Absolutely London speak to Adam Byatt, the brains behind three of SW London’s most popular restaurants
Words Elysia Agnew
How did you get your break in the industry?
I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work at Claridge’s and The Square early on in my career. Both were invaluable experiences that shaped me into the chef that I am today – both for different reasons. Claridge’s and John Williams (Head Chef at the time), taught me how to work, organise myself and operate in a high-end kitchen. It taught me discipline and structure. Phil Howard at The Square taught me to cook in a restaurant environment, to understand the seasons and how the restaurant business really works. I have a limited but meaningful CV!
Tell us about your first venture, Thyme in Clapham?
Thyme was my first solo venture, people generally have more fond memories of it than me but there is no doubting that it was the start of my journey into being a restaurateur. A bit like Upstairs, I changed the menu every day and it served small plates at very reasonable prices. But it was incredibly inconsistent and haphazard. Upstairs is much more controlled and there is an enthusiasm that is new.
How did Trinity come about?
Trinity came about quite naturally, I was ready to return to my roots in Clapham with a rejuvenated approach to fine-dining. When we started out, way back in 2006, our self-set mission was to serve great food. It had to be seasonal, inspirational and, above all, delicious. Now in our tenth year, our priorities have not changed one single bit. We aim continuously to provide our guests with a memorable gastronomic experience. It could be a fine, cheerful lunch, or it might be a magnificent dinner to celebrate a special occasion.
How do you balance your time between the three Clapham restaurants?
That’s a very good question! I tend to divide my week up equally between the restaurants, but as with so many things, there never seems to be enough time in the day. Much of what has enabled all of the restaurants to thrive is our team, and their incredible commitment throughout the years. There are a lot of great people that have been with me since the very beginning, and together we form an opinion of what the restaurants should stand for, what their goals are, what their culture feels like, and what the restaurants feel like as a dining experience.
How do your diners differ in each of the restaurants?
I thinks it’s less a matter of how the guests themselves differ than it is a case of their dining experiences differing. We are fortunate enough to have a wonderful local following and tend to see our guests throughout our restaurants on different occasions. I like to think of Trinity as the restaurant for special occasions and celebrations, while Upstairs is the kind of casual food that I like to eat and Bistro Union as an extension of the food that I cook at home. Each of the three experiences offers something personal to our guests, albeit in different ways.
You change your menus on a regular basis, particularly at Upstairs where the options can change daily. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I have a large back catalogue of recipes to draw from, a very definitive style and I think that after so many years, I have a deep understanding of what it is our guests expect from our food at Trinity. Overall it’s the seasons that inspire the dishes both at Trinity and Upstairs. I love taking a single impeccable and in-season ingredient and applying our style to it, making it sing and bring joy to our customers. I also eat out a lot which is great for nudging me to remember a technique or dish that I may not have used for a while.
What is your favourite season to work in in terms of produce and menu inspiration?
It goes without saying that every season has some incredible offerings, although late summer through to autumn brings us into the heart of game season, one of my favourite times of year. Every year, I find myself anticipating the incredible variation of birds and flavour, and the different methods of cookery required to get the best out of them. We celebrate that choice and variety on the menu during game season, as much of the rest of the year can be pretty limiting protein-wise.
Your favourite dish?
My favourite dish is never stationary, it changes from day-to-day and season-to-season. Right now at Trinity, our salt caramel custard tart has proven to hit a chord with our guests. For many of us with fond memories of traditional custard tarts, this is a very approachable dish in concept. I absolutely love a good twist on a classic pudding and for me, this salt caramel custard tart just hits the spot.