3-7 Devonshire Road
Tel. 020 8747 1836
Food type: French
Nearest tube: Turnham Green
Website: La Trompette
The second part of my Square reunion series takes me to La Trompette in Chiswick. The restaurant is one of three more casual French eateries under the ownership of Nigel Platts-Martin (who also owned the Square) and Bruce Poole. I have already written about the other two restaurants (Chez Bruce and Glasshouse) previously but not La Trompette, as I had visited the restaurant during my blog’s sabbatical.
La Trompette is currently led by Rob Weston who had been Phil Howard’s head chef for what seemed like eternity (15 years). Rob’s cooking style differs significantly from Gary, in that it is very classical French – rich, indulgent and hearty. Make no mistake, this is very masculine cooking with lashings of butter to make your heart sluggish. The menu here, much like its sibling restaurants offers up a 3 course a la carte menu for £29.50 (lunch) and £49.50 (dinner). The menus for lunch and dinner are pretty much identical bar one or two dishes. There is also a tasting menu available on weekend nights for £70.
Before our meal began, we were offered up a small canapé in the form of seaweed cracker with taramasalata and marinated sardines. The cracker was incredibly fragile and even when trying to pick it up had already started to break apart. While the cracker melted in the mouth while eaten, it also became very flimsy to eat. The slice of marinated sardine avoided any hint of fishiness which often afflicts the fish when not handled properly although the amount of taramasalata used was minuscule – as if its main purpose was to hold the sardine in place. The cracker could have done with a few more dots of taramasalata.
My starter was cuttlefish which was served with fregola and fennel. I love cuttlefish and for some reasons restaurants often choose to serve squid or octopus instead. Maybe it is because it doesn’t sell as well. Here thick strips of them were cooked on the grill to give a lovely charred finish. The cuttlefish was timed well – firm but not chewy. On bottom was a bed of fregola with a rich sauce made from preserved lemon and a hint of chilli. A very tasty dish which instantly transports you to the Mediterranean with cold glass of white wine in hand.
We shared an intermediate fish course of turbot with peas, more fennel (must have had a good deal from their supplier) and bortarga. The turbot was well-timed but lacking the magical crispy char on the exterior, which when executed perfectly gives a texture almost like crackling, which I had grown so accustomed to when Rob was cooking at the Square. I did however love the sauce made with lemon verbena which added freshness and plenty of much-needed acidity to the dish to balance out the richness from the bottarga.
For mains, I tried the assiette of spring lamb which was cooked on the barbeque. The main cut was a rack which had a good amount of fat (good thing) and plenty of flavour. Hiding underneath the beetroot tops was also the shoulder which had been slow cooked until tender. The third lamb component was a faggot which was excellent with plenty of offal flavour. All of these were tied together with sticky, meaty jus with a little ewe’s curd for acidity.
We skipped cheese even though the selection did look very inviting. I opted for the creme fraiche pave with Alphonso mango which was fine but nothing more. The problem for me was that the pave itself had a bit of a grainy texture to it – not bad enough that I would send the dish back, but it was missing that lusciousness that I remember from the creme fraiche tart at the Square or Kitchen W8. Also the other problem was the portion sizing was rather mean – the dish was eaten in 3 mouthfuls – given how generously sized the other courses had been. It is as if the kitchen thought that the diner would be so full after the first two courses that they had to scale the dessert down.
My wife faired a lot better with her dessert choice of banana soufflé so much so that I ordered one myself. The soufflé, made from a rice pudding base rather than the traditional crème pâtissière (which I find often makes it very eggy) with the filling cooked through nicely and the banana flavour coming through nicely. The soufflé was served with a scoop of cookies and cream ice cream. This was a sensational soufflé, easily as good as the ones served at the Square and Ledbury, and I would happily come back just to eat this alone.
La Trompette is first and foremost a neighbourhood restaurant, one that locals can visit on a frequent basis. Let’s make no mistake about that. It works to a lower budget and thus does not have the same gastronomic aspirations as the Square and Ledbury or even nearby Hedone. Some of the execution may be a bit rough around the edges. Take for example the rocher of mango sorbet with my creme fraiche pave or the cooking of the turbot – they are by no means bad attempts, just not perfect. Ultimately though the food is tasty, nourishing and satisfying and ultimately one I would more than happy return for a casual meal.