A Whiter Shade of Pale
The Trinity in Clapham has a fantastic reputation. Michelin starred, it takes its name from the nearby church in Clapham Old Town and from the fact that it is Adam Byatt’s third restaurant. I’ve been dying to eat there for ages! This is the restaurant where my daughter and her husband had their first date. So impressed was she, that she married him. When he then brought me a large box of outrageously fabulous Pierre Hermé macaroons the first time I met him, the deal was as good as sealed. This was serious son-in-law material! Not only did he know how to treat my little girl but he also showed the appropriate appreciation for her mother. On top of all that, he is bright, charming, polite and very handsome. What’s not to grab immediately and hold on to for a lifetime?! Nearly three years on, a baby later and endless vats of super yummy mackerel pate, lovingly made for me especially by his own fair hands, and I’m still swept off my feet by this exceptional young man. With all that romance associated with the Trinity, it absolutely had to be visited.
Sure enough, it is supremely chic. Intimate with a minimalist and classy dove grey and pale taupe palette and a view on to the busy kitchen, it’s certainly pleasing to the eye. Staff are super attentive, even maybe a tad too much so, as they hover around the table trying to anticipate your every wish and filling up your glass after just a couple of sips. Then again, our waiter was obviously new and wanted to make a good impression on us as much as on his superiors, I expect, so we’ll forgive his regular intrusion into our conversation.
The amuse bouches were terrific, two small profiteroles filled with a divine cauliflower cheese, and two leaf thin rye crackers with dew drops of a fishy mayonnaisey concoction. Simply gorgeous. And then the heavenly bread rolls, probably the best I have ever eaten. Warm and lightly crusty, they tasted vaguely like a cross between crumpets and croissants, as they soaked up the Jersey butter served at perfect room temperature and, for once, not rock hard. 10/10 so far without question!
The menu is short and makes for very good reading. Okay, personally, Crispy Pig Trotters or Pork Jowls are not my kind of thing, although I am sure there are plenty of aficionados, but no worries, lots of other delicious options waved at us temptingly. One (wo)man’s pig trotters are another’s smoked eel, which I adore. No way would I touch jellied eel but when it’s smoked, as calorific as it is, I am entirely enslaved to it. My starter of Salt Baked Pickled Beetroot two ways, House Smoked Eel, Horseradish and Cured Caviar went down a treat, although it was very heavy on the beetroot, very light on the eel and the cured caviar was invisible to me. The Lovely Husband chose Ravioli of Scallop and Langoustine, Langoustine Soup and Fried Oyster. It was prettily presented, the little ravioli and the crispy oyster in a sea of snowy white, but it also made me realize that scallop and langoustine make too bland a filling for the pasta and, as for the soup, it wasn’t a soup but a plate full of froth. The point of froth or foam, as chefs prefer to call it, escapes me. It’s mostly just air, after all, and this was air with a mild marine taste. Big deal.
For mains, we both continued on the fishy theme. Cornish Cod, Romanesco, Smoked Almond Pesto, Crème Fraîche and Lemon for the Lovely Husband and Sea Bass, Confit Fennel, Roast Onions, Shrimps and Basil for me. In my view a meal isn’t a meal unless it’s balanced in taste and texture, and this obviously involves vegetables. Fish or meat needs the contrast of sweet peas or crisp French beans or slightly bitter spinach with maybe a few perfectly steamed small carrots thrown in for good measure, or perhaps a tasty ratatouille, red peppers or warming pumpkin. A beautifully constructed salad too can enhance the culinary sensation and tickle the taste buds into utter bliss. At the Trinity, the only vegetable side options available were Charlotte Potato Boulangere and Roasted Cauliflower, Cep Butter and Hazelnuts. I have no doubt at all that they would have been very well prepared but, seriously, starchy potatoes and characterless cauli? Are you kidding me? White vegetables and white fish on white plates? Do I want to be bored to death? No utter bliss was to be found here, and my disappointment was so overwhelming that I nearly walked out there and then.
Like the troupers we are, we carried on. Our fish was beautifully cooked, very flavoursome and quite excellent but, of course, each as lonely as a cloud, the whiteness of the crème fraîche and the equally ghostly confit fennel mocking us for our vulgar desire for colour and punch.
Guess what we chose for our pud? Yup, white Brillat Savarin Cheesecake, Almond, Poached Quince and Quince Sorbet. Admittedly, we could have had something chocolatey just for a bit of brown, or the interesting sounding Chestnut and Clementine Tartlet with Clementine Leaf Icecream but, as you know by now, I can’t resist a cheesecake. In the event it was nice enough, if not outstanding, though the quince sorbet did offer a much appreciated juicy, tart contrast to the creaminess.
As the portions from starter to dessert were teeny tiny, we could easily have gone on to the Plate of European Cheeses but were put off by the thought of more never ending whiteness. The coffee was superb, black as the night and, much to my delight, served in a proper coffee cup of thin porcelain (white, of course!), rather than in the usual much heavier restaurant crockery. And, best of all, it came with two lovely little coffee flavoured macaroons!
Ach, my heart breaks, this is such a lovely restaurant, staff are so keen to please and some of the food positively sparkles with brilliance BUT, and sadly it is a big but, to offer no decent choice of vegetables is like serving up cornflakes without milk. It adds insult to injury to then be charged £155, including service, a bottle of wine and £3 worth of ‘filtered’ water, when we had very specifically asked for tap water, and this for extremely miserly portions to boot. Either the Trinity just had an evening which paled in comparison to that romantic date night three years ago or, perhaps, it lost its way when it left the vegetable garden.
Trinity, 4 The Polygon, London SW4 0JG, Tel.: 020 7622 1199 , www.trinityrestaurant.co.uk
What I wore;
Black Agnes B cashmere crossover two piece with flared skirt and polka dot silk borders, black Kenneth Cole heels (with a ‘stone washed’ finish), black Hermès Kelly bag (slightly folded over in image).
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