Monday, 13 August 2007
I last visited Trinity, the latest venture from the brains behind the much-missed Thyme and the not-so-much-missed branch in Covent Garden, some time last January, and had a reasonably enjoyable if not spectacularly accomplished Tasting Menu paired with wine. A return visit therefore would have been a good opportunity to try some of the larger main courses or more interesting offaly starters they do (pig's head, trotters), and see if the kitchen copes better when dealing with more substantial portions. However I don't know what went wrong because I found myself again ordering the tasting menu this week. Perhaps part of the reason was that it looked so appealing on paper, and secondly this is a rare opportunity to try a fine-dining tasting menu for a good deal less than most other restaurants in the city. The wine pairing option had gone up by £5 since January, but even at £60 this is quite a bargain for 5 1/2 courses and 5 glasses of wine. At least, it would have been had the food been any good.
One change I immediately noticed from January was that with the advent (finally) of some good summer weather the restaurant had gone all al-fresco, with the large windows completely opened onto the road. This is quite a pretty part of Clapham, and the restaurant itself isn't too shabby inside either, so all in all this was a good move. Service was cheery and helpful, although a little too much on the "matey" side for a misanthrope like myself (more on this later), and after a glass of champagne to get ourselves in the mood, the courses began to arrive.
After breaking our jaws on a couple of bread rolls which had clearly been being kept warm for hours, was "Mackerel Tartar with Cucumber Gazpacho and Horseradish". The Mackerel itself was tasty and had an interesting texture, mixed with chunks of cucumber flesh. However, sprayed theatrically on top (at the table) was a good half pint of salty cucumber foam which may have been acceptable as a half teaspoon but in this quantity was bordering on revolting. Having to wade through 6 inches of salty cucumber foam to get to the meat is not the makings of a good dish. Perhaps the serving staff think they're doing you a favour by squirting so much foam around - I made it clear they weren't.
Next up, a duck confit with fois gras which suffered from having too much confit and not enough fois gras for my liking. Now, although I freely admit no fois gras would ever be enough for me, I still would like to taste more than I did, and the confit was a bit short on flavour too. Not bad though.
The "Scallop-stuffed Courgette Flower with Champagne Veloute" sounded a lot better on paper than it actually was, which is a shame because with raw ingredients like this you wouldn't think you could go far wrong. The scallops, rather than being fried juicy and whole, were actually turned into some sort of wobbly scallop-flavoured mousse and stuffed inside a limp looking courgette flower. It didn't actually taste too bad, but the textures were all wrong and it looked weird, like some sort of alien appendage. The champagne veloute was gorgeous however, rich and creamy and wasted on this plate.
Veal Shin and Onion Cottage Pie was a good example of its kind - finally something to get my teeth into. It was tasty enough and filling, just what the doctor ordered at this stage, although again there was something missing in the execution - perhaps a richer stock or more seasoning, I don't know. I just think it could have been better and it left me slightly underwhelmed.
Next a little item not on the menu, a summer fruits jelly thingy in a little glass. This was actually superb - the aroma was heavenly and it tasted every bit as good as it looked. A hit, this one.
Finally for the dessert proper was a "Valrhona Hot Chocolate Pot with Honeycomb Crunch". Again, this tasted lovely, and the accompanying crunchy ice cream was perfect, although the chocolate itself inside the pot was very runny and a bit difficult to eat.
In conclusion then, I was a bit let down by this meal - I didn't expect some sort of 3-star experience for my £60 but at twice the price of the Food Room just down the road I'd expect something twice as good, and this was nowhere near. Two final gripes I have to get off my chest too - the "matey" service included telling us how lucky we were to be eating the next course, or which ones were the waiter's favourites. Well, thanks very much "matey" but I'd like to make my own mind up before you start telling me how much I should be enjoying it, and you're only going to make the disappointment greater. Secondly, although the wine pairings were very well chosen, they didn't always arrive at the same time as the food - sometimes before and sometimes halfway through - so it broke the flow of the meal a bit. I'm picking holes really, but you start to notice these things if your opinion isn't won over by the cooking.
I have a hard-won reservation at Chez Bruce next month so SW London cuisine has an opportunity to win some brownie points back. But I don't think I'll give Trinity another try for a little while.