Friday, 2 March 2012

La Trompette

La Trompette turns 11 in April. In London’s merry-go-round of a restaurant scene, 11 years is a significant achievement, when the lifespan of many establishments is shorter than a house mouse. Located off the beaten track in Chiswick’s Devonshire Road, the cosy Michelin-starred venue is very much a neighbourhood restaurant.

One fifth of Nigel Platts-Martin’s restaurant empire, which also includes The Ledbury in Notting Hill, The Square in Mayfair, Chez Bruce in Wandsworth and The Glasshouse in Kew, from the chocolate brown leather banquettes to the beige colour scheme, everything about La Trompette is achingly tasteful. On my visit, the small space is populated with local ladies and courting couples. Lighting is low and chairs square. An old-fashioned bar remains invitingly open at the far end, prettified with white orchids.

On arrival, Lionel, our baby-faced, bespectacled French sommelier, glides over to our table and launches into an impassioned recital of the wine list, pushing us towards daring pairings. Turning down his initial offer of a Greek Assyrtiko, I opt instead for his second suggestion – a zippy 2010 Zárate Albariño from Spain’s über cool Rías Biaxas region, which sings with apricot, lime and flint. Before the main event, my dining companion and I are treated to a cappuccino-coloured cup of cep and potato soup, served with a cheeky ham and cheese croûte. As if determined to fill us up, our waitress is unnervingly forthcoming with the walnut, raisin and olive bread, and I feel compelled to try the holy trinity.

The soup doubles for central heating on this frosty night, the earthiness of the mushrooms complementing the creaminess of the potato, the ensemble lifted by a citrus element I suspect to be yuzu, leaving me craving a mixing bowl full of the elixir (wooden spoon optional). Rather than a main course, I order three starters, perhaps having got so used to the sharing plates philosophy peddled in Soho’s hip hangouts. Their signature starter of foie grass dressed with lentils is heavenly. Accompanied by a slab of brioche shaped like a Champagne cork, the foie gras arrives in a white china pot beneath a bed of toad green lentils. Rich, creamy and impossibly smooth, each mouthful is more delicious than the last, and though the lentils add texture, I would have been happy with the creamy foie alone – why play with perfection?

A second starter of smoked eel with balsamic beetroot and egg and wasabi mayonnaise is enchanting. The pearl pink slices of meaty eel rest atop a bed of beetroot and watercress, the smoky taste of the fish lifted by refreshing cubes of apple dyed red by the beetroot ink, while the mustard-yellow wasabi mayo delivers a life-affirming kick of heat. After a trio of standout dishes, my final starter of tagliatelle, purple sprouting broccoli, capocollo and mozarella fails to reach such heights.

Though painterly in appearance, the pink ham and grass green broccoli jumping out against the sunshine yellow pasta, the consistency of the sauce is disappointingly watery, while the melted mozzarella chunks are bland and soggy. For a Michelin-starred restaurant, the dish doesn’t have the X-factor, lacking the intrigue and finesse I’d expect. Lionel however, delights, pitting 2009 Ernst Triebaumer Blaufrankisch from Austria against 2009 Black Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir. The former is floral, feminine and perfumed, while the latter bursts with black cherry and red berries, offering a easy going, fruity mouthful.

To enliven our palates, we’re offered a pre-dessert in the form of a tiny triangle of ginger cake, enhanced by a dollop of crème fraiche and grated lime peel. Pudding proper is a satellite dish of crème brûlée. The creamy, vanilla-flecked interior is à point, though I find myself defeated after half. To pair, Lionel presents his final flourish, a glass of 2008 Muscat de Samos Grand Cru, served so cold it needed defrosting. Had the bottle been left out in the snow?

Being a Chiswick local, I wanted to like La Trompette more than I did. I wanted to blow its trumpet. It has all the hallmarks of a superb neighbourhood restaurant – service is attentive yet unobtrusive, the atmosphere is animated, the interiors tasteful, and yet for me there was something missing. That all-important sparkle that separates a good restaurant from a great one. La Trompette displays flashes of brilliance, but it failed to keep my fire lit.

La Trompette, 5-7 Devonshire Road, Chiswick, London W4 2EU; Tel: +44 (0)20 8747 1836; £42.50 for three courses.

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