Despite its astonishing three-Michelin-starred-Fat-Duck-raised pedigree — both chef Jonny Lake and sommelier Isa Bal made their bones at the Bray institution — Bermondsey’s Trivet has received relatively little attention from critics since opening last year. Perhaps it’s the deeply unsexy name; perhaps it’s evidence of a dodgy location that may have dogged former occupant Londrino. Whatever the reason, it certainly isn’t the food, as a thoroughly impressed William Sitwell indicates.
Granted, it doesn’t come cheap: two courses and a single glass of wine for two comes in at £135. But it’s still an “astonishingly legitimate goods-for-money exchange”: the space is “beautiful,” a combination of “cloudy beige walls”; “indented shelves bearing antique pots, kettles and scales”; and “oak panelling that sneaks round into the open kitchen and lends the pass the feel of a £50 million Chelsea kitchen.” And both a sour cream and onion puffini and the signature chicken with vinegar sauce are highly impressive — the former a study in contrasts between “salty caviar” and “frothy sabayon custard,” the latter verging on “perfect,” “soft and flavourful, with crisp skin and the most sublime mashed potato.” All in all, it’s a testament to “the glorious results of gentrification” (?) and “the audacious ambition of chefs” — “if you can afford Trivet, God speed.”
One hyped new opening that’s had no shortage of critical attention is Doug McMaster’s Silo in Hackney Wick — with Jimi Famurewa this week becoming just the latest scribe to take a seat at the upcycled, zero-waste table.
Yes, eating here does at times convey the “distinct sensation” of “being cornered at a party by an eco-evangelist who really, really wants to tell you how they can comfortably fit a year’s rubbish in a jam jar.” But “for all the unsexy talk of revolutionary virtuousness,” this is still a place “where spellbinding, veg-focused cooking is served by passionate, engaged people.”
Among the highlights are “badger flame beets,” “cold, sweet and apricot-hued with cow’s curd and a verdant moat of bay leaf oil,” and a fore rib of mature bull, “slow-braised into otherworldly, flaking ribbons.” And then there’s the coal-roasted Jerusalem artichoke with Stichelton sauce, “a rushing collision of smoke, fluffed sweetness and ripe tang like the narcotic pleasure hit of God’s own cheesy baked potato.” Some stuff maybe doesn’t work quite as well, especially when it’s bogged down with “process-heavy flourishes,” such as a “confrontationally vigorous” sage and squash seed pesto, or the “minimally sweet” ice creams for pudding. In general, though, Silo manages to turn its “radically serious” philosophy into a “surprisingly convivial” experience for the diner. It may be “a reinvented culinary wheel,” but “it rolls along in a pleasingly familiar fashion.”
Unfortunately, things aren’t quite as rosy over at the Guardian, where Grace Dent endures a very different kind of experience.
She describes a meal that suggests that “in the future, going out for dinner will be so little fun that eating corned beef in your bunker will be a lot more entertaining anyhow.” With “every course” on the tasting menu, “a server arrives, calls you “folks”, kneels down, proffers a tiny sliver of radish with a small fart of hemp cheese goo inside, before talking you through the lifespan of the radish and the seasonings and the puddle of glop in which it sits and all the minuscule stages of its cooking process, plus the flavour notes of which you need to be aware. If you’re in the mood for this kind of thing, you’ll love the place.”
If not, it’s a bit more of a hard sell, especially when some of the execution is off. Charred artichokes are so charred they resemble “something you’d find in the remains of your house after a fire”; their skin is “bitter” and “tastes, unsurprisingly, of fire”. Ultimately, Dent finds that the food becomes secondary to the “fuss” and “po-facedness” that runs through the experience. If this is “the future of sustainable fine dining,” it’s one in which “many of us may well decide to stay at home.”
If the past couple of years have been defined by restaurants named after proper nouns, the dual emergence of Silo and Sola in quick time suggests that the new decade may instead be characterised by places that sound bemusingly like one another.
Tim Hayward finds his way through the confusion to Victor Garvey’s California-inspired reworking of the former Rambla space, and leaves it largely contented.
Whilst in the age of Extinction Rebellion it is worth noting a slight “glitch in the logic” of the new concept — “using ‘local’ American ingredients in London means putting them on a plane” — it is nevertheless “a privilege to see what a cook with Garvey’s chops can do with them.”
Baked cardoon gratin with white truffle makes for a “staggeringly gorgeous vegetarian main,” or “the sort of side that will provoke an intervention from your personal trainer.” Roulade of smoked salmon is “a miniature portrait of the California ethos” and “tangentially, quite the loveliest bit of fish you’ll consume for approximately an aeon.” Foie gras ‘poêlé’ with “dim sum purses of langoustine, ginger, cavolo nero and a ‘century’ quail egg” may sound like total “cultural dissonance” but the various ingredients are “unified and given context by a different place, a different time and Garvey’s timeless skill and eclectic creativity.” Hayward admits that “there is a possibility that some people won’t ‘get’ Sola”. But in the end, he contends, “all will be converted” by some “solidly brilliant cooking.”
There’s more evangelism around the corner in Soho, where Marina O’Loughlin encounters borderline “divine” Sri Lankan fare at the recently opened Paradise.
If the “chic” décor is the first sign of the clear “ambition” on show, then the “multilayered and resonant” spicing of the house mutton rolls is further confirmation — as is the “electrifying” chilli ketchup served alongside. And if the “striking” quality of ingredients on show is more evidence of the “real care and love” that has gone into things here, the raw materials would mean nothing if they weren’t put to such “thrilling” ends — from a pork cheek curry “heady with lemongrass” and a roast chicken curry “as moody and smouldering as early, pre-cancelled Johnny Depp” to a “glorious” pair of seafood curries. Add in some “neat flourishes” that do more than just look the part — thoughtful garnishes and notable sambols — and it’s clear that the choice of name does not represent “hubris.” Instead, Soho has found itself a “little beauty.”
A “relatively short” menu comes on as “healthy, ingenious and reasonably priced”; when the food starts arriving it becomes clear that “the devil, or actually angelic intervention, is in the detail,” from the “shards of filo pastry deep-fried to multi-layered crispness” that enliven white tarama with fennel and red grapes, to “expertly” twirled manti dressed with yoghurt, herbs, chilli flakes and pul biber butter, to the “meticulous detail and dexterity” of a rabbit, apricot and almond pastilla. Gionleka apparently trained as a Greek Orthodox priest before finding his calling in the kitchen; these days, it is “prayers for spirited and delectable Ottoman food that are being answered”.