What is it with art and restaurants? There are some forms, such as painting and sculpture that can enhance a restaurant experience. While other forms, say live music and other performance arts, can be a distraction. Let’s be honest – no one has ever enjoyed mime while they dine. The risk for the restaurateur is that the art takes centre stage, relegating the restaurant to a supporting role. The risk for the artist is that their work is either taken out of context, or worse, not noticed. So striking the right pairing of art and restaurant is important. Sadly not everyone gets this right.
One place where they have successfully melded the two forms is the wonderful Trinity restaurant in Clapham.
Adam Byatt is one of my favourite chefs, and when his Old Town restaurant opened way back in the mid-noughties it lifted an area that was already on the rise. Trinity brought a genuine fine dining destination to a part of London that had good but mostly casual eateries. Nearly 10 years on and Trinity has reinvented itself again with the opening of its own casual eatery, Upstairs. Wooden communal dining tables are set along new picture windows with views onto the Old Town piazza. All dishes are cooked to order from an open island kitchen, where a selection of twelve small plates is on offer.
As with tapas, Upstairs is all about sharing, and on a cold and wet Tuesday evening my friend and I were happy to defer to our charming waiter to ‘pick our plates.’ And pick he did with and assortment of delights that included Crab Croquettes with Saffron Aioli; a Terrine of Partridge, Pear and Pistachio, Bitter Leaf and Apple Salad; and the delightfully named, and tasting, Monk’s Beard (similar to samphire), Burford Brown Egg, Seaweed and Salmon Roe. All of the dishes were flawlessly cooked and deliciously flavoured. But there was more. Cornish Squid Braised in its own rich black Ink, with Orzo and Bottarga and Farfalline Nero, Mussels, Leeks, Sea Herbs, and Creme Fraiche covered off the seafood course. And to finish us of a meat course consisting of Crispy Pork Jowl, Smoked Aubergine, BBQ Chorizo and Pickled Turnip; and a BBQ Venison Fillet, Carrot Puree, Aronia Berries, with Shallot Crumb. If I had to pick a favourite it would be the crispy pork jowl which was melt-in-your-mouth perfection, but the Monk’s beard pushed it a close second. We shouldn’t have had dessert but couldn’t resist. The mousse like, Chocolate Cremosa with Salt Caramel Ice Cream was gorgeous.
But what about the art? Well I’m no expert, but the installation by Kristjana S Williams is great. My description won’t do it justice (hence the photo) but it’s a mix of colourful flora and fauna looking out through hexagonal glass windows, arranged to form three distinct islands across the wall. If you didn’t know it was an installation you would assume it’s a well-designed interior feature of the restaurant. Which in essence it is. As with everything else, Trinity has got the balance just right.
On a rating from * to *****
Wining and dining ****
Serving and pouring *****
‘Art’ing and partying ****
Trinity & Upstairs
The Polygon London SW4 0JG
0207 622 1199
@TrinityLondon @TrinityUpstairs @adambyatt