2 days ago
Monday, 19 April 2010
Prix Fixe at Trinity, Clapham
Somewhat hidden away in Clapham's Old Town, Trinity, Adam Byatt’s restaurant has been floating around in my bowl of places-I-want-to-visit for quite a while. I’d filed it away as a special occasion place until A Rather Unusual Chinaman mentioned their prix fixe menu on his blog. Available from Monday-Thursday, it offers three courses for £20 and seemed excellent value and so I decided to take my mother there as a treat because, well, no specific reason really. Sometimes it's nice to treat your mum to dinner.
The restaurant itself is smart, if slightly anonymous, with its pale grey walls and generic abstract art. Adam Byatt’s book How to Eat In is out soon and there were little cards advertising the fact on every table. A bottle of filtered water was brought to the table at the start of the meal and replaced whenever it became empty.
We were initially presented with a warm, crisp flatbread accompanied by a small pot of cods' roe spread. This got the maternal thumbs up, or would have if her thumbs weren’t occupied in cracking off pieces of bread to scoop up more of the pink creamy spread. Unfortunately we were only half way through this when it was whisked away by a rather over-efficient waiter and replaced with two sour dough foccacia rolls and some superb butter. These were good but my mother made a wistful face and said she wished they would have left the cods' roe spread on the table a little longer.
The menu consisted of three choices for every course, though they allowed me to pick the vegetarian main from the a la carte menu. I started with the wild garlic soup, which was an intense, glorious green and tasted like spring in a dish. It was fresh and bright and smooth. The a la carte version is served with a soft-boiled pheasant egg, but mine was simply swirled with crème fraiche. I was very glad that more bread was offered for dipping and mopping purposes.
My mother, who is in no way a vegetarian and remains slightly baffled by my inclinations in this area, went for the venison Scotch egg which she adored. I think she may have attempted to say something constructive about texture when she cut into it, but then she took a bite and proceeded to make wordless happy noises as she demolished the rest of the dish, so I never did find out what she meant.
The vegetarian main was a morel risotto. Now I always feel a little disappointed when a risotto is the sole vegetarian option - it just seems a touch unimaginative. I never object to lack of choice in a restaurant of this kind. I don’t expect the kitchen to produce numerous vegetarian dishes and I fully acknowledge and understand that we are a minority; I just like it when what is on offer shows evidence of care and creativity. This dish was at least both prettily presented, dotted with morels and little clouds of ricotta, and complex in its flavours: smoky and unctuous, flecked with more of that wild garlic. There were some nice lemony notes in there too, which gave a necessary balance to a dish that was richer than Bill Gates. I didn’t quite manage to finish it (though I made a valiant attempt).
My mother was pleased with her veal belly with broad beans but said she found the accompanying semolina gnocci rather heavy. She liked all the non-gnocci elements of the dish and polished it off with ease.
For dessert, since both of us were rather too full for cheese, we decided to share the two remaining choices on the prix fixe. The winner was a light rhubarb and ginger yoghurt. Though it was hard to detect much ginger, it was a light, refreshing dessert, and a nice way to follow such a rich main. The rum and raisin ice cream was pleasant enough, with its plump, boozy raisins, but wasn’t hugely exciting.
The service was friendly and efficient (occasionally overly so) but slid somewhat as the evening went on. Our first waitress was kind and bright and helpful, but she disappeared at some point in the evening and we struggled to attract someone’s eye when we wanted to order some dessert wine. When we received the bill (along with a dinky bag of meringues to take home) we also noticed we’d been charged for two bottles of wine instead of one. It was quickly rectified but was a small sour note after what had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening, an affordable way to sample cooking of a high standard.
Trinity, 4 The Polygon, Clapham, London SW4 0JG 020 7622 1199