Trinity – the Gastronomic Epicentre of Clapham.
Sometimes a small pocket of a neighbourhood seems to evolve into something rather special. For me, that’s just what has happened around The Pavement in Clapham Old Town. When I lived a stone’s throw away in Abbeville Road, I remember there being a very good butcher, but not much else. The Windmill Pub was where we went on a hot summer’s day to drink beer (or lager top in my case) loiter on the common and while away the hours. Maybe I simply couldn’t afford to eat out much, but I don’t remember there being any good places to eat in the mid-1980s, we’d head for Battersea Rise if we wanted food. The butcher, Moen & Sons, is still there and I make an occasional pilgrimage south from Kennington where I live, not just for meat but for cheese and deli produce. And, it’s all changed with a cluster of dining destinations punctuated by posh estate agents. Perhaps it all originates from Chef Proprietor Adam Byatt’s first restaurant, Thyme, which opened in 2001 around the corner? Or perhaps the estate agents just need feeding… Now you can take your pick from a range of restaurants in the area – I find it hard not to stop for a cup of tea and a brunch dish at the Dairy when I go shopping at Moen & Sons and I can’t wait to go back and try the small plates upstairs at Trinity. But, the main restaurant has held its Michelin star since 2016. Which must make it the ultimate Clapham destination restaurant.
With a classic chef’s training, an apprenticeship at Claridges and time working with Philip Howard at The Square, together with a family history in food (his mother was a professional chef and his grandfather an army cook), it’s perhaps not surprising that Adam Byatt at Trinity just gets things right. The compact yet light and airy dining room looks out over the common and the semi-open kitchen gives that opportunity to spy and see how things are done. But, once your food starts to arrive, attention will somehow end up focussed on your plate (and in my case on that of my companion!). Plating is immaculate – stunning without being over fussy. As for the food, well – we found little to fault.
Two canapés with a glass of champagne were a delicious way to start lunch; a warm parmesan tartlet with the lightest crisp pastry shell filled with caramelised shallots and wild garlic on a buttery custard and some pretty brique pastry fingers filled with a tapenade of tomato, black olive and basil.
Followed by some excellent sourdough rolls with homemade butter, I had to ask how this version had all the sourdough taste but a light and fluffy texture that for me was much pleasanter than the normally chewy sourdough. Apparently, in addition to the aged mother that was started when the restaurant opened, they add extra yeast at Trinity. I’ve spent a happy hour or three scouring the internet for a recipe and failed to find one so if anyone would care to share I’ll be delighted.
My soused Cornish mackerel looked NOTHING like the drowned fish version my mother used to concoct and I’m happy to say tasted nothing like it either. A delicate construction it was served with white gazpacho, grapes and tarragon. Perfect, firm fish, closer to a ceviche cure than the malt vinegar sous mum used, I’m a convert.
Stracciatella curds came sitting on a delicate artichoke barigoule with casa olive oil and a blood orange salad. While it didn’t have quite the kick my companion anticipated, it was a lovely and easy to eat dish.
For my next course, I spotted an offering of Norfolk asparagus. Served with a light, slightly salty smoked eel beurre blanc and a wonderful yet simple polonaise of Iberico ham and buttered sourdough crumbs which I fully intend ‘borrowing’, it was an excellent flavour combination and managed to look stunningly elegant too.
Strozzapreti means ‘priest strangler’. It’s a long, twisted pasta with several legends about the name, the simplest of which is that the greedy priests ate the delicious pasta too quickly and choked themselves. This particular dish makes that theory seem highly likely. Served with a symphony of Cornish white crab meat, monk’s beard and samphire, it not only looked stunning but had a fabulous combination of textures with the perfectly al dente pasta complementing the soft flaky crab meat. I was jealous of course, but not so much that I’d have swapped.
In some attempt to be healthy we both opted for fish main courses, despite the lure of Anjou pigeon à l’orange or T-bone of Herdwick lamb. Generally, when I spot ‘other things I want to try’ on the menu it’s a good indicator that I’ll end up going back.
For me, a picture perfect crisp fillet of red mullet with octopus, mussels and a bouillabaisse sauce. I loved the carefully scored red mullet skin and the soft flaky flesh beneath. And, the bouillabaisse sauce would have worked well in its own right.
My companion’s wild turbot with morels, broad beans and sauce bonne femme was a classic dish that sang of early summer with the small sweet beans providing a toothsome complement to the fish.
Warm Trinity chocolate tart with hazelnut praline and raw cacao sorbet for me is something I’d need to re-order. Just to check it was still as good.
But there again, there’s that salted caramel custard tart with the softest sweet and lightly salted filling.
And, the signature dessert we forgot to book. I know it’s rude to have such a bad case of food envy but when the table next door got their ‘order in advance’ Tart Tatin, we were between courses. The restaurant was blanketed with that baked caramelised apple smell and both of us were drooling at the mention of Prune and Armagnac Ice Cream. Next time. There needs to be a next time.
Our wines were expertly paired throughout the meal by the team at Trinity, a luxury I’d recommend to make the most of any fine dining experience.
Of course, now I not only want to go back to Trinity, but I also need to try upstairs too, where the menu is casual and complementary to the main restaurant, using some of the same base produce. And, Bistro Union is on Abbeville Road, my old stomping ground.
Just as well Clapham is close – and as yet Walworth has nothing similar. I have a great excuse now.
4 The Polygon
London SW4 0JG
TEL: 020 7622 1199