This crab dinner has legs, but it’s running before it can walk
The potential of Instagram to power and propel businesses from mere photographic ideas into actual money making businesses is well known. It’s one thing to read about it though and quite to another to sit in a restaurant that has its origins in a square-shaped smartphone snap. Trap Kitchen started out as a series of food photos, complete with the brightly coloured and decadently oozy cliched Instaesthetic, all cooked up by the proprietor out of his flat. That quickly spiralled into an impromptu ad-hoc take-out business that has since birthed not one, but two restaurants – the original in Manchester and the second in Balham.
The Balham restaurant has a vaguely Art Deco-ish decor and largely serves the same small but eclectic seafood menu as its Manchester antecedent. Crab legs were easily the star of the show with exquisitely milky, sweet and quiveringly moist flesh. There’s no need to use crackers on the crab legs as they’re surprisingly easy to break open with your hands. Hold them horizontally in your hands and bend them in the middle, either up or down. Then repeat in the opposite direction. If you’re worried about messy hands, black latex gloves are available on demand.
Lobster tail was firm and meaty, but just a tad too dry for my liking. Not disastrously so, but enough to put it behind the crab legs in my affections.
Jerk chicken thighs were disappointingly dull. Although relatively succulent, the one-dimensional peppery spicing did not impress either the Giggling Boxer or the Wind-up Merchant.
The sides included with every protein can vary depending on the kitchen’s whim – corn on the cob was buttery and sweet, but the rice was so small-grained as to resemble quinoa and was strikingly unsatisfying both in taste and portion size. Prawns are a constant, although they will cost you a few bob extra on top. Although the genteel spicing won’t set your tongue alight, they had a reasonable springy firmness to them.
The real problem with Balham’s Trap Kitchen isn’t the lacklustre jerk chicken, but the frustratingly inefficient service. Simple tasks such as ordering food and settling the bill took such a laboriously long time, that it’s actually quicker to order and collect the food as takeaway instead. The fact that Trap Kitchen has acknowledged its front of house problem (in one of its Instagram Stories) is to their credit. That the remedy is seemingly as slow to arrive as a menu, dish or bill merely compounds the aggravation, but at least they’re aware of the problem.
Perhaps the sluggish service is a hangover from Trap Kitchen’s origins as a gonzo takeaway. Whatever the reason, at some point the proprietor has to put down the smartphone and concentrate on nitty-gritty operational issues. Otherwise, no matter how desperately London needs an affordable seafood restaurant like Trap Kitchen, the resulting experience is little more than a filter-hued trap.
What to order: Crab legs
What to skip: Jerk chicken
Name: Trap Kitchen
Branch tried: 76 Bedford Hill, Balham, London SW12 9HD
Phone: none listed
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 13.00-11.30. Closed Monday.
Reservations: not accepted
Average cost for one, including soft drinks: £30-35 approx.