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The Dairy
15 The Pavement,
Clapham Oldtown, London SW4 0HY
Tel. 0207 622 4165

Food type: Modern British/ European

Nearest tube: Clapham Common

Website: The Dairy

The Dairy in Clapham has been one of the restaurants on my go-to list for a while. Chef Robin Gill has an impressive CV with stints at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison (classical training) and Noma (modern, Nordic BS). The restaurant has received plenty of positive reviews and is very popular with the locals. Plus it had been hyped up a fair bit by a fellow foodie friend of mine.

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Dining Room

The dining room is very simple oozing a hip and cool feel about it. There is an open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work. The wooden tables are very rustic with no table cloth in site. On each table is an empty bottle with some shrubbery/ flowers as decor. Any more rustic, and you would think that you are eating in the forest.

Tasting Menu

Tasting Menu

The menu here follows the “small plates” concept which is very popular with restaurateurs. They also have a tasting menu at a very reasonable £45 featuring most of the items on the main menu, in smaller portions of course. Within the tasting menu are some choices to be made, with some dishes incurring a supplement. Even before you are handed the menus, the chefs bring a small nibble to the table, in our case some kohlrabi with sunflower seeds and apple.

Cornish crab, sea vegetables

Cornish crab, potato crisp, sea lettuce

Our meal began with a flurry of canapés brought in quick succession. First were some Nocellara olives which were… well, olives. This was followed by crispy anchovies with lemon which were a bit salty even for a salt mine like myself. A crab sandwich featuring sweet cornish crab meat, sandwiched between two slices of potato crisp and then dusted with sea lettuce powder was highly enjoyable. The sweetness of the crab meat was highlighted by saltiness from the potato crisp and umami of the sea lettuce powder. The next snack had us both scratching our heads a bit – half a roasted carrot paired a highly acidic dip, raisin and sorrel. I really struggled to understand where this dish was going and the high amount of acidity in the dip just reminds me what I intensely dislike about Nordic cooking. I like plenty of acidity in my food, but the acidity here so completely out of balance with everything else on the plate I might as well have been sucking on a lemon.

Sourdough, smoked bone marrow butter, chicken liver mousse, cellar salumi

Sourdough, smoked bone marrow butter, chicken liver mousse, cellar salumi

Next was our bread course which we enjoyed. A freshly baked loaf of sourdough was cheekily hidden in a grain sack. To go with it was a choice of smoked bone marrow butter, chicken liver parfait and some homemade salumi. We were both not that keen on the smoked butter but the chicken liver parfait was absolutely fantastic, having intense flavour yet having a lightness having been aerated.

Toasted grains, wild mushrooms, salsify

Toasted grains, wild mushrooms, salsify

The first proper course of the tasting menu were toasted grains with wild mushrooms. The grains were served slightly wet and achieved the consistency of a savoury porridge. This was fine conceptually as a dish. However, when I think of a savoury porridge, I automatically would associate it with Heston’s snail porridge. Here the ‘porridge’ had an unpleasant, gluey texture.

Applewood smoked eel, cucumber, fermented sorrel

Applewood smoked eel, cucumber, fermented sorrel

This was followed by a dish of smoked eel, cucumber and fermented sorrel. The smoked eel itself was extremely tasty with just the right amount of smokiness. Again my problem with this dish here is the amount of acidity used. Yes, I know acidity is required to cut through the richness of the eel, but yet again I was sucking on another lemon.

'Lucy Marie' sea bass, salsify, sea vegetables

‘Lucy Marie’ sea bass, salsify, sea vegetables

For our fish course, we were served some sea bass with salsify and sea vegetables. The cooking of the fish was fine with a nice crisp skin although the flesh could have done with a fraction less cooking. Pairing with salsify and sea vegetables was sensible, though unlikely to set the world alight.

Wood pigeon, bread sauce, elderberries, lapsang

Wood pigeon, bread sauce, elderberries, lapsang

Moving on to mains, we were looking forward to the wood pigeon especially since it was advertised as being served with bread sauce. If there is something both of us really enjoy it is a nice roast bird with oodles of bread sauce. Imagine the disappointment when the bread sauce was as omnipresent as Chelsea’s title challenge this year. The pigeon was actually cooked very well and the leg was very tasty.

Truffled brie de Meaux, fig & walnut toast, rooftop honey

Truffled brie de Meaux, fig & walnut toast, rooftop honey

There was just one cheese option on offer at a £4.50- a truffled brie served on some walnut toast with figs and honey. I’ve eaten my fair share of truffled brie, yet the addition of the figs and honey help prevent the cheese from being overly cloying.

Salted caramel, cacao, malted barley ice cream

Salted caramel, cacao, malted barley ice cream

A pre-dessert of ice cream sandwich was probably my favourite bite of the night. Sandwiched between two sheets of crisp pastry was an excellent fig and rosewater ice cream. We tried two different desserts. The milk tart I had was pretty good while my fiancee’s concoction of salted caramel, chocolate and barley was pronounced ‘out of this world’.

To be honest, I really struggled with our meal at the Dairy. Coming into this meal, I was really wanting to fall in love with the restaurant. The open kitchen concept and casual dining feel reminds me of Tippling Club which I think very highly of. There is no doubt that there is a high level of technique and ambition within the kitchen. None of the dishes served would be considered unambitious or boring. To be exact, there was nothing wrong with the actual cooking of the dishes. Yet I just found that I did not really enjoy many of the savoury dishes. Perhaps it is because I am not a big fan of dishes with excessive use of acidity. But even in dishes where the acidity was not a major problem such as the pigeon, the food just lacked that massive flavour impact I was looking for.

Interestingly enough, we enjoyed desserts more than savouries – a rarity when it comes to dining in London where desserts are often an afterthought. Perhaps this is because the chef has stuck to tried and true combinations and avoided messing about with weird flavour profiles.

What does it say about the meal in its entirety when the single, best thing we had on the night was the ice cream sandwich? The Dairy has a massive loyal following and I am sure there must be a reason for that. Unfortunately for me, I just did not find much to love about the cooking here to want to return anytime soon.

2.5/5


The Dairy Bar & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato