A Perfect Trinity Celebrated with a Star
Drawing on his experience cooking at a variety of London’s most esteemed eateries, Adam Byatt has matured into a chef who lets his ingredients do the talking. Clapham’s lucky to have him
Review by Elizabeth S Moore Photography by Andy Barnham
It is worth wondering whether Adam Byatt, who is one of the most authentic chefs in London, thought about the future when he named Trinity. He now has three kitchens operating in Clapham, and he has managed to provide something for every kind of customer over two sites – no mean feat. He has also found his level, returning to his roots at Thyme and incorporating every one of his cooking experiences from Claridges to Hospital with a confident and assured touch. Above all this, he has matured into that rarest of things, a thoughtful, hands on chef who relies on his ingredients and his cooking to talk for him. How apt then that 2016, just one year after the refurbishments has seen him awarded his first Michelin star, the beginning of a new chapter which sees him getting the recognition he deserves not only for his cooking but also for his bravery in celebrating seasonal ingredients and cooking which stands on the skills of the Chef and his brigade, not on fads or the latest on point cooking trend.
The original restaurant downstairs at Trinity now nestles comfortably in the main body of the restaurant, denuded of walls, and the staff mentoring and training on which Adam prides himself is evident. There is boning, knife work and plating at a level that you would expect to see at a Michelin starred restaurant, close enough to scrutinise as you eat.
The previous three word descriptions on the menu have been expanded to reflect the new level of cooking. Adam has upped his game from oxtail, gnocchi, parmesan to Garganelli pasta, with hare prunes and chestnuts. This is classical, carefully considered cooking, but the ingredients still take the spotlight. In a life of eating for a living, dishes do not often remain lodged in the frontal cortex, but I have never taken anyone to Trinity who does not hanker forever for the combined tastes of his artichoke, chestnut, truffle and Jerusalem artichoke salad. It is worth making the journey for on its own.
The main courses channel Adam’s classical training, and reflect the time of year as well as the suppliers that come to his kitchen door. Game season brings red deer cooked over charcoal with quince, turnip tops and kasha, or Bresse pigeons with salt baked celeriac, creamed spinach and Madeira. It is as pleasure for the senses, and the room has been made comfortable and a truly lovely place to relax.This most formal of Mr. Byatt’s restaurants also has the distinction of always having people eating in it with their polite children. This really is a community restaurant, and watching well behaved toddlers trying the intensely flavoursome dishes is a pleasure.
The second of the Trinity is Bistro Union, a mere ten minute walk across the Common. I used to think of this as the second tier of Adam’s restaurants and his cooking, but with his usual good sense he took advantage of the recent closure at the flagship restaurant and sent his Trinity staff, lock stock and barrel over to the front of house and kitchen at the Bistro, and it is transformed. Adam’s touch is everywhere, and the sure hand he uses has carved out a niche for this Abbeville Village sister restaurant which both gives defines it and keeps it in the Byatt fold.
Here, a roll of brown paper with scribbles replaces the menu. This is a local bistro, open from brunch to dinner, where you can share a chicken, or eat toad in the hole, and where the children have their own menu. The difference is that the cooking of these dishes is exceptional, and once again the chicken and the sausages will be full of flavour and carefully sourced. The cooking is not all simple by any means. The smoked duck salad with cherries, brioche croutons and bitter leaves would sit happily on the menu at Trinity, as would a great many of the dishes. This is fluid restauranteering, with ideas and ingredients flowing between the two sites. The Sunday supper which has a different three courses every week is one of my favourite family outings. A recent visit included snacks to share, braised venison and baked chocolate pudding. You can bring your own wine, and children under ten eat free, what’s not to like?
The third branch of this Trinity is the newly opened Upstairs. On the original Polygon site, and operating in the evenings only, this is the Chef’s table of the three. After Adam has finished helping with the Prep for lunchtime downstairs, he wanders upstairs to a beautifully set up restaurant which consists of long wooden benches, stools, and a state of the art galley kitchen. Stainless steel and charcoal dominate, and Adam has gone back to his roots at Thyme with an assured series of small dishes that change daily. Here you will find his favourite ingredients given new twists. Think DOC Burrata, spiced aubergine, chilli, mint and fried bread, or BBQ pork belly with cockles saffron and black olives. Casual dining with the chef in front of you, meets foodie heaven. The wine list complements the food, with recommendations expertly given while bottles and carafes abound with offers of tastes before you commit freely given.
Enough. What Adam Byatt has pulled off here really is a Trinity of symbiotic cooking. He has found the stride he had at Thyme, and upped it several gears. As well as the three restaurants he has an eye out for opportunity whenever the occasion presents itself. Game dinners, guest chefs cooking at Upstairs, wine pairings, Rioja evenings.
For a chef who takes hands on cooking to a new level, it is hard to see how he is keeping this many plates spinning, but he is managing it with aplomb. We have all seen ambitious ideas come and go, but Adam has succeeded in deconstructing his love of food, exceptional ingredients, comfortable dining and cooking and distilled them all into three subtly different approaches which succeed in meeting customers’ needs and presumably his own. Clapham is very lucky to have him.
Enquires: Trinity (& Upstairs), 4 The Polygon, Clapham, London SW4 0JG / Trinity 0207 6221199, Upstairs 0203 745 7227 / www.trinityrestaurant.co.uk/
Bistro Union, 40 Abbeville Road, Clapham, London SW4 9NG / 0207 0426400 / www.bistrounion.co.uk/