Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Trinity, Clapham

For all that this blogging lark is really rather fun as hobbies go, for a number of reasons I don't actually do it very often. Firstly, I don't write about every meal out that I have; I'd be a hypocrite to sneer at those who write up (seemingly) every sandwich or takeaway they eat, given that it was a particularly splendid sandwich counter which inspired my first post, but I don't have the time or inclination to do it myself.

Secondly, while I don't have any hard-and-fast rules to speak of (in blogging as in life...), I generally don't write about meals that fall into certain 'private' categories; I include in this meals with family (with the occasional exception), business lunches and friends' birthday dinners - for this reason, and this alone, a particularly dreadful central London Mexican restaurant can breathe a sigh of relief.

The main reason however is that I'm essentially a creature of habit, and once I find somewhere I like, I go back again and again (and in some cases, again); great for the restaurateur's balance sheet, but not so good for generating new material. I might tweet about how good (or otherwise) a meal at a favourite restaurant was, but I don't 're-review'. Or rather, didn't, until now.

Trinity is the quietly brilliant restaurant in Clapham Old Town which I wrote about enthusiastically following my first visit, for lunch, almost two years ago. Since then I've been back a few times, always for the ridiculously good value set lunch, but only recently did I have the enormous pleasure of the full-on, a la carte dinner time experience.

Although it might seem hard to believe in these days of Polpo, Maze, Bocca di Lupo, Pollen Street Social et al, chef-patron Adam Byatt's first Clapham restaurant, Thyme, was one of the first
 - if not the first - to offer diners small plates to share rather than the conventional starter-main-dessert model. Thyme moved up West, to The Hospital Club, evolved into Origin - dinner at which remains one of my best and most memorable restaurant experiences ever - and operated for a few  years until Byatt moved back to his SW4 roots in 2006 to open Trinity. (I always thought that the name was a reference to it being Byatt's third restaurant, but apparently it's just to do with it being near Trinity Church and his liking the name.)

Unlike Adam's previous restaurants, and bucking the trend he pioneered, at Trinity Byatt serves 'normal'-size portions of fantastically good, modern European food using local, seasonal British ingredients, many of them foraged, fished or farmed by his own fair hands. Dining on this occasion with Eliot - a New Best Friend of mine and an old one of the chef's - we started by grazing on some spring crudités, a punnet of beautifully fresh little vegetables of which Mr McGregor would have been proud, served with creamed fish roe (a very British take on taramasalata.)

There followed not so much an
amuse-bouche as a mini-starter, perfect little balls of clean-tasting mozzarella each topped with a smoked anchovy and drizzled in a lemon olive oil and sardine vinaigrette. Our starters proper were wonderful. Eliot's delicate scallop-stuffed courgette flower with warm roast salmon and wild asparagus (long, thin, mild-tasting spears) was both sweet and earthy, while my smoked venison tartare with juniper, celeriac cream and gaufrette crisps, served with a seasoned egg yolk in a half-shell, was as bold and rich as you'd expect from such assertive ingredients.

No young animal was safe when it came to main courses; Eliot chose braised breast of baby veal while I decided (eventually) on the roast rump of salt marsh lamb. Both featured beautifully cooked meat, in generous quantities, with savoury accompaniments to complement their mellow flavours; lardo di collonata and baby artichoke with the veal and bagna cauda, crisp sweetbreads and the most moreish wild garlic puree with the lamb - if only Adam Byatt would bottle and sell it, I'd have the stuff with everything.

Fit to burst, we heroically settled on sharing a dessert - a light, sweet blueberry soufflé with white chocolate sorbet which Eliot elegantly splodged down into the pillowy middle, causing it to meld into the gooiest, gorgeousest mess.  Sparks practically flew off our clashing spoons as we fought over every last delicious mouthful. Whenever I've been asked in the past to name a favourite dessert I've always said it was a strawberry soufflé I had at Guillaume at Bennelong in Sydney; this one was easily as good.

We drank...well, rather a lot actually; the super sommeliere chose for me an un-oaked Au Bon Climat Chardonnay and then a big, ballsy Pascal Frère
Vacqueyras to accompany my starter and main respectively, then a sweet Pacherenc to sip (OK, guzzle) with pud. These were just a few of the by-the-glass choices from an interesting list which has much to offer in both price and variety and from old and new world.

Service struck the ideal balance of smart but unstuffy, professional but informal, and most importantly, unhurried; despite being deservedly booked solid most nights (and indeed days) of the week there's no table turning or drink-up-damn-you pouring of wine, all of which contributes to a calm, comfortable atmosphere just as suited to cosy dates and dinner-with-mates as to special occasions and family suppers. As will by now be very apparent, I just think everything about the place is plain bloody wonderful and can't (re) recommend it highly enough.

I was lucky enough to not be paying (I need more friends like this - apply within) but from a quick tot-up going by the menu we'd have been looking at about £60 a head - which, these days, strikes me as a complete bargain for the exceptional quality of the cooking. Go at lunch, share a carafe of wine and you'll get out for under £30. Whenever you go, just do; I am reasonably certain that if you try Trinity once, you will, like me, be back again. And again.

Trinity, 4 The Polygon, Clapham, London SW4 0JG Tel: 020 7622 1199

Trinity on Urbanspoon


  1. "a particularly dreadful central London Mexican restaurant can breathe a sigh of relief" this You Know Where?

  2. I've been wanting to go since trying great Trinity food at Taste last year, Need to get my arse in gear...

  3. Sounds like a winner. Some nights I just don't have the negotiation skills to hand to claim my fair share of an array of small plates. A great option to throw into the mix.

  4. Chris - No, not *that* one, the other one - one I believe you visited yourself quite recently?

    Kavey - GO. For not much more than enough Taste crowns to buy three mini-dishes there, you can have the ace set lunch at Trinity proper.

    Tori - I hear you. Sharing can be fun, but the food's so good here you'll want everything all to yourself!

  5. I've got to agree. It's one of the only reasons I can think of for ever wanting to go near Clapham. Unpretentious and clever cooking with really phenomenal ingredients.

    I'm off there for the tasting menu in a few weeks time. Already looking forward to it, even more after reading this!


  6. Er, now now Rich, we'll have no Clapham-bashing on THIS blog please! Any more of that and you won't be enjoying the tasting menu, as I'll have you stopped at the checkpoint coming south of the river...


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