Trivet in London Bridge: A work of passion from Jonny Lake and Isa Bal
When the chef and sommelier running the UK’s most celebrated restaurant – and one of the world’s most famous, the Fat Duck – start their own project, it’s natural that expectations are extremely high. The opening of Trivet tastes like the opening of Core, with everyone wondering: will the food be as good as (if not better than) what they did before under someone else’s name and guidance?
We are in Snowsfields, where Londrino used to be, and we enter the as yet untarnished world of Jonny Lake and Isa Bal. There’s no doubt that passion drives everything here. It exudes from Lake’s dishes and his shy, yet outspoken, excitement for what he is doing. His memories of working in Italy are reflected in the menu; he recalls the technique used to cook turbot in Liguria – in a pan, with salt, wine and herbs – which he adopts and has adapted to his taste. There’s also handmade pasta, a tribute to a friend from Tuscany and travels in that region. It’s borderless food, with French elements as well as a dessert inspired by Japan.
The cellar is represented by a massive book – imagine an arty coffee-table one – containing a list based around the history of winemaking. It’s not a huge selection, but one that draws on the bottles loved by master sommelier Bal, from all over the planet.
The ambiance is informal, sleek and almost Nordic. Chromatically, it’s not too different from Hide. The mise en place is essential and there’s no tablecloth. The focus is on the food – prepared in an open kitchen – and the drinks. The overall feeling is that we are in the early stages, with some fairy dust missing. It’s still a bit cold, but things will come together – hopefully distinctive, warm details such as plants outside, too.
The menu is quite simple: there are five starters and five mains. No amuse-bouches, no intermediary courses. We have Dante’s Pici and the scallops. The former is a handmade spaghetto, served with red mullet, artichokes and samphire. While it lacks a proper sauce to keep all the elements together, the dish leaves a mark for the quality – and taste – of the produce. The scallops deliciously meet the bitterness of the barbucine endive and the crunchiness from sesame and pomegranate seeds. We enjoy these with a glass of Santorini 2018 (90% assyrtiko, 10% athiri and aidani) from Artemis Karamolegos: exactly what I wanted. We also try a London sparkling, made with traditional method (like in Champagne) from Enfield-grown grapes (a classic cuvée: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier).
The mains rock. I haven’t had a pigeon this good since a crazy spiced one from Septime about a year and a half ago. Here, the spiciness of the sauce and the Malagasy wild white pepper – you wouldn’t believe the intensity of its smell – never overshadow the taste of the bird’s meat, which is remarkably tender, due to a process of overnight marination with yogurt and milk. The pigeon is finished over the grill’s flame, right next to the burning coals. This is truly spectacular, and the cabernet franc Chateau du Hereau Saumur-Champigny 2016 from Philippe and Agathe Vatan goes perfectly with it. Our other choice, a turbot, is soft and firm thanks to the salt-cooking technique, and its sauce perfectly supports and enriches the sophisticated flavour of the fish.
Finally desserts that do not disappoint. The choice is obvious: the baked potato mille-feuille Hokkaido Potato with sake gelato and white chocolate mousse, and the Gianduja Fondant with coffee ice cream. Both dishes do what they promise. The mille-feuille is revelatory and it’s prepared with exceptional pastry skills. The fondant is chocolate heaven, the melted gianduja flowing out of the cake. A conversation with Bal leads to us tasting an exceptional sake, a blend of three vintages – 1972, 1973, 1974 – from Kamogawa Syuzou. If you are into Japanese rice wine, it will blow you away.
The identity of Trivet is not defined yet. There are elements of a local restaurant as well as some of a destination one. It’s modern but not modernist, with ancient roots, in its wine and cooking techniques. It’s essential, humble – almost unassuming – but with strong underlying ambitions. What is clearly defined, though, is that what goes on the plate and into each glass is the result of a process of carefully sourcing and respectfully treating some of the best produce available. Isn’t that what the restaurant business is about, after all?
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Trivet, 36 Snowsfields London SE1 3SU, call 0203 141 8670 or visit their website here.