Chef/patron Adam Byatt has some history in this area, having opened the very enjoyable and quite inventive restaurant Thyme in Clapham in 2002, after cooking at The Square under Philip Howard. After a couple of successful years he upped sticks to Covent Garden in 2004 with an ill-fated venture called Origin in Endell Street, which to me didn’t work so well, and indeed lasted barely a year. He returned to Clapham in 2006 with his current restaurant, Trinity. Adam was not there on the night we visited, but the kitchen was in the safe hands of head chef Joe Sharratt, who has worked with Adam for seven years after a spell at Petrus. The room seats 65 at full capacity, a ground floor room with wooden floor, plain walls adorned with some modern art, and good lighting.
The tasting menu was £38 (£68 with wine pairing), while if you went a la carte then starters were £7 - £12, main courses £16 - £30 and desserts £6 - £9. There was also a cover charge of £2, which I’d prefer to see absorbed into the menu prices. Although the food prices were moderate, the 22 page wine list was quite steeply marked up in places. Valdivieso Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from Chile was a hefty £24 for a wine that costs only around a fiver to buy, the excellent Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza 2000 was £64 for a wine that will set you back around £19 to buy, while at the upper end of the list Leoville Barton 1999 was £145 (and remember that the wine prices then get wrapped up into the service charge too) compared to a retail price of around £46.
The cover charge buys you water and some well made flatbread, served with a little dip of cod roe made into a version of taramasalata. The flatbread had very good taste and texture, though as it was quite crumbly was perhaps not ideally suited with a dip (14/20). Better was the main bread, made from scratch, a cross between sourdough and foccacia, and using the same yeast starter as at Trinity (in principle a starter like this can be kept alive for many decades). The result was excellent, with buttery taste and a pleasing level of salt (16/20).
A chilled soup of broad beans with fresh goat curd and black olive had clean flavours, the soup poured over a base of (properly podded) English broad beans at the table; again seasoning was accurate (15/20). I tried quail that had been pot-roast and served with gnocchi Parisienne bound with a hazelnut and truffle pesto with whipped brown butter. The quail was tender, the skin crisp, and the pesto worked well, the cooking juices having plenty of flavour; I thought the gnocchi was a little soggy in texture, but that was the only small issue with the dish (15/20). Tagliatelle of buttered Scottish girolles with peas and Parmesan featured carefully cooked pasta with pleasant peas and good quality mushrooms; I was less sure about the addition of what appeared to be raw onion as a garnish (14/20).
My main course was a fillet of Dexter beef with roasted artichokes and sorrel mayonnaise; on the side was beef tartare and chips. The beef itself had excellent flavour, and the artichokes were also very impressive; the sorrel mayonnaise was well made though perhaps this is a slightly subdued flavour to go with beef. The tartare was lovely, with suitably bold seasoning. The chips were triple cooked, which for me is about the best possible thing that can be done to a potato. The potatoes are par boiled, rested and then deep-fried at a low temperature (130C in this case), then rested again before a final frying at higher temperature (190C here). These were excellent chips, though for me the last frying stage could have been a touch longer to get the outside a little crisper, but this is a minor quibble. Overall this dish was comfortably 16/20, solid Michelin territory.
A pre-dessert of nectarine tarte fine was served with condensed milk ice cream. The latter was excellent, with plenty of vanilla flavour and smooth texture; however although the pastry was of good quality, there seemed very little nectarine in relation to the base, so the overall effect was a little dry (14/20). An individual apple, blackberry and (seasonal) cobnut tart was served with lemon thyme ice cream. The tart was pleasant but a little too dry, and although the ice cream was well made its flavours seemed a little jarring with the main flavours of the dish (13/20). Vanilla panna cotta was served in a biscuit tuile with Kent cherries and toasted malt flakes. The tuile itself was very well made, but I didn’t feel there was enough fruit in the dish, and the malt flakes didn’t add anything for me (13/20). Coffee was a generous portion though not outstanding in quality, served with some good cookies.
The bill was £104 each with a good bottle of wine (Rioja Alta) and a glass of Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut dessert wine each. Service, which tonight was mainly handled by assistant manger Leah, was excellent, attentive and friendly with careful wine topping up. Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable meal, for me much better than Origin but also a notch up from my experiences at Thyme (so not just like the old thymes – sorry). South London is not exactly laden down with high quality restaurants, so it was no surprise to see the place packed out. I wish it well.