Clapham chef Adam Byatt celebrates 10 years of Trinity by opening a new restaurant, Upstairs
Words: Sudi Pigott
Cooking makes me smile,’ says Adam Byatt. He is perched at one of the oak counter tables of Upstairs at Trinity looking very content, if rather shattered. It’s been a monumental year. Trinity, very much a Clapham institution on the culinary map, is coming up to ten years old and Adam has been able to fulfil his dream of re-designing and extending the restaurant to create a second upstairs dining space that is sophisticated yet utilitarian.
Adam, who lives close to Wandsworth Common, is happy to be thought of as a Clapham chef. ‘I can get to the restaurants quickly and recognise plenty of familiar faces among the diners.’ He uses local suppliers too including his ‘great mates’ Garry of Moen’s for pork belly and veal and Robin Moxon for their smoked fish.
‘Upstairs’ Adam is experimenting with creating more ‘playful’ dishes using a huge variety of Mediterranean flavours and ingredients from Sardinian specialist Vallebona, owned by his great friend Stefano Vallebona. Rather different to Trinity’s more classical, seasonal, modern British menu, expect to see bottarga (smoked cod’s roe), fregola, cuttlefish, carta di musica and pecorino feature. The mostly small-plates menu will change daily.
Adam plans to have occasional chef guest nights. He is thrilled that one of his mentors, chef-restaurateur Philip Howard, whom he worked with at The Square has promised to do an evening. A Japanese chef Adam greatly admires, Yoshiko Wada, will also do a dinner.
Downstairs the interior by Adele Harrington too has been lightened up with lots of marble and stone, and green and heather pink seating, and the kitchen opened up more so that both guests and chefs can see each other. There’s wonderful paper cut-out collage artwork by an artist Adam first saw at The Connaught: Kristjana Williams.
For Upstairs, she has created an artwork that is added to each week with a new finely drawn plant cell structure. Adam points out that the main kitchen has unusually high work surfaces so that chefs are not bending down to plate dishes, but preparing them at the same height the customers see the food. Such details are clearly the work of a chef who cares and thinks deeply.
He promises that the kitchen will deliver food to an even higher level than before. Classics will remain whilst evolving including the crispy trotters, sauce gribiche and crackling and tuna carpaccio with avocado and lime. New dishes include Cornish plaice baked in seaweed butter with cockles and cauliflower and Moroccan-spiced goat shoulder with toasted buckwheat and date puree.
I’m very taken by the wine racks used decoratively around both dining rooms and Adam tells me proudly they now stock over 450 bins with a pretty serious list of Burgundy and Bordeaux and all the staff trained up to WSET wine standards. At the other extreme, Adam is innovating with three wines on ‘key keg’, a brand new system where the wines are literally on tap. He enthuses about how there is zero oxidisation of the wines and the kegs are entirely recyclable. Trinity has developed its own beer and gin too.
‘I always knew I would end up as a chef or something else very regimented,’ says Adam. ‘My grandfather was a cook in the army and my mother trained as a professional chef too and cooked properly at home. I was introduced to lots of different tastes from an early age and am determined to do the same for my son Jack, 11, who also loves to go hunting and fishing with me.’
Adam’s very first job was classy. He started at Claridge’s as an apprentice aged just 16 and credits executive chef John Williams as ‘shaping me and teaching me the classics plus the harder the work, the luckier you get. Being a chef is a huge sacrifice early on. He gave me the drive, direction and discipline I needed’. He went on to The Square with Phil Howard where the food is ‘thought provoking, modern and exhilarating’ . Recalls Adam, ‘Phil has had the biggest influence on my cooking. He is really one of the most incredible chefs and understands what makes people feel satisfied with food and translates that in a sophisticated way.’
Adam doesn’t see himself ever stopping cooking. He loves the buzz of service, the camaraderie and the banter, and loves owning restaurants, which makes him feel in control of his destiny. He is hugely keen on training and developing people too.
Sunday early evening is the regular dining out night in the Byatt household and they take it in turn to choose. Favourite choices include Abbeville Kitchen for its ‘fabulous food and spoiling service’, Peckham Bazaar, Artusi, Silk Road in Camberwell and, seven-year-old Rosie’s option, Dip & Flip on Battersea Rise.
The Byatt Christmas happens in Cornwall where Adam rents a big place for the family to congregate. ‘We invariably have prawn cocktail, which I think is a wonderful thing.’ For the turkey, Adam always removes the legs and bones and rolls them and cooks the crown separately for a much better finish. Goose fat is a must for proper roast potatoes. Adam prefers to simply blanch Brussels sprouts and finish with butter and chestnuts. He is a big fan of Christmas pudding ice-cream too.
Meanwhile, Trinity’s Christmas offer is a menu with a choice of three starters and puddings and whole roast goose to share. It is served with the breast pink, sticky wings and confit legs plus apple sauce and Brussels tops. Upstairs will be open for lunch and dinner in December. As to the future, Adam sees himself staying firmly based in Clapham. ‘I want to be considered a successful and ever-evolving institution where people want to work and eat.’ Will he be chasing (Michelin) stars? Adam grins: ‘That would be the icing on the cake, of course.’
4 The Polygon, Clapham SW4 0JG; 020 7622 1199; trinityrestaurant.co.uk