, though the men did manage to help out Mrs K with her nicely crafted apple and cinnamon tarte tatin with toffee cream (£6.50). From Tom’s well chosen wine list, sensibly arranged by style, we drank Tom’s Chardonnay – ‘crisp, fresh and frivolous’ – good value at £14.95 a bottle and glasses of ‘full bodied and bold’ Michel Torino Malbec at £6.75 for 250ml.
Tom at 101, 101 London Road, Stockton Heath, Warrington, Cheshire, WA4 6LG. Tel 01925 212 660; www.tomat101.co.uk