Whenever a friend visits me in London, we inevitably get onto the age old argument of if the English can cook a decent meal. I can easily argue that there is great food in London, but rarely would one of my defences be a truly British restaurant (barring the Fat Duck which is debatable as to being British or completely out of this world). So it was with great anticipation and perhaps a hint of trepidation that I made my way down to Clapham to try out the 5 course tasting menu at Trinity. I’ve got to say, Trinity won me over with what was essentially a masterclass in bringing the best out of seasonal British ingredients.
Before we get into the details, I want to point out that the staff were friendly from the moment we walked in, and not just because one of our number was a regular (he only showed up 10 minutes after me). They adapted the tasting menu for the vegetarian in our group without batting an eye and swapped out desserts for half our number so we could taste the seasonal soufflé which we had heard rumours about.
Okay, enough of that, let’s get into my favourite bit – the tasty details. To amuse our bouches (to steal a phrase from a friend of mine), we were offered spring radishes with a light creamy mustard and rock start. These young veggies have a very mild and clean flavour with the mustard adding some depth without overwhelming the delicate notes of the radish. The addition of the rock salt was a flavour win as it enhanced the slight sweetness of the radish – not something I usually associate with such a vegetable.
Next up was a wild garlic soup with a soft boiled quail egg and onion curd. To be honest, I’d have preferred more curd and less egg as I didn’t really understand what the egg brought to the dish beyond presentation value. The onion curd was interesting and described to us as one step down from feta with a spring onion flavour. We did quiz the waiter on how exactly it was made and he did admirably well in fielding our varied questions. Taste-wise, it added a slightly thicker texture compared to the creamy soup (almost a veloute of wild garlic rather than a typical soup) and delightful light onion flavour. But my favourite element was the wild garlic soup itself which boast rich verdant hues and mild garlic notes. The slightly salty taste made it even more moreish and we all used a bit of bread to get every last drop.
Ah I should add a line about the bread – it’s delicious! I’m a carb-fan for sure, but this bread could tempt even the hardiest Atkins dieter. Soft, fluffy, with a slightly cheese-ish taste and chewy crust, it was far to easy to eat and put you in serious jeopardy of being too full for the rest of the meal. And when combined by in-house whipped goat’s milk butter it is pretty much impossible to stop.
Our next dish was a scallop ceviche with compressed and charred cucumber. This may have been one of the best presented dishes of the whole night. The scallops had an incredibly delicate sweet flavour that was counterbalanced by the huskier smoky sweet flavours of the charred cucumber. Again, this was a dish where the sauces were mopped up by more of that tasty bread.
We continued with the fish theme into the next course which centred around a seared sea bass fillet with a shellfish fricassee. The sea bass fillet was a let down and very under seasoned but the shellfish fricassee was an eye-opener. To make the fricassee, apparently they finely dice mussels and reduce them with white wine into a light creamy sauce bursting with flavour. I’ve never been so sad to be out of bread before and was about to lick the plate clean despite the posh setting. The broccoli fondant was an interesting way to add vegetables to the dish. The flavour was there but the presentation was a bit lacking.
Our second main course was a Dexter beef with smoked endive. By slow cooking and smoking the endive, the taste moved from a harsh bitter flavour to a smoky mellow taste that provided a great counterpoint to the beefy fillet with rich oxtail reduction. The Dexter cow is a small cow from the North that has incredibly flavourful and tender meat. I’d love to get my hands on some of this beef for my own cooking but for now I’ll have to be satisfied with the offerings at Smithfields market.
Finally it was time for dessert. We had managed to finagle our way into a couple of lemon soufflés which were what all little eggs want to be when they grow up. I’m still in awe at how light yet filling that dessert was and the hint of lemon was just perfect. The regular dessert was a trio of chocolate cremosa, mascarpone cheese, and a lemon jelly placed on a coffee and chocolate biscuit. The dark bitter chocolate was my favourite part but I could have passed on the mascarpone cheese. I’m guessing the lemon jelly was the seasonal bit and a nice touch to cut through the rich mascarpone but it didn’t gel well with the chocolate for my tastes.
All in all, an excellent tasting menu experience which highlighted just how good British food can be. This has set the standard for solid fine dining and will be the place I take my friends when they visit. As we were finishing up, our waiter Matt mentioned that one of the chefs from Trinity has moved on and opened up a new place called Story in Bermondsey. I’m looking forward to trying that out in May!