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What is it?
We all know that a surplus of expectation can be fatal. Ask anyone who’s released a hotly-anticipated sophomore album, or a second child who’s burst into the world after an older-sibling prodigy – ambition and creativity can wither away under pressure. And we have no doubt that chef Jonny Lake and sommelier Isa Bal were feeling it when, after long tenures at Heston Blumenthal’s outrageously popular The Fat Duck in Bray, they struck out on their own with Trivet, a so-called ‘kitchen, cellar, and bar’ on a cobbled street in Bermondsey.
It’s a marvel they didn’t disintegrate under the red-hot expectation. When Trivet opened in 2020, tables were booked solid with diners hoping for Heston-level greatness. Local press was calling it “the hottest ticket of the year”. The stakes, in other words, were high. They managed to come down from that hype wave relatively unscathed, and, fast forward two years later, they’re still quietly doing business for a less-fevered stream of clientele. But things are about to get pretty hype-y again. since they've just bagged two accolades from the bods at Michelin: one star, plus the Sommelier Award for Bal.
So it looks like Trivet's power duo are nipping at Blumenthal's heels. Still, though they haven't skirted all of the clichés of a Michelin-approved restaurant, Trivet's offering is fundamentally different than the fussy, fiddly food of a Blumenthal joint; rather, it has more of a quiet intelligence and self-possession about it. Its menu is more concerned with exhibiting the best ingredients than it is with showmanship – and sometimes those ingredients can be slightly outré or unfamiliar to local palates (see: cornsilk; green shoots of Monk’s beard; squiggly, orange Cordyceps mushrooms). The drinks are of equal importance to the food: Bal has organised the 350-strong wine list ‘chronologically’ – from ancient wine producing regions to the newest – and clued-up soms will happily point you towards a perfectly-pitched pairing for each course (sake is likely to make an outing, as well).
While we admire their exploratory spirit, sometimes they can go a bit too Robinson Crusoe. The way-outside-the-box ingredient combos don’t always work – see: the potato pastry-based millefeuille layered with sake and white chocolate mousse that tastes a little too, well, potato-y. But when things pay off, they can pay off in a big way and, happily, the drink choices never miss. Lake and Bal clearly have big plans, and we’re keen to see where they’ll go next (just be warned, the prices match their outsize ambition).
What should I order?
The mysteriously-named ‘Mushroom and Madeira’ doesn’t give very much away, so when the strange-looking dish arrives – orange, truffle-spotted noodles in a tangled bird’s nest, set in a quartz-black wading pool of salty mushroom sauce – it’s a surprise. The flavour, too, can’t be predicted. It's intensely salty with the comforting umami of ramen, made even more darkly intriguing by the addition of truffle.
The citrus butter-poached turbot is a rare thing – a perfectly cooked piece of fish. It’s exactly what you’d hope for, chewily tender but firm enough to stick your fork through, served with pieces of confit delica squash and wisps of black radish.
Risotto is often a cop out – a concession to vegetarians in the mains section, chucked in as an afterthought. But there was care lavished on Trivet’s version of the bog-standard meat-free rice – here it’s a creamy mound of freekeh served sandwiched between a sweet caramelised celeriac sauce and poached celeriac and radicchio, then splattered with a dill reduction.
Why should I go?
To catch two rising stars before they go stratospheric.
36 Snowsfields, London SE1 3SU