The Dairy is in the culinary and cultural blackspot of Clapham Common, lending a much needed fine dining option to hungry Claphamites. It opened unfussily in the summer of 2013 under chef Robin Gill, who has an impressive CV which includes stints under Raymond Blanc and René Redzepi. They serve great value high-end modern British food in a very relaxed and informal setting. The restaurant has a rooftop garden, the fruits of which are used in many of the dishes, and they even have their own beehives.
The Dairy came to many people’s attention after a fantastic review from Marina O’Loughlin, and has been packed out ever since. They do a fantastic value four course set lunch on Wednesdays to Fridays for £25; the dinner menu has starters at £6-8.5, with the most expensive main at £10. They also offer a 7 course tasting menu for a bargain £45. We opted for the tasting menu which started with a range of snacks, the highlight being raw courgette with Sariette de Banon cheese, basil and honey from the restaurant’s beehives which was served straight from the honeycomb at our table. The balance of the dish was perfect with the sharp, almost sour courgette interacting with the rich, sweet honey. We followed this with hay smoked cheese curd with artichokes and chanterelles which we chose to add white truffle to (£3.5 supp.). This was a dense, earthy dish and could possibly have done without the truffle, but I like the way that the bold flavours were not watered down – this is very confident cooking.
The snacks continued with a whole sourdough served in a jute bag with wonderful smoked bone marrow butter, chicken liver mousse and salumi. The quality of the bread was fantastic – the crust had a nice crunch and was the perfect thickness; the inner was soft and light with subtle toffee notes. After a little crispy chicken skin and kimchi dish, we moved on to the first fish course – monkfish with Sussex sweetcorn, shallots and maize chips. The fish was expertly cooked so that it was silky smooth and still moist, the salty chips added texture and the corn sweetness. A subtle and perfectly balanced dish.
The second fish dish was cod with charred leeks and sorrel – again handsomely presented, the cod was melt in mouth but a bit underseasoned (I imagine the cod skins were supposed to lend salt to the dish but they were not plentiful/powerful enough). The charred leeks brought rich earthiness to the clean fish flavours and the sorrel a hint of bitterness.
For main course we had Yorkshire grouse with fermented grains, muscat grapes and chicory. The gravy was served at the table by squeezing the birds carcass over our plates – quite a show, but not for those squeamish about blood and bones!
The meat was cooked perfectly pink and had been hung for a long time meaning it was very gamey and smokey. It was a bit too strong and rich for me, this was not helped by the bitter grapes, sorrel and grains. I think the balance found in the previous dishes was missing in this course – it needed some simple carbs to offset the intensity of the meat, however I cannot fault the quality of the ingredients.
The desserts – an interesting carrot and tarragon dish with cheesecake cream, and roasted pears with panna cotta were simple and well executed.
Verdict: amazing value, well constructed food using simple but great quality ingredients 8/10