Adam Byatt is a foodie-world favourite. He first hit the headlines – in a modest way – back in 2002, when his Clapham restaurant Thyme was at the cutting edge of the ‘tasting plate’ revolution. Then – flushed with success – he moved Thyme to Covent Garden. It failed, however, and he subsequently re-launched on the same site as ‘Origin’. Hidden-away on the first floor of a multimedia centre, Origin has still always had difficulty attracting the following its interesting cuisine deserves.
This new outlet takes Mr Byatt back to his ‘roots’, near Clapham Common (just a couple of hundred yards from the original Thyme). The obvious problem is that Clapham has never proved itself a ‘natural’ fine-dining destination, and you have to have real innovation or quality on your side to succeed.
Well, on our visit, there was no particular innovation, and nothing about this place was quite good enough. For a start, the setting is below the aspiration level: at £50 a head, you do not want to hear, as we could, a deep-fat fryer bubbling away during your lunch. (Nor to smell it, but that was probably just a ventilation teething problem.) But, in the last analysis, it was the food which let the place down. If customers go to the trouble of seeking out a place like this, they need to be rewarded with intense flavours. We weren’t, with none of the half-dozen dishes we sampled really impressed. Even bread, hot from the oven, was a non-event.
Perhaps it was just early days. But we can’t help thinking that a visit to Origin, with its handier West End location, would still be a better bet.