Saturday, February 28, 2009

four o nine

It it wasn’t for Qype, I might never have known about this restaurant: and for years, I lived virtually around the corner!

What interests me is that this place has certainly captured the imagination of the Claphamites (or, at least, the qyping section of the Claphamites), as opposed to its competition on the common, Trinity, which hasn’t attracted nearly as many reviews, despite hanging in the same sort of price range, and with similar pretensions to above-average cooking.

Trinity’s decor feels a little bland and soulless - 409 gets it absolutely right. It’s a gorgeous, welcoming space, even though they cram as many tables in as humanly possible - great planning, from a turnover point of view. It feels intimate, not necessarily over-crowded, but it got completely ram-packed the Friday we were there.

I was emailed to confirm my booking, and then called on my mobile to re-re-confirm on the day, too. With (I thought) a pretty rude stipulation that we had the table for 2 hours max - pretty rich, I thought, coming from a neighbourhood restaurant (and this in the dog days of February).

I booked an early slot because Marie was just off a long-haul flight. We arrived just before 7 to a very quiet restaurant - but by 9 the place was heaving, and we had to shout to hear each other. We weren’t hassled to leave.

The staff were all pretty wonderful - friendly, polite, helpful and efficient. I really felt they were concentrating on making the experience good for us, but our waitress didn’t hover unnecessarily either - she actually had quite a large number of tables to look after.

And the food was faultless. Every element was just perfect. My sea-bass was fabulously fresh and tasty; Marie loved her chicken. We both had a sublime rhubarb compote and blood-orange sorbet for dessert.

Yep, it’s not cheap, and extras are very efficiently padded onto the basic special-offer menu (in the end, making up over 60% of the bill - despite we only had one glass of wine each). But I would say this is a real peach of place - can’t wait to go again.

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