Here’s a First World problem and a half… The Blonde and I rewarded ourselves for completing Year One of marriage with a rather awesome seven course tasting menu with matching wine at The Dairy in Clapham Old Town. It was completely epic but, here’s the thing, I don’t really remember the exact specifics of what graced our plates on that indulgent afternoon back in October.
My iphone does and we kept the menu but, still, some things don’t quite add up - like the pudding I’d convinced myself was chocolate but is listed as salted caramel. Puzzling. Whether this is connected to Damiano (he being the sommellier) and his matching wine component, or just the passing of time, I wouldn’t like to say but, hazy memories aside, you need to know about this place because it is Uh-maze-ing.
The interior belies just how seriously they’re taking the food - exposed brickwork, neon signage, vintage mis-matched cutlery and casual school-style seating was more suggestive of hipster tapas bar; all these elements conspire to offset expectations as to just how good the food is going to be. Indeed, as if to compound this drinking den image, as we were leaving, a round of flaming sambuccas sailed past our table. The menu too, on first glance, looks like simple gastropub-style snacks but all is not what it seems…
Head chef, Robin Gill, hails from the Manoir (au Quatre Saison, bien sur) and has cooked at Noma. I’ve never been to Noma but I’ve been to North Road (now sadly no more) and as far as I could tell, it’s the closest us Londoners have got to that kind of cuisine (asides from Redzepi’s brief stint at Claridges). There were definite parallels in the aesthetic of the plate presentation, clean flavours and crockery.
But enough analysing, here’s what we ate on that alcoholic afternoon last Autumn…
Amuse Bouche: deep fried oyster and, I believe, mussel with a sort of sophisticated sauce tartare beneath. The perfect texture combination of juicy, crunchy and creamy.
Teamed with a delicious glass of Despina Malvasia from Emilia - a lovely, and more floral, alternative to prosecco (pictured alongside a, perhaps unnecessary, aperatif of Elderflower Collins)
Antipasti - whipped smoked bone marrow butter, bread-in-a-bag, chicken liver mousse and charcuterie. That butter…. Oh. Good. Grief. THAT I will never forget. Teamed with a glass of dry fino which cut perfectly through the animal fat content of this delicious meaty snack assiette.
Next up: Rooftop carrots (they have a kitchen garden up top), goats cheese, oat granola and buttermilk.
Followed by: Roast parsnip, 3 year aged Comte cheese, rooftop honey and elderberries
And then: West Coast monkfish, caramel, cauliflower and malt
Which led nicely onto: Salt cod, charred leeks, sorrel and fried bread
Fish courses delectably done, it was time for Yorkshire venison, beetroot, fresh hazelnuts and wild blackberries. A gorgeous seasonal offering with a perfectly pink slab of seared deer
Savoury section nailed, the pudding part kicked off with refreshing hay ice cream, toffee apple and citrus ice. Served with a chic flute of dry Normandy cider.
And then the chocolate/ salted caramel confusion. Whatever it was, it was one of the best puddings I’ve had in my life, the malted barley ice cream offsetting the rich ganache so insanely well. We washed this down with a glass of Barbarseco
Close up on those truffley nuggets
Cheese and chutney? You’d better believe it! Breathing, by this point, had become something of a struggle. No matter, we washed this down with some sort of artisanal Italian wine which I learnt from the Google uses the same grapes as the one we had before (nebbiolo) but has a ginseng edge. Good to know.
Petit fours beautifully-boxed in a vintage tin and delivered upon presentation of the bill. This sweet gesture certainly enhanced the proposition of making payment. Whilst not cheap, that price does include an on-the-house amuse bouche, an additional aperatif, cheese and service charge. In that respect,The Dairy represents pretty amazing value for money. Get down there quick before they put the prices up because this is a seriously unique gem of a restaurant with an inspired style of cooking. Even The Blonde didn’t resent traveling south of the river for lunch and that’s saying something.The Dairy is so worth the journey and then some. Go go GO!
The Dairy, 15 The Pavement, Clapham Old Town, London SW4 0HY
Closed for lunch: Monday & Tuesday
Closed for dinner: Monday & Sunday