Bistro Union, Clapham, London
Sister restaurant to Trinity.
A beer and onion soup is full of savoury browned onion flavour, backed by a stocky broth with a pleasant vein of beer flavour. The welsh rarebit that comes with it is excellent, a thin slice of bread with a cheesy and extremely nutty and umami filled topping.
Gunea fowl kiev is beautifully fried, the breadcrumbs crisp before the crunch of the underlying batter, then tender moist poultry and a judicious amount of oozy butter. Mashed swede dotted with parsley and/or some herb, provides a surprising refreshing sensation as contrast. Makes me miss the walnut pesto that Trinity serves with their quail kiev though.
Mint chocolate ice cream is full of crunchy chocolate chips, the fresh mint flavour supporting the chocolate well, the ice cream sparse compared to the chocolate (not a bad thing). Eccles cake ice cream is light by contrast, the texture smooth and light sticky, with gentle spice and raisin.
Lots of little snacks at the bar (up to about £4 for a fish finger sarnie), starters mostly £5-6ish, main courses in the low mid teens, except for the steak and chips. Excellent casual restaurant, but no surprise considering how good Trinity is.
Mussels were fairly standard, though a high proportion (3 in a starter portion of about 15) were unopened. A strangely nutty-tasting mayonnaise on the side. Aubergine, curd cheese and mint was brilliant, a sweet and tangy mint dressing (not unlike bottled mint sauce) livening up the smooth and creamy curds.
I didn't get a taste of the kiev but it looked and smelled amazing. Massive though, and certainly not very elegant on the plate! My bavette steak with garlic butter and homemade mushroom ketchup was probably one of the best steaks I've ever eaten. Tasty meat perfectly cooked to med-rare, and the mushroom ketchup added an intense savoury boost to each mouthful. Excellent crunchy chips and watercress and shallot side salad. A shame it was served in a grotty-looking board with a big crack down the middle so that all my bloody steak juice leaked onto the table.
Desserts were less successful. Set chocolate custard was not custard but a very solid heavy mousse. They replaced it with a scoop of the mint choc chip ice-cream. I was surprised by how un-sweet this was, more like a milk sorbet or gelato, and tasting very strongly of fresh mint. Lots of dark choc chunks.
I thought the wine list was a bit weird. There were 5 whites by the glass, ranging from 3.50 for own-brand unspecified from a tap, to 9 for a white burgundy. The in-betweens were a NZ sauvignon blanc, a mosel riesling, and possibly something english. The 3 sparklings wines they had by the glass were all english. We went for a carafe of the Union White for £11, on the basis that Trinity probably wouldn't put their name to something if it were rubbish; very fruity and sour like an SB but with a definite whiff of sweat. It came in a refliiable swing top bottle, filled from the tap. Not great, not awful.
It was ok but if I want small plates, an imaginitive wine list, good cooking and earnest waiters in skinny jeans and braces, I'd probably go back to Soif.