I was really excited. My girlfriend had booked us into an untried restaurant on Clapham Park Road called Thyme. All the reviews made it sound fantastic, a gourmet's heaven. Not so much a gourmet more a greedy pig myself, I was nonetheless really looking forward to it. Imagine my distress, then, when I told a friend of mine we were off to Thyme in Clapham and he declared it 's***'. 'Why do you want a Thai meal for your birthday anyway?' Thank goodness I only make friends with arses. Thyme is not Thai food, not is it 's***'. It is a bit of class and quiet in Clapham, an area more normally noted for bustly, good, but ludicrously busy eateries. It is situated near Clapham Common tube, but you have to be careful not to walk straight past. Its low-key glass front is unprepossessing, but then it probably wants to avoid the crowds. Inside is just one smallish room, stone floors, unfurnished whitewashed walls, low lighting (eventually) and a huge freeze of a blue naked woman on the back wall. Tablecloths are white linen, and the whole effect is of classy simplicity. 'Simple' probably doesn't describe the food. The idea in Thyme is that all dishes are starter-size, so you should order at least three. The plus side is that you can sample lots of different things. There is a taster menu for £55 (I never said the place was cheap), which offers around four courses plus four glasses of different wines including a Premier Cru claret and Chianti Classico. If you wish to pick and mix, however, the menu is organised into bands of £4.50, £7 and £9.50. Helpfully, within each band the meals are ordered to make a nice progression of styles - ie you should follow the order in which the dishes appear. For example, I started with Pasrley veloute with poached egg and Parmesan shavings. Veloute turned out to be a kind of soup, which got a bit overpowering after a while. To follow came the best foie gras I have had in y
ears, then braised shin of beef. My girlfriend started with the foie gras, progressing onto seared beef (beautifully tender and quite sweet) and finished with red mullet. As I said, a gourmet's heaven. All the dishes, with the possible exception of the veloute, were superbly done, and unusual. The wine is not cheap - around £16 upwards, and some touching £60-£70. The service is unintrusive and quietly excellent, and the atmosphere improved enormously once all the tables had been filled. At first we felt we had to whisper a bit. As you descend the stairs from the toilet have a look for the small fish tank sunk into the wall - a nice touch. So, my arse of a friend hasn't been to Thyme. And I'd like to keep it that way. It's a fantastic place if you want to whisk a partner off to 'a little place I know' - it's obscure, unusual and classy, so you can't fali to impress. Just make sure you have a credit card with you, and don't get caught staring at the naked woman on the wall.