★★★☆☆ / Eclectic / Seafood

Trap Kitchen review – affordable seafood swims into Balham via Instagram

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.

illustrative photo of the decor at Trap Kitchen Balham

There’s more seating, mostly designed for couples, tucked away in the back.

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.

illustrative photo of the snow crab legs and jerk chicken at Trap Kitchen Balham

Everything currently comes in polystyrene/styrofoam takeaway containers, even if you’re dining in. Although that probably makes things easier for the kitchen, the polystyrene/styrofoam is also environmentally hazardous. They should really phase it out as soon as they can.

illustrative photo of the snow crab legs at Trap Kitchen Balham

The crab legs were consistently good.

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.

close-up photo of the lobster tail at Trap Kitchen Balham

Any social activity is immeasurably improved with the presence of black latex gloves.

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.

illustrative photo of the jerk chicken at Trap Kitchen Balham

Between the two of them, dining companions The Giggling Boxer and the Wind-up Merchant have eaten far more jerk chicken than I could possibly do so in my lifetime.

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.

illustrative photo of the prawns at Trap Kitchen Balham

Foiled again.

The Verdict

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

Web: https://www.instagram.com/trapkitchen/

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 13.00-11.30. Closed Monday.

Reservations: not accepted

Average cost for one, including soft drinks: £30-35 approx. 

Rating★★★☆☆

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