Wednesday, 5 February 2014

La Trappiste

It's been a week since I'd seen Ellie and Claire.  A week.  Now that may not sound like much to you but when you are used to seeing each other at least 3 times a week this feels like an absolute age.  I'm not being melodramatic when I say that a few more hours would have resulted in palpitations and profuse sweating.  This was a friendship medical emergency and we needed to get lunch together stat.

We organised the date, I promised to do a bit of online research into where we should go (too many choices), utterly failed to make good on that promise (too much to do at work) and in the end Ellie made the decision for us.
Photo courtesy of imagekind.com
Photo courtesy of www.geograph.org.uk
La Trappiste.  Or, in, Ellie's words, the Belgian place that does nice chips.  It's an olive green cafe shaped like an scalene triangle that is sandwiched right between Chambers and The Chocolate Cafe.
La Trappiste shouldn't really work.  It's a bar, restaurant, coffee house, bakery (including bespoke celebration cakes), patisserie, breakfast joint and baking school all under one roof.  By anyone's measure that's a lot going on, and yet, somehow, it all fits.  By their own admission they are 'not just a resturant' and I get the feeling that they might be a bit insulted if you were to describe them as such!
I've heard mixed things about La Trappiste.  Some reviews have absolutely raved about it; others have described the food as mediocre and the service as less than stellar.   I've never been before so it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I made my way up the soggy highstreet one Sunday afternoon, trying to keep my umbrella the right way round (umbrella's and Canterbury don't mix.  We always tell the students not to bother and just bring a hooded coat - I don't know why I don't listen to our own words of wisdom) and wondering where on earth everybody was.  It was the last weekend in January and the city appeared deserted.  This could have been the torrential rain or the fact that most people were waiting to be paid, but it was a little eerie how quiet everywhere was.

I got a text just as I was running up the highstreet to say that the girls were upstairs in the gallery.  This space is huge, with a glass floor that you can look through to see people below in the bar (don't stand on it wearing a skirt), a huge glass ceiling that just pours light in and a terrace that acts as a suntrap in the summertime overlooking the bustling highstreet.

Decor wise.  It's...eclectic.  The life size sculpture of Botticelli's Birth of Venus hanging on the wall complete with painted toe ring, with her modesty covered by what looks like a cheap nightie bought in a charity shop and painted, was just weird.  I'm not an artist but this was just baffling.
The rest of the decor was along similar lines and just made me a bit puzzled.  The murals crossed greco-roman mythology and attitudes with early Christian monastic engravings, all in a tribute to beer. Downstairs felt more in keeping with the continental feel of the restaurant, with mismatched booths padded in green leather and wood fixtures.  The decor does makes you smile which I like.  The longer I sat upstairs the more I loved it.  It's nice to see somewhere where there is a ton of personality and clearly a huge amount of effort has gone into hand painting the walls.
In the toilets (what is it about Canterbury's restaurant toilets that always have the interesting features?) there are stone carved murals which have the appearance of having been uncovered and preserved.  It would have been nice to have had a bit of background information to these but alas, I could find none.  As a side note in the toilets they also have a big bag of useful things for parents with babies when they need to change them, like wet wipes and spare nappies.  It's a really thoughtful little touch - I'm not sure if they have them in the men's as well, but I would hope so (is it obvious that I work in an equality field?).  In case you were wondering, I don't normally take my camera to the toilet.  I just came out to get it when I saw the wall murals.
So anyway, enough of what the place looked like, onto the food!  First up, the drinks menu, which also gave a little bit of background to La Trappiste.  I love the fact that you can get traditional drinks like dandelion and burdock or sarsaparilla here.  It makes it feel a bit more olde worlde. 
The menu is enormous, with oysters and pigeon breast to burgers and Belgian beef stew, fish and chips, steak frites, risotto, tarts and of course mussel pots in a variety of flavour options.  Claire went for the traditional moules frites with garlic, white wine and cream.
I went for the BBQ pulled pork and cheese roll with chips and jalapeno's.
While Ellie went for a burger in a foccacio bun.  All the meals were simple, straightforward and filling with good flavours.   My pork could have done with a little more heat and the jalapeno's a little more vinegar to cut through the sweetness of the BBQ pork but it was still tasty.  Claire's mussels were fresh, plump and tasted of the sea and Ellie's burger was cooked perfectly and clearly freshly made. 
After having our scraped clean plates cleared away we then moved onto dessert from the patisserie counter.  I can't exactly remember what Ellie had but there was chocolate and raspberry mousse involved.  It was nice but again I could have done with more fruit kick and a bit more bitterness in the chocolate (I pinched a couple of forkfuls off her). I'm a bit hard to please with regards to patisserie as, to be honest, I'm not that big a fan of it (I would much rather have a hot chocolate fudge brownie or a slice of lemon tart, hence the reason I didn't order dessert and just pinched a taste of the others to try it) so I'm probably being unfair here! Claire had Coffee Choux which, I must admit was divine, and just look at that delicate piping work.  Again I only had a taste as I don't normally like cream cakes but this was lovely.

We stayed and chatted all afternoon as the rain pounded down outside until the light started to fade slightly and we realised with shock we had been sat there for coming up to three hours.  All credit to the staff, they were attentive and ensured we weren't left waiting for service without crowding us or making us feel like we had to leave.  To be honest, there was barely anyone else there so I would have been irritated if we had been forced out!  It may be different when there is greater pressure on tables.
Overall, it's not the best lunch I have ever had in Canterbury but it was also certainly not the worst by a long stretch and it was reasonably priced.   I feel a bit of a soft spot for La Trappiste.  It is quirky and has character and I like that about it.  Would I come back again?  Absolutely - I want to road test the steak and that huge beer and ale selection I spied behind the bar as we left...

6 comments:

  1. What a beautiful little place! Each detail is so unique and I love how they have so many different sections! The desserts look fantastic! :)

    http://englishroseuk.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. I think quirky just about sums it up! You have a beautiful blog by the way - your header is divine! xx

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  2. Love it, the place looks quite special and the food looks delicious!

    Tamara's Blend

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    1. The food is really lovely! You have a new follower by the way - your photography is just stunning, such a good eye! x

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  3. Glad you had good food. I've eaten there twice and the food and service was terrible both times. The only place I've ever been where I was served tinned potatoes as part of my meal. It's especially galling as the best restaurant in Canterbury (Deesons) is over the road.

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    1. I've heard that from a few people and was nervous about trying it - maybe it was because it was so quiet, but we had a really good experience!

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