Trompette Restaurant Reviews (2005)

Posted on: April 11th, 2005 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

A Master Restaurateur by Simon Carter, Co-Editor

Nigel Platts-Martin enjoyed a distinguished career in law (Freshfields) and corporate finance (Warburgs) before moving into the restaurant business a dozen years ago. The Michelin Two Star Square restaurant, co-owned with chef Phillip Howard, is perhaps the jewel in the crown.

Meanwhile, with business partner and chef Bruce Poole, he owns Chez Bruce, The Glasshouse and La

Trompette; all immensely popular goldmines, delivering Michelin One Star standard cooking to two full sittings every evening service.

It is perhaps sad that La Trompette is the only one of the family to not formally receive the nod from Michelin for its achievements. Nevertheless all four restaurants would comfortably appear in the 2005 London Top 60 Restaurants within the 1% Club were the Glasshouse in Kew considered ‘London’by the Guides.

So it is easy to see why Mr Platts-Martin is laden with industry awards acclaiming his ‘restaurateurism’.

Hirings are clearly astute and promotion is encouraged from within. Ollie Couillaud is in the process of moving to The Dorchester. Since March 2001 and the opening of La Trompette, Ollie has been a fixture as Head Chef, gaining Which? Good Food Guide London Newcomer of The Year recognition for the restaurant in their first year. Ollie had previously spent time under the tutorage of Bruce Poole at Chez Bruce, an experience shared by his soon to be successor -James Bennington.

This sense of family extends to the front-of-house where Romain Vrinat is restaurant manager; Romain spent five years as a maitre d’ at The Square. The Head Sommelier – Matthieu Longuere – joined the team from Hotel du Vin (Bristol) in 2002 and has rapidly become bedecked with awards including AA Guide, Tio Pepe Carlton and TW Wines recognition.

Since the early days, the food has moved on from rustic and earthy to significantly more refined. Prices remain very generous at £32.50 for three courses for dinner (I can’t remember a price increase), while at the same time the restaurant appears to be doing the opposite of cutting corners on portion control.

On this occasion (I must have visited a dozen times over four years) I started with six warm oysters topped with sauce mousseline and caviar. Sauce mousseline is

effectively Hollandaise lightened by whipped egg whites or cream. There was no ‘crunch for contrast’ or any spinach – just simple but effective, just what I wanted.

The main course was equally straight forward – cote de boeuf with sauce béarnaise and chips. The cote de boeuf comes from the rib of the animal as opposed to Chateaubriand which is a fillet (the latter named after the 19th century French author and statesman Francois Chateaubriand); I mention this as both may be served in similar fashion. A generous custard tart for pudding was enjoyed after a cheesboard of impressive variety albeit mixed ripeness.

Service was charming, professional and efficient throughout and added to the undoubted buzz of happy smart casual dining in the suburbs.

It will be fascinating to experience the impact of James Bennington; there is little to choose in style or execution between Chez Bruce and La Trompette – will we see an individual signature? The key perhaps to even more success for the Nigel Platts-Martin empire.

A Chiswick Gem by Daniel Darwood, Co-Editor

An “effusion” of eateries! A “riot” of restaurants! In fact, what is the collective noun for a group of dining establishments? Whatever term it is, Chiswick qualifies in abundance. The high street is profuse with every possible type of cuisine, along with coffee houses, wine bars and pubs; fittingly so, given the wealthy professional classes that populate this western suburb: why go to the West End when so much is on offer a stone’s throw away?

The real gem, almost hidden from view if walking along Chiswick High Street, is La Trompette, a modern, stylish, French restaurant which was Which? Good Food Guide London Newcomer of the Year in 2002. Tucked in between and opposite various ethnic restaurants in a busy side street, with awning and outside tables for al fresco dining, the restaurant exudes a confident, sophisticated, and refined air of luxury. Fortunately, complacency is not in evidence. The restaurant, shortly to have a new head chef given the imminent departure of Ollie Couillaud to the Dorchester, continues to produce classic and modern French dishes of high quality, with a few new creations to reflect the seasons and ring the changes.

With slightly cramped space, and no bar area, the diner is immediately confronted – when the restaurant is full – with a cheerful buzz. The décor is tastefully understated, with padded leather banquets, spotlights, floor to ceiling windows and a touch of tubular steel; all in perfect harmony with each other and a fitting backdrop for the culinary delights being served.

With 8 choices in each of the three courses – a real bargain at £32.50 (£42.50 including cheese) – an embarrassment of choice awaits the discerning diner. One can be certain shellfish, game, offal, poultry and red meat featuring on the savoury courses. Starters are in many ways the most creative and imaginative area of the menu. Consider for instance, a tarte fine of venison, comprising feather light puff pastry with a celeriac tatin and horseradish cream. Although a rich dish, embellished as it was with a port reduction, the effect was not heavy or cloying. Nor was it over sweet which can easily be the case with many inferior versions. The taste of the medium rare paper thin venison fillet was enhanced but not overwhelmed by the garnishes, the horseradish cream proving also an excellent balance with its slight acidity and nuttiness.

Sharing a cote de boeuf would seem a gourmand’s indulgence of massive proportions. What prevented this from happening was partly due to the perfect timing of the cooking (medium rare), and the expert carving after an appropriate resting period. The taste of good meat is always enhanced when carved fairly thinly. The beef was also well hung, exuding much flavour from the marbled fat. In addition, the red wine sauce and the accompanying classic béarnaise, produced a deeply satisfying contrast of tastes and consistencies. The pommes frites, probably cooked in ground nut oil, provided a cleanness of flavour without the over richness often found in duck fat chips.

The cheeseboard provided highlights for those lovers of strong tastes, although the full variety of tastes and textures were on offer, from cow- goat- and sheep’s milk.

The deserts ranged from highly complex, rich and multi component based choices, such as the plate of Valrhona chocolate puddings, to the more simple but elegant alternatives such as custard tart with nutmeg ice cream. The star choice was an exotic fruit trifle. Lacking the heaviness of the traditional English version, it excited the eyes and the taste buds. Amaretto biscuits, Malibu liquer, fresh mango, pineapple, guava fruit salad was clouded by an ethereal passion fruit mousse of great intensity but perfect lightness. The accompanying deep fried coconut milk beignets, mimicking fresh coconuts, provided a perfect contrast of taste, texture and temperature. The thinking behind this dish combined old and new worlds, with an appropriate fusion of ingredients and techniques.

Cooking of this quality, and service of such professionalism, has not as yet qualified for a Michelin Star. The three knives and forks rating, which represent comfort and welcome significantly under values the performance of La Trompette.. Short of blowing its own trumpet, its many regular diners and admirers should blast its virtues to the heights.