I am not a regular visitor to Clapham. Mostly, it seems to be full of the kind of bars that think they are unique but are actually based on the template of All Bar One. My heart yearns for a proper boozer. The only time I’ve ever really dragged my judgemental ass over there, was to get loaded in the park. I’ve also been to Trinity a few times; each visit finding myself befuddled trying to work out who exactly they are catering for.
Head chef Adam Byatt offered the explanation of “everyone”. Customers in Clapham are mixed: young and hipsterish, yummy and mummyish, older couples with older kids. It’s a local restaurant with a whole lot of target customer on its plate; you’ve got to admire them rising to the challenge. Adam also keeps himself busy running cooking sessions at the kind of schools that require you to pass through a metal detector on the way in, and now they are running classes for the grown ups too, like this one – ‘The Pig’.
I never turn down an invite to anything with pig in the title and so found myself seated around the chef’s table watching Adam portion a half loin of Gloucester Old Spot on the bone, from Blackwell Farm, in Essex. The demonstration would be followed by a meal featuring various bits of one they prepared earlier, matched with Trimbach wines. You can do this too, for £70, although your meal will be served with a selection of ciders and perrys.
Adam selected a large saw from his surgical tray of implements and took to dissecting the loin with gusto. Sweat beaded his brow as he wrestled to remove the rack, puffing out his enthusiasm for buying whole and butchering, as it encourages the development of the chefs’ craft, allows for greater control over cuts and gives you more bang for your buck.
The rack removed, it was cleaned and trimmed, with all bits of extra meat going into a pot to be minced and mixed with onions, prunes, sage, chestnuts, thyme, breadcrumbs and sloshes of port and brandy. Its heady, herbaceous fragrance wafted around the table, piquing appetites for the meal ahead.
The stuffing was layered between meat and skin and tied up with heat resistant string in an appropriately cheffy manner.
And then it was time. The meal began with plump, rosemary-scented devils on horseback followed by spectacular biscuit like ‘flatbreads’ for scooping up dollops of smoky whipped taramasalata. Next, a white onion and thyme velouté, which triggered a hazy memory; I’m sure I’ve had it before here as an amuse. Deeply savoury, silky smooth and seasoned with pin point accuracy, it came in a small bowl which was actually a big cup. The only right way to consume this was by picking it up, although I saw others daintily spooning. It didn’t see eye to eye with a spiky 2007 Riesling sadly, which seemed a rather harsh accompaniment.
Smoked eel, steamed oyster and sole goujons with horseradish cream was “about as pretty as Trinity gets” according to the chef. This first experience of a steamed oyster was dominated mostly by alarm at its bogey-like appearance. It didn’t prove much more pleasant in the eating. The smoked eel sliver was perfect though, coating the mouth with its lingering oil and cut with horseradish bite. A very saline dish, buffered charmingly by the softness of a pretty leek terrine.
Pig’s trotters on toast were a gelatinous treat, cut by a pared down gribiche, which thankfully omitted the usual chopped eggs and much of the oil, presumably to avoid overkill against the rich, gummy trotters. A perfect strip of blistered pig skin balanced its bubbly self on top.
Trimbach Pinot Noir Reserve 2007 arrived alongside, but I failed to jot a single letter about it. At this point, the wine people started having a very in-depth technical discussion about some winey thing or other; I switched off and contemplated how best to steal the piece of neglected crackling on my neighbour’s plate. Food will always be my first love.
Pork belly came water bathed (for 16 hours), pressed and slicked with maple glaze and accompanied by cockles, celery heart and black olive oil mash. The combination of shellfish and pork is a personal favourite, but here I felt the cockles were slightly ill fitting, particularly against the aesthetically challenged mash. I think Douglas describes it rather well in his post as evoking “a pat from a cow prescribed a laxative-only diet.” Quite.
A quince tart tatin was thankfully just the right size for once (what is it with those monstrous versions?), glossy with oozing caramel and perfumed with star anise, as was the accompanying floral syrup: Gewürztraminer Selection De Grains Nobles (’89). My favourite wines are nearly always Gewürztraminers, unless they are Rieslings. This is because I have a “hyper-sensitive” palate according to a tall man in a suit who gave me a sticker to prove it. A bold, sticky, harmonious marriage between liquor and pud.
Throughout the meal, the enthusiasm and charm of Jean Trimbach, Adam Byatt and (sommelier) Rupert Taylor was unrelenting and there were moments when my tongue was tied by the magic of a developing wine or a stunning element on the plate. Sadly, some of the food and wine matches felt forced and in these instances I couldn’t suppress the longing for one of those bubbly ciders. You need not worry about this however. Consume your Trimbach wine as you wish and keep an eye on Adam Byatt and Trinity; not everything coming out of that kitchen is perfect, but ambitions are high, sights are set and there’s a driving force of pure passion. I wish them all the success in the world.
The Trinity Pig masterclass costs £70 per person, including the butchery demonstration and lunch, matched with ciders and perrys. It runs from 10am-1pm. The next class will be held on Tuesday 2nd March. You can find details of other classes here.
You can see the rest of my photos from the evening here.
4 The Polygon
Tel: 020 7622 1199