The Horn of Plenty
Even on a gloomy mid February evening, La Trompette in Chiswick looks cheery and inviting with its bubble shaped box hedge and wide awning. This is one of five Michelin starred London restaurants co-owned by clever restaurateur Nigel Platts-Martin. Over the last 20+ years, this astute money man has teamed up with chefs he admires and, in partnership with them, has brought us exquisite, top of the range, elegant but informal dining experiences, most of which, like La Trompette, are neighbourhood based. The Square in Mayfair and The Ledbury in Notting Hill, he owns with the talented Messrs. Phil Howard and Brett Graham, La Trompette in Chiswick, The Glasshouse in Kew and the fabulous Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, with one of my all-time favourite chefs, Bruce Poole.
So why is it called La Trompette, I wonder? Either the owners are keen trumpet players or, probably more likely, it refers to the Black Chanterelle, also known as the trumpet mushroom, or by its Latin name, Craterellus Cornucopioides, horn of plenty. In Greek mythology, the horn of plenty, as if by magic, refills itself with whatever meat or drink its owner requests. Sounds right up my street then! Besides, I love Chanterelles.
Inside, the restaurant is contemporary and smart, with dark brown wood and leather set against pristine white walls and crisp table linen. In ambience, it’s upmarket brasserie meets classic dining room. While the lighting is certainly not harsh, it is a little bright for my liking. Once you’re past 40, you get quite partial to the dimmer switch. The tables are generally well spread out, but up by the wall, where we sit, they are so close together, that not only can I tell that the gay male couple sitting at the table beside us are from Glasgow but also, disconcertingly, that they have a pronounced preference for eating off their knives. Okay, okay, I admit it; I am a total and utter cutlery snob. I visibly cringe when people hold their knife and fork like pencils (as many Europeans do, in fact. Why? It looks so darn complicated!) or when they press down on the fork too close to the tines, or when they wave their implements about, or don’t keep them pointing at the plate. All that’s bad enough, but dispensing with a fork entirely, while eating Michelin starred food in a classy London restaurant, rather than, say, slicing sausage in some alpine hut, well really, that goes beyond the pale altogether! Hrmph and double hrmph! Oh, go on, just ignore me while I have my little precious Southern Softie Sassenach fit here! When all is said and done, it’s the enjoyment of the food that’s important and not the method of consumption. Slurp it, pierce it, anyway you want it, just let it hit those taste buds.
So, let’s get down to it then. There’s a tasting menu at £70 per head or an à la carte Menu at £55 for three courses. Both look rather heavenly but the two of us don’t quite feel up to five courses each, so we settle for the less challenging of the two.
While we’re weighing up our options, we are each served a light and tasty little canapé of crispy, wafer thin sourdough cracker with taramasalata and a small piece of mackerel. At least that’s what I think it might be. So engrossed in my chat with the Lovely Husband am I, that I don’t pay close attention to the waiter’s description. Whatever it is, it sure makes for a good start!
The Lovely Husband chooses Chargrilled Squid, Fregola, Shaved Fennel and Preserved Lemon as a starter, while I go for the Beech Mushroom Velouté, Caramelised Onion Brioche and Black Truffle. Luddite that I am, I can’t tell you what the squid tastes like, because I get squeamish when it comes to cephalopods unless they’re battered and deep fried beyond recognition. I know, I know! The Lovely Husband, however, contentedly smacks his lips. My truffled mushroom soup, perfectly taupe, looks elegant and tastes exquisitely velvety and autumnal, the little brioche on the side adding a pretty touch to the whole picture.
For my main course, I choose Wild Brill, Ratte Potatoes, Jerusalem Artichoke and Salsa Verde for an added £6.50. It’s a very well balanced dish, the light fish, the earthy Jerusalem artichoke, the buttery potatoes and the herby sauce. Very yummy indeed, though for me, once again, the meagre spear of broccoli that comes with it is not enough. The lack of green vegetables appears to be a general feature in London’s Michelin cuisine. I wonder why? Are they too pedestrian? For my money, a meal without them is never quite perfect.
The Lovely Husband’s Roast Guinea Fowl, Buttermilk Barley, Grilled Calcots, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Walnut Pesto turns out to be wonderfully hearty and winter warming, with its boneless guinea fowl breast unusually tasty and moist
And then this treat of a meal is almost all over, but before we get the bill, it’s pudding time! Tarte Tatin with Tahitan Vanilla Ice cream and Whipped Buttermilk Mousse and Blood Orange Granita, half and half for each of us. The apple tart is warm and cakey, the mousse and granita, featherlight and zingy. Frankly, by now, I too, could start licking my food off the knife, or possibly even directly off the plate, never mind Mr. Manners!
Finally a very good coffee, even if the cup is only half full, and two darling little chocolate truffles to sweeten the £175.50 we have to pay, including wine, service charge and VAT.
Needless to say, the service here is faultless, and I am impressed with the discreet, unshowy sophistication and polish of La Trompette. There are no two ways about it, this meal has been simply fabulous, and, aside from a lack of green vegetables, it has been nothing short of perfect. And yet, and yet…it has just one tiny little failing…it’s not Chez Bruce. Its Wandsworth stable mate just pips it to the post. Why, I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe because Chez Bruce is a little more intimate and less brightly lit, maybe because one gets the impression that the chef patron cooks there himself. Still, La Trompette comes a very close second, and you can do a lot worse than feed your face here. It’s trumpet blowing, knifelickingly good!
What I wore
Grey and black houndstooth checked silk skirt with lace pleats by Emporia Armani, dark grey Hugo Boss jacket, silk Joseph jumper, wide black patent LK Bennett belt, black patent Jimmy Choo court shoes, black Hermès Birkin bag.
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