The much loved Michelin starred La Trompette continues to thrive in an area packed with competition from all types of cuisine, including another restaurant with a Michelin star. The 2013 refurbishment and extension (featuring a private dining room), completed during the recession, showed it had not lost any of its appeal.
The winning Platts-Martin formula of set menus with a wide choice, in effect an a la carte offering at a fixed price, has stood it in good stead. £29.50 for weekday lunch (£35 at weekends), and £49.50 for dinner are realistic and offer exceptional value for money at this level. Relaxed, contemporary surroundings in tones of brown and cream, with a terrace for al fresco dining and all week opening, both at lunch and dinner, are extra attractions.
Executive Chef Rob Weston has impeccable credentials having taken senior roles in the Michelin starred kitchens of Marco Pierre White, Guy Savoy, Michel Roux Jnr and Phil Howard – he was Head Chef at The Square for 15 years. Similarly, the career of Head Chef Olly Pierrepont has seen him cooking for Raymond Blanc, John Campbell, Simon Rogan and Chris Staines amongst others. The combined illustrious CVs guarantee a quality product in the carefully sourced, seasonally changing menus. Both chefs “cook what they love to eat”, preferring to be in the kitchen rather than being distracted elsewhere. Their skilled and versatile cooking is based on classical foundations with strong flavours, balance in tastes and textures, innovation tempered with restraint and clean presentation. Cooking methods with precise timing and accurate seasoning pay respect to the inherent quality of the ingredients, allowing purity of taste to shine.
Menus for dinner usually feature seven options in each course, with a good choice of fish dishes for both starters and mains. Lunch menus are slightly shorter. A recent innovation is a five course tasting menu, a snip at £49 for lunch, £70 for dinner.
I visited on a weekday lunchtime to find the restaurant busy – as usual – and keen to sample the tasting menu.
Two amuse bouches showed imagination and attention to detail. A delicate seaweed and tapioca cracker topped with pickled sardine needed gentle handling before producing a melting flavour explosion in the mouth. Equally enticing was a warm pork croquette with its crisp coating and satisfyingly fatty inside.
In a well balanced first course, the mild flavour and firm texture of raw Albacore tuna and bonito were enlivened by the meaty, juicy qualities of bull’s heart tomatoes marinated in herbs, the fragrance of which pervaded the whole dish. Avocado added a creaminess cut by the slight sourness of crème fraiche.
Hand rolled linguine dressed in Parmesan butter had a beautiful silky texture and a rich, creamy depth of flavour. The intense fungal aroma of Australian black truffle generously shaved on top raised this simple pasta dish to extravagant, ethereal heights. This luxurious dish will be hard to take off the menu!
An accurately grilled monkfish tail retained its lobster-like taste and meaty texture. Contrasting flavour and texture were provided by nutty black venere rice, sauteed octopus, and pea puree, the whole dish being brought together by a rich jus of almonds and raisins. Visually, also, this dish was stunning.
Barbequed short rib of Ayrshire beef, served off the bone with a classic veal based sauce had a soft, melting texture. This unctuous piece of meat, the most flavoursome of all cuts, showed the benefits of long, slow cooking. Potato galettes were crisp and buttery, girolles gave an earthy aroma and peppery flavour, wilted chard added a gentle bitterness and parsley puree a herbal note, all the accompaniments working well together.
Rhubarb soufflé with a crumbled top was light, well risen, and intensely flavoured. The secret – previously used at The Square – lay in a base of pureed rice pudding, which holds more of the fruit mixture, rather than the classic creme patissiere. The accompanying smooth rhubarb ripple ice had a well-judged balance of sweetness and acidity. Personally, I prefer to eat the two elements separately, enjoying the contrast in temperatures; for me, the practice of dropping the ice cream into the soufflé spoils the taste and texture of both.
Good coffee and truffles ended a memorable meal. This was enhanced by informative, solicitous and unobtrusive service overseen restaurant manager Patra Panas, whose charm and quiet authority enable the front of house operate like a well-oiled machine, but one with character and personality. Her key ally in this is Tanguy Martin, who recently joined the team after being named UK Moet & Chandon Sommelier of the Year. He follows in the footsteps of a series of noted sommeliers who have maintained an impressive wine list, strong in both Old and New Worlds. Although I did not opt for the wine flight, the recommended glasses of Macon Villages and Chianti Classico for the savoury courses were ideal. I’ll be back for the full works next time!
La Trompette delights in the consistency of producing an excellent product of which the whole team can be justifiably proud. The buzz of contented diners contributes to the sense of gastronomic excitement. Whatever the reason, a meal there is always a special occasion, and certainly worth a drive down the M4 from Maidenhead. I first reviewed it in 2004, and have visited many times since; it just gets better and better!