Penny Matthews

London chef as quirky as any South African

Sniffing out the best food in London is easy when the hand that feeds you is testament to those personalities you grew up knowing back home in South Africa.

Penny Matthews

Chef Jamie Draper of Trinity Restaurant in Clapham reminded me so much of what all South Africans are about. Forthright, yet humble, and driven by true grit when it comes to wining and dining.

Jamie, with his witty and candid approach, is passionate about all things deliciously refined and true to its flavour.

So naturally, when my Tuesday evening involved sitting ‘upstairs’ at Trinity in Clapham Common while feasting on the delightfully refined tapas plates of chef Jamie Draper, I was sold.

And what’s more, is that when dining in the company of his mother and dear friend, I was able to fire some questions at the charismatic and witty appeal of this chef.


Arriving at the refurbished restaurant and making my way upstairs, an immediate chef’s table experience is intimated with long sharing tables and open view of the delicate kitchen space at work.

The staff is knowledgeable, polite and by natural inspiration, encourage a taste of the cocktails on offer.

IMG_6067 IMG_6068The impressive wine cellar tugs at those liver strings as you eye out the chef preparing each plate on offer with a devilish smile on his face. It’s like watching a cat that’s got the cream: Passionate, proud and excitable.

Greeting us in high spirits, Jamie recommended what he personally likes, and let us loose on ordering. Feeling confident, I signaled that I was watching him and rightfully so, he signaled the same right back.

IMG_6070We began with the smoked haddock croquettes. So often the taste of the fish is too pungent or has somehow completely dissipated, but these were a perfect combination of buttery white fish and herb infusion.

IMG_6071Then came the burrata with romesco sauce and toasted crumbs. A healthy pizza – yes please! Heavenly and delicious with the fresh Italian cheese crisped by the toasted crust and a fresh red pepper base.

IMG_6072Next was the smoked salmon with pickled fennel and micro greens. Apparently a fan of pickling vegetables, Jamie’s calculated combination of bittersweet made the fennel a perfect accompaniment to the freshly cured salmon.

IMG_6073Now the BBQ stem broccoli with toasted hazelnuts and parmesan is how you get your kids to eat broccoli.

You add a moreish BBQ tasting stem, get your teeth stuck into it, then lap up the remaining broccoli heads with their buttery, nutty surroundings and parmesan shavings.

IMG_6074This chicken pastilla, korma spices and alphonso mango was absolute genius. The taste of a chicken korma curry elegantly wrapped in the guilt of a delectable spring roll.

And when all evidence of the crispy batter and chicken had gone, the sweetness of the mango suddenly felt like a desert. It’s an all-in-one tapas plate.

IMG_6075 IMG_6076The mussels with crème fraiche and wild garlic butter were succulently steamed and disappeared quickly as we used their empty shells to pick out the bacon and leek.

IMG_6077 IMG_6080The lamb chop with new potatoes and green sauce (i.e. salsa verde) was the perfect final savoury plate. The salsa verde added sweetness to the rich and fatty taste of a lamb slice and the lamb chop itself was the answer to any meat lover’s prayers. Hence the necessity to get my fingers dirty.

IMG_6078Time for a little sweetness. Blood orange salad, granita and buttermilk sorbet. Sweet, salty and just so pretty.

IMG_6079The peanut butter chocolate chip biscuit with crumbled salty peanuts, salted caramel sauce and a dollop of custard (on the side pour moi!).

This was an honest testament to the ever-growing craze of sweet and salty, yet with a refined homebaked appeal and rendition of grandma’s kitchen.

Perfectly wined, dined and delighted, the few questions thrown at Jamie showed such reverence that one could not walk away from this night without feeling excited.

In this constantly changing environment, what makes Trinity stand out from the rest?

Hah hah, easy! Our longevity. We revamped a year ago and always continue to refine and deliver, but keep true to our name and customer base.

What will you not compromise on?

S*#t staff food! I have absolutely no time for bad staff food. They deserve every taste that we create together. It drives me mad when places give their staff grotty leftovers. I’ll have none of that!

If you could be any ingredient, what would you be?

Salt. Am I allowed to say that?

What is your worst nightmare of a dish?

Hmm.. Nut roast! I mean, what the hell is that?

What is your favourite ‘go to’ meal at home. Or basically, your favourite hangover meal?

What, like after a night out? Or a weekend out?! Curry. It’s always curry!

What restaurants, naturally apart from Trinity, would you recommend?

I think Chez Bruce. Incredible crème brûlées. The way they achieve that perfection without the use of a bain marie is genius. Oh and have you been to Blacklock? The meat… so good! And their 24 hour roasted butternut.. well, yeah that’s what I’m talking about. (Pentenfoodie Blacklock Review)

IMG_6081Thank you Jamie Draper. You made Trinity upstairs delicate. Delicious in simplicity. Intimate. Entertaining.

A night well spent and inspired. And with the addition of three carafes of wine, all for only £37 per person. I’ll be seeing you again very soon.