This review of TraTra, Shoreditch has been a little delayed because I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to write it up or not. However I started this blog to review (fairly, I hope) restaurants and to give my honest opinion on whether I’d recommend them to a friend. So here it goes…
A group of three of us visited TraTra in Shoreditch at the start of March during their 50% off soft launch. TraTra (which according to their menu is a French term to describe a mix of traditional and contemporary) is located deep in the depths of The Boundary Hotel’s basement in Shoreditch, right across from Smoking Goat (click to open that review in a new tab).
Despite the harsh-looking descent down the many stairs, once you reach TraTra it is surprisingly spacious. Dimly lit, more elegant and stylish than any of us were expecting. I liked the atmosphere and they’d certainly packed out the place for their soft launch which was great to see. The deal was 50% off all food and house wine and we arrived hungry so we ordered rather liberally! There’s a mix of small plates and some larger plates designed for 2-4 people to share. There’s a decent wine list and I can see it being very popular for post-work East London drinks and nibbles.
Nb. The prices I’ve noted were the normal menu prices at the time of our visit. Our meal was 50% off everything we ordered. Since the soft launch is over, I thought the normal menu prices would be more helpful.
Tempura vegetables with a lemon aioli (£5.50)
This was one of our favourite small plates, the tempura was really light and not too greasy. The paprika-speckled aioli with the lemon kept the dish light, though we could have done with a little more of it. The broccoli was particularly tasty.
Rabbit and spring herb terrine (£6)
In complete contrast, this was unanimously the worst dish. None of us had more than a couple of mouthfuls of this. For me, and the others on the table, our idea of terrine was a solid (or fairly solid) mix of different cuts of meat, served in a slice. So you can imagine our confusion when what looked like a salad arrived in a big black bowl. We double checked that it was the right dish and were told it was indeed the terrine.
In reality, our terrine was akin to the wet food sachets I give my kitten. Chunks of slimy meat and lots of jelly not attached to anything floating amongst salad leaves and a bunch of herbs so big it masked any flavour that the dish might have had. I can’t decide if their terrine hadn’t set and they’d tried to make the best of it, or if it was meant to be like that – I would hope it’s the former.
Frites with aioli (£3.50)
Luckily, the chips were much better. Fat and fluffy on the inside, golden on the outside. Proper chips, lovely to dunk in the aioli.
Carpaccio of beef fillet (£12)
The carpaccio came with parmesan, tapenade, capers and lemon. It was a nice combination of flavours and textures, the tapenade added a decent smack of saltiness with the sourness of capers and lemon.
Pan-seared scallops (£12)
Scallops are a go-to for me if I see them on the menu, I love them. They arrive with roasted and pureed Jerusalem artichoke, Roschoff onion and garlic and parsley butter. The three scallops were cooked well and I was fond of this dish, though the others on the table weren’t too fussed about the accompaniments.
Salt cod and prawn fritters (£6.50)
Salt cod isn’t something I’d usually go for, the times I’ve had it I’ve found the texture a bit dry and coarse for my liking. One of my friends ordered them so I thought I’d give them a go. I enjoyed the fritter more than I thought I would but couldn’t taste any prawn.
Slow-braised beef short rib (£16 per person, for 2-4 to share)
Eating the large plates felt like we’d been transported to a different restaurant. The beef rib was wonderful, the bourguignon-style sauce was meaty and rich. The beef did fall off the bone and came with wonderfully chunky lardons and mushrooms. There was far too much for three of us after all those small plates so I got them to wrap it up in foil and had it with lentils and salad for lunch the next day! Definitely our favourite dish of the evening.
Roast pork belly (£15 per person, for 2-4 to share)
The pork belly came with apple. tarragon and walnuts and a wholegrain mustard jus according to the menu. The pork belly had a lovely crispy skin, lots of sharp green apple and a smattering of walnuts. The sauce was rich and went well. It was another winning dish for us. Again, we had too much so I took it home and had it in a wrap.
On paper, my dessert sounded like my perfect dessert – a rich chocolate truffon (ganache) with nut praline, pistachio custard and a raspberry coulis (£4.50). When it arrived, it was definitely not the dessert I’d hoped for. In my opinion (and I know it’s subjective) it was pretty unattractive to look at and we all agreed that the “raspberry coulis” had a really odd flavour. It tasted more like synthetic cherry drops mixed in to an unappetising green soup. I’m not sure what the sauce had been made from or if it was a bottle sauce but we all agreed it wasn’t just fresh raspberries!
The truffon itself was decent – dense, smooth and intense with the praline adding some much needed crunch. The pistachio “custard” probably would have been much better had it not have had the awful sauce mixed in. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love dessert and how rare it is for me to leave it!
Luckily the guys’ salted caramel fondants (£6.50) went down a treat, both cleared their plates and I could see why. They were warm, comforting and the right amount of sweet. Again, a complete contrast to my dessert.
Overall our experience at TraTra was a tale of two halves – some dishes were delicious, the large plates were particularly good. Conversely the rabbit terrine and my dessert were, for me, some of the worst dishes I’ve tried this year. Similarly with the pricing, I felt that some of the small plates/desserts at full price offered good value but some of the dishes were overpriced for the portion size.
Wowed, I was not. I imagine some of the issues were because it’s a soft launch, and you expect a few glitches when you get 50% off. Maybe some of the issues have been ironed out now, but we felt there were some real fundamental flaws in our meal. Despite probably ordering slightly more than we needed, I’d have been quite unhappy if we had paid the full £70 a head (2 bottles of wine between 3 of us) – see note below. I think there’s far better places to eat for the same (and actually a lot less) money. It’s a shame as I really loved the sound of the menu at TraTra but for us it just didn’t impress.
Nb. When checking out the latest menu compared with the version I had from the soft launch, I noticed that the price of every dish we tried has gone up by £1-£4 per dish (per person for the sharing plates) so please do make sure you factor that in if you decide to go.
Nearest tube: Shoreditch High Street (walkable from Liverpool Street and Old Street within 10 minutes)