4 The Polygon, Clapham,
London SW4 0JG
Tel. 0207 622 1199
Food type: French
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: Clapham Common
Adam Byatt’s Trinity was voted AA Restaurant of the Year and Time Out Best Local Restaurant in 2007/2008. Despite this, it was never on the top of my ‘to-visit’ list until I was around the area to visit the local hospice of the same name that I chanced upon it. (Before you send any well wishes, I was at the local hospice as part of my university education) Perhaps because of its lack of publicity, which is understandable after Byatt’s last venture in Convent Garden absolutely bombed.
It was only in 2004 when Adam Byatt and his then business partner, Adam Oates, decided to uproot his (then) successful neighbourhood restaurant Thyme in Clapham for the bright lights of the West End. Byatt was, at the time, one of the more promising chefs having trained at Claridges and then under Philip Howard at the Square so good things were expected. Unfortunately the new venture did not go according to plan – scathing reviews flew in thick and fast. The only thing that was not flying in through the doors was the amount of diners, at least not at the numbers Byatt had projected. Only less than a year after it had opened, Thyme at the Hospital went into receivership. It was subsequently relaunched as Origin, serving more simplistic food. Byatt stayed as executive chef but Oates called it quits.
After such a harrowing experience, nearly losing his house and accumulating a dept which will probably take another 10 years to pay off, Byatt was on the verge of setting up a fishmongers as he was not able to set up another restaurant. It was serendipitous that at the same time the Polygon site, whereby Trinity now sits, was on the market and Adam contacted Angus Jones, the owner. After having a chat over a few beers, Angus decided to refurbish the site and lo and behold, Trinity was born, although this time without much fanfare and PR hoo-ha.
The dining room during the day allows plenty of light to flood into the restaurant via its large window. Trinity seats up to 60 customers within its cream and milk-chocolate walls. The ubiquitous white-clothed tables are paired with rattan and leather chairs. In addition, the restaurant also houses a Zinc bar an a ‘Kitchen Table’, the restaurant’s form of a chef’s table.
The menu is rife with seasonable, classical dishes with a modern twist. Byatt himself admits that his style of cooking is influenced by his training at the Square. The pricing bears little resemblance. The mission of Trinity is to offer food which is competitively priced to the locals. This is clearly reflected in the menu when I visited. Lunch is £15/20 for 2/3 course respectively while a 5 course tasting menu during dinner is £35. I beg you to find me a restaurant where you are able to enjoy a tasting menu for less. The lunch menu is of exceptional value especially as it does include many items (starters and desserts) which are from the full price dinner menu. Admittedly the ALC menu for dinner is more expensive – starters between £7-12, Mains £16-22.50 and Desserts £7-8 which is not entirely unreasonable. Please be aware that unlike many restaurants, the restaurant does an exclusive lunch menu (ie the dinner menu is not available) although they were happy to accomodate our request for items from the dinner menu. Do note that there is a £1.50 (lunch) and £2 (dinner) cover charge per person although this includes bread, olives as well as still/sparkling water throughout the entire meal. Some green olives were offered to us while we were browsing the menu.
Bread is made on site and served hot – a white roll (for lunch at least, I’m not sure with dinner) served in a little bowl topped with a bit of sea salt. The bread was well seasoned, had good crust but the filling was a tad heavy and not as light and fluffy as it should have been. (4/10)
Gratinated razor clams with a pain polain crust was decent with decent texture and good balance between the garlic and chilli although the clam itself was somewhat lost amongst this. A small cup of lemon thyme veloute was cleansing though lacking in terms intensity… lemon soup anyone? (2/10)
Hand Chopped Middlewhite Pork Pie with Piccallili
Better was the pork pie made with good quality, full flavoured middlewhite pork and good hot water crust pastry although it could have done with a lot more jelly. Nevertheless, the quality of the pork spoke for itself, and using Mrs. King’s famed Melton Mowbray pies, this was one of the better renditions. This was served with a few cornichons and piccallili. (4/10)
Caramelised Skate Wing, Creamed Potato, Roasted Shallots and a Caper and Dill Vinaigrette
Pan fried skate wing was cooked correctly served with a simple pomme puree, roasted shallots and a classical vinaigrette of dill and caper, spiked with a bit of garlic. This was great comfort food with the sweetness of the shallots, the tartness of the capers and the perfume of the dill complementing the silky smooth skate. (5/10)
Roast Fillet of Pollock with a Saute of Squid, Chickpeas and Chorizo
I don’t think the other fish dish worked well – the pairing of pollock, a pretty bland and unexciting fish, with a chorizo stew is just a calamity waiting to happen. The concept of pairing fish with chorizo is not new and indeed can work if the fish used has a more robust flavour (e.g. John Dory, Red Mullet) I was proven right because what resemblance of flavour from the Pollock was completely drowned out by the chorizo. For some reason, the dish delivered to us did not contain any squid. (2/10)
Landes Duckling: Duck Tea and Offal on Toast; Crown served a la Orange, Boulangere Potatoes; Braised Leg, Cabbage
The main reason why we came was to try the complete duck feast – Red label duckling from Landes. Do note that this dish is not available for lunch although the chef was happy to prepare it for us. This comes in different servings. First was the offal – duck liver parfait served on toast with some sultana, raisins and caramelised duck hearts. To wash down the richness of the parfait was a small cup of duck tea which had an Asian influence to it. The duck tea was clean and meaty, with various spices gently perfuming it. The second part of this course was the duck leg which had been slow cooked so that it was literally falling off the bone. This was accompanied by a puree of orange and a cabbage ball stuffed with shredded cabbage – this was a deconstructed version of duck a la orange. The slow cooked duck leg could have done with a touch more seasoning. Lastly, breast meat from the crown was roasted pink and served with a bit of watercress and some boulangere potatoes. This was excellent, with the natural flavour of the duck brought to life with a touch of the roasting jus. (5/10)
The chef was eager for us to try the cured duck breast which they cure themselves. I did not enjoy this as much as I did with the duckling itself – the duck ham oversalted for my liking and the beetroot remoulade too acidic. (2/10)
Comice Pear ‘Belle Helene’, Drunken Apricots
Stuffed from all the meat, we just managed to make it to dessert. Pear ‘Belle Helene’ a classic of poached pear with chocolate sauce was given a slight twist – the pear in cased around a light sponge which helped to absorb the milk chocolate sauce although the drunken apricots did not add much to the dish. (5/10)
Banana Tatin, Vanilla Ice Cream
A banana tarte tatin had perfectly caramelized banana surrounded by crispy puff pastry which had soaked up the caramel. A scoop of vanilla ice cream finished of the dish although the ice cream itself could have done with more vanilla flavour. (4/10)
Absolutely stuffed, we skipped coffee.
Service was pleasant and attentive throughout. Our meal at Trinity pleasantly surprised us. You will not find unnecessary foams, ridiculous combinations or unique ingredients. What you will find here is cooking which is simple, classical yet thoughtful. Best of all, the prices charged here is very reasonable for the amount of food we were served. The denizens of Clapham are very lucky that Adam Byatt has returned.