REVIEW: The Dairy, The Pavement, Clapham Old Town

The Dairy has been perhaps one of the quietest restaurant openings in London, well that and the recent launch of Five Fields in Chelsea. I’d like to think the reason these restaurants have not invested in mounds of PR (or very little) is because they are confident that their food is, quite rightly for both in question – pretty amazing. All the ingredients used at the dairy are sourced either locally or from companies who are known for their quality – a complete list of these companies are shown on their website.Apart from sourcing their ingredients, they also have a mini roof garden where they grow fresh herbs, salad leaves and vegetables. They must have expert hands because the herbs we had with our meal were incredible – bright, vivid colours and bursting with flavour. The menu is a reasonable £40 (on the website) but was actually £45 when we had sat down. This is a seven course menu, at this price it is still extremely competitive.The decor inside the restaurant has Clapham Common all over it, cool and edgy (much like the hip middle class parents that parade it) – though these are the locals descriptors, not mine. Customers here are very demanding as to what i could see. Some reviews i had read before my visit talked about a lack in customer service, they’ve obviously taken this seriously as instead service is now very attentive and hate to say it, annoying. The waiter was constantly hanging around the table (looking very hip of course), he was so close at one point i thought he may be trying to smell which flavour of Head & Shoulders i had used. It was all too comfortable.

Wines were fantastic, even the house options aren’t your run of the mill but reds arrived with age and white with complexity. We started with bread – excellent bread. Served in a warm bag, the loaf was ready to tear between us and top with the best accompaniments i have had in some while now – so refreshing. Smokey, bone marrow butter (drool), the smoothest chicken liver parfait and some tender salami. It was pure gluttony – and very fattening.

Even simple items such as the Nocellara del Belice olives were excellent. Huge monsters, slightly chewy, full of juiciness and very very nutty. There was no marinade, no fancy toppings just excellent olives which had been sourced incredibly well – i now have to go through the process of looking at that list of suppliers to find out where they came from.

Pickled salmon and Guinness soda bread was our next small sharing plate. The soda bread was very good but and the Guinness really only came through in the aroma – taste, not so much. The pickled salmon was fresh, zesty, very well executed and had so some many flavours it was astonishing – every bite had something different to offer. My mouth was already going crazy and we were barely in to the meal.

The dish i have heard so much about was this pea concoction. Fresh peas, celery, mint and fried bread. The peas came in the form of quickly blanched, the mint was in jelly form, the celery was in the cream (i think) and then a final coating of the pea and mint dust. By pea standards this dish was extraordinary, but as a dish it was still only peas and as much as i liked it, i wouldn’t want to eat it time and time again.

One of the best dishes of the night was the charred mackerel with sea vegetables and wasabi yogurt. Head chef, Robin Grill makes every effort to visit each table once to either assemble or do something to your dish – in this case it was to blow torch the hell out of my mackerel, from raw to beautifully cooked in seconds. Charring it this way gave it a lovely flavour and also a nice rustic feel, the sea vegetables, yogurt and dollops of sauces all made this dish work in perfect harmony together.

Salted cod with heritage tomatoes, sorrel and herbs came served on a thick marble plate. Attention to detail is excellent. The cod was meaty and well textured, while light in flavour. The tomatoes were unfortunately not as sweet and flavoursome as one might hope. The herbs and sorrel were astonishing, herbs with this much intensity is unheard of – what are they doing on that roof? who knows, but its working.

Another star dish of the night was the Rhug Estate lamb with borlotti beans, green beans, herb oil and fresh sprigs of thyme – all swimming in a small pool of light gravy. The lamb was something special, crispy skin and cooked to a medium rare perfection. The sweetbreads were crunchy, well seasoned and very moorish – this whole dish was a delight and would be my main of choice when not dining from the tasting menu next time i visit.

Rooftop nectar, blood peach, yogurt and a selection of nuts and seeds was just what was needed after a meal. All the ingredients were absolutely stunning and the seeds brought it all together giving it a nice crunch. It wasn’t particularly complex but instead a great showcase of ingredients.

The end of our evening finished with some tasty mini warm cinnamon dusted donuts and buttered biscuit snaps. We had a great meal at The Dairy, and for now it is definitely one of Claphams best restaurants for which i will travel to again. Seeing as i’ve now made my way through the tasting menu the next return will be for a three course meal of my favourite dishes. A michelin star on its way? I wouldn’t be surprised. Book quick though, while its still cheap.


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