He’s just been awarded a Michelin star for Clapham restaurant Trinity as well as a coveted Bib Gourmand for sister restaurant Upstairs at Trinity, so Adam Byatt is well and truly the man of the moment. We caught up with him to see how a Michelin star changes things, why Clapham is his chosen empire and where he chooses to dine on his days off.
Did starting out at Claridge’s dictate your style?
Claridge’s and the apprenticeship that I did there dictated my deep-rooted love and understanding of classical cookery and first class ingredients. It also taught me how to work in a big hierarchy and showed me what truly wonderful places hotels are. 5-star hotels are the epitome of escapism and the attention to detail at a hotel such as Claridge’s stays with you for life.
You’ve won several awards, which has meant the most to you?
We have garnered many amazing awards over the years but being awarded a Michelin star at Trinity this year tops everything. Michelin is by far the most recognised and respected food guide in the world and to be recognised by the guide is simply amazing for myself and the team.
Have you noticed a difference since winning a Michelin star? (positive or negative?)
There are simply no negatives to being awarded a Michelin star. We have been open for a decade now and have forged a very solid and robust business with incredibly loyal guests. Being awarded a star on top of this is far more significant than being that restaurant that received a star after only a few months and your entire business model is reliant on the accolade. Michelin does not define Trinity, it endorses our work to date.
Tell us something about the Michelin process we may not know?
Some people (generally those without a star…) will say that the process is inconsistent and the guide outdated. But the Michelin Guide dined at Trinity five times (that I know of via images posted on Twitter) in the 10 months between our reopening after the refurbishment and the guide closing for publication. There is simply no other guide that attributes such financial or time commitment to its assessments. I also believe that we have only been this constantly good for a prolonged period now and Michelin called it completely right.
With the folding of Jus and closing of Thyme how do you deal with setbacks or when things don’t turn out how you wanted them to?
I have had business successes and failures along the way for sure. But I started out on my own at 26 with no financial backing or acumen so it’s not that surprising. In fact it’s pretty surprising that I’ve made it this far… it was without doubt the failures that taught me the most. I would much rather invest in a chef who has seen hard times than one that has only experienced the bright side of life.
Back in 2001 it was a brave, or possibly short-sighted, decision. But 15 years on and Clapham is a genuine hot spot for food in London. Long may it continue.
When I first visited the site for Thyme in Clapham, I did a thorough walk around and went into M. Moen & Sons, the butchers on the pavement. It was selling calves brains, foie gras, veal kidneys and all manner of amazing foods. That was the moment I decided Clapham would work for me.
Do you think it’s important to have a trademark style or is it better to experiment across establishments?
Good question. I’d like to think there is a very recognisable and definitive style to what we do. But we put this out across three restaurants which are designed to appeal to three different markets. Trinity is a special occasion, fine dining restaurant, Bistro Union is for families and simple bistro fare, brunch and quick bites, while Upstairs is all about casual dining, larger groups, music, atmosphere and sharing plates. The produce we use and our approach to food runs through all of what we do, we just offer it differently and at a varied price point.
Most memorable moment in your career?
I’ve had more incredibly moments in the career than I could possibly list. Cooking for royalty, and food royalty such as Piere Koffman, Gordon Ramsay and Heston, being taken to Hong Kong to represent the GREAT British campaign before the Olympics was amaing, receiving the keys to my first restaurant, winning the evening standard restaurant of the year at 27 which was televised—these moments were all incredibly special, but of course the Michelin star tops the lot.
Do you have a signature dish (at home or in one of your restaurants)?
I’ve been doing this for quite a while so have a very solid go-to repertoire of food. But the pig’s trotter starter and the ravioli at Trinity are both dishes very close to my heart.
Do you still find time to cook or as you take on more responsibilities do you not do as much as you’d like?
I have to cook otherwise I go mad, it’s as simple as that. I cook upstairs on Tuesdays, at my bistro on Wednesday and Thursday through to Saturday is spent at Trinity. So I’m still cooking between 4-6 days a week and I can’t see that changing any time soon. It’s the reason that we are able to stay busy, maintain the high standards that we aspire to and support a strong and consistent team. I have an amazing personal assistant called Emma whose primary role is to help me be able to still cook and achieve a work-life balance.
Where would you eat out on a day off?
I tend to eat locally normally; Petersham Nurseries, Peckham Bazaar or May the Fifteenth for dinner anyway. I love Chez Bruce for a long wine-fuelled lunch, and drinks-wise I tend to head to Spuntino Soho before heading east to Happiness Forgets—being sure to write off the next day…
Tell us about some of your charity work?
I have been involved with the Academy of Culinary Arts for many years now, and judge their Annual Awards of Excellence every year, as well as participate in their Adopt a School programme.
We are also about to enter into ‘Pig Week’ at Bistro Union, where a portion of every guest meal will be donated to Action Against Hunger, a charity providing sustainable solutions to hunger for malnourished families around the world. We make an effort to support as many local charities as possible, such as Royal Trinity Hospice, and strive to give back to the local community in as many ways as we can.
We’re in Trinity, what should we order?
Start with a glass of grower Champagne, a plate of our house charcuterie to share, pig’s trotter or ravioli followed by the seabass and beef fillet with tart bordelaise, and don’t leave without sampling the salt caramel custard tart and the soft serve ice cream. Drink a bottle of Guffins Montrachet followed by the Nuit St George 09 and a glass of Morgon. You’ll not forget that meal in a hurry.
Trinity reservations: 0207 622 1199