TRIO Wine Bar: The Best Things Come in Threes

TRIO Wine Bar: The Best Things Come in Threes

Thursday, November 26, 2020

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Opening a restaurant during a pandemic takes ingenuity and grit — which Sophia and Carlos Max-Brown and business partner Jason Lee have in spades. The trio of wine lovers had planned on opening the wine bar before the onslaught of COVID-19. But lockdown and restrictions caused them to pause, take stock, and open a space that met all new health protocol guidelines. What they've created at TRIO on Hope Road is special. Not only is it the poster child for socially distant dining, but it's also a gem of a spot and will continue to be hot on the scene for years to come.

Space plays a significant role in TRIO's success. If it were any other location, the partners would have been looking at a 2021 opening. But with multiple alfresco areas, tables spread over six feet apart did not create yawning gaps. Instead, you feel as if you're at some hip patio on the Adriatic coast.

First impressions immediately set the tone for a restricted dining experience. They made you confident that your safety and health were priorities. There are easy-to-access sanitisation points, and contactless menus — a quick scan of a QR code and your smartphone becomes an individual menu. This technological aspect of a newish normal allows the restaurant to “update the menu to focus on fresh and seasonal ingredients without incurring unnecessary cost and creating waste by reprinting”, said one-third of TRIO Sophia Max-Brown.

When Thursday Food visited it was just a week into their opening, and already the restaurant had seen repeat customers. It's not only the power of new, but also what's coming out of the kitchen.

TRIO Wine Bar Chef Haleem Card and sous-chef Sade Levy are creating tasty dishes from inside a spotless, well-laid-out kitchen with lots of natural air to boot. On the day of our visit, there were over 30 menu items available, which are thoughful and balanced. There is something to satisfy even the most particular of dietary restrictions.

The flavours at TRIO rely on quality ingredients instead of rich sauces and tongue-tingling rubs and spice blends. The menu was definitely built around the tight wine list which, too, will expand in coming months. The portions at TRIO are hearty, but not obscenely so. It's the right amount of food, offering value for the price. The pleasant and well-informed servers, who intimately know the menu and capabilities of the kitchen, could easily field questions without having to find an owner, manager or interrupt the busy chefs.

The yardie bruschetta seemed to be a popular appetiser, while the signature burger, cedar plank salmon, and surf and turf were popular mains. The salmon was fork-tender and delicious, and the accompanying sides — garlic mixed mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables — did their duty as supporting cast members.

Thursday Food is glad to have tried the Thai chilli tofu bowl — one of the vegetarian options on the menu. Well-seasoned, complex, flavourful and still unobtrusive were one to pair it with a glass of wine. Lest we forget that very spicy foods are some of wine's greatest enemies, there was just enough sauce enrobing each piece of tofu, and every bite was delightful. The yardie bruschetta is innovative and is enjoying Instagram fame. Crispy breadfruit tostones are topped with ackee and salt fish, creating a perfect bite. It's like starting your meal with a little Sunday breakfast; a bit decadent but oh, so worth it.

The stylish décor was executed by the Max Brown siblings. Lush greenery, clean white lines, comfortable seating, dark natural woods, and mood light create an atmosphere in which you're tempted to stay long after curfew. TRIO's interior has an almost gallery-like appearance, which allows for the Jamaican art that adorns the walls to pop. And they need to pop as each piece is for sale.

As the years progress, TRIO can easily morph into various physical representations. At the core, what the co-principals have created is a blank canvas that can be both a cultural hub and hot spot. The TRIO team are a winning combination of successful people with a mind for business and a knack for creating memorable brands. Carlos Café was a part of the Corporate Area dining scene for over 25 years. In December Max Brown Limited celebrates 35 years of keeping the wardrobes of our local men stylish. And Jason Lee is a shrewd businessman and investor who seems to have the golden touch.

As the Thursday Food team made notes, we overheard diners planning to visit the following evening, and the evening after that. Hand to God, we aren't making this up. But why go to TRIO one night after another on a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday? Well, because the best things, whether it's wine bar partnerships or dining experiences, come in threes.


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