The Better Half (TBH) and I have just come back from the most epic Californian road trip where we ate and drank like kings. Not quite ready to get back to reality, we woke up on Saturday morning wanting to have one more fantastic meal before the sensible eating wagon arrived. I remembered that I had received a gift voucher for my birthday (great gift, huh?) for one of the restaurants on my bucket list and having a quick look at the menu, our decision was made.
The Dairy is based in Clapham, South London and is run by husband and wife team Robin and Sarah Gill. Robin being in charge of the kitchen and Sarah the front of house and garden on their roof top (where they grow herbs, some of the veg used in the restaurant and even keep bees for their honey!). There is a strong focus on seasonality and the menu is ever-changing in keeping with this.
We opted for the tasting menu split by sea, land and sweet. At £45 per person it’s just insanely good value. Starting us off with some snacks, I have to make special mention of the bone marrow Agnolotti, wild garlic, St George mushrooms – it was outstanding! Al-dente pasta with a rich bone marrow filling and woody mushrooms. We gobbled it up greedily and wished for more. I noted that it is also a main dish on the a la carte menu at the moment, so I think TBH and I will soon be making a return visit just for that. Other snacks included Nocellara de Belice olives (my favourite olives); crisp anchovy with lemon; Cornish crab, crisp potato, nori; roasted celeriac, sunflower seed, almond milk; sourdough, bonemarrow butter, chicken liver mousse, salumi. I believe that the salumi is made in house as well. Every snack extremely tasty in their own right and a fantastic start to our lunch.
Moving onto the menu proper, we started with the “sea”. Applewood smoked eel, cucumber, fermented sorrel; Lady Hamilton monkfish Provençal. TBH is not much of a fish lover, so wasn’t all that excited by the prospect of these two dishes but being the adventurous sort, he gave them both a try. He was pleasantly surprised at how much he enjoyed the Mediterranean flavours of the monkfish dish. For me, both dishes were delicious and I enjoyed the contrast of the sharp, fresh cucumber and smoked eel. As with TBH though, the monkfish was the winner of this round for me.
Now onto the “land”. There was a choice of two dishes: 51 day aged Black Angus rump, romaine, oyster mayo and Daphne’s Welsh lamb tropes onions, Shepherd’s pie for two. We really wanted to try both dishes and when we asked our waitress if it were possible, she checked with the kitchen and quickly came back to say that it was. Hooray! Sourced from a farm in Limerick, Ireland, the flavour of the beef was so intensely beefy. I don’t think I’ve tried beef that flavoursome before. Was it the quality of product or the quality of cooking? Or both? I am so glad that we were able to try the lamb dish too because….wow! Whoever Daphne is, she does some seriously good lamb! Slow cooked lamb ragu with this almost creamy topping was like heaven on a plate. By a hair’s breadth, this was our favourite dish of this course.
For the sweet course we were given a brown butter ice cream sandwich as part of the tasting menu and then had a choice of second dessert. The sandwich part tuile like and encasing a deliciously creamy ice cream. For his dessert, TBH chose the salted caramel, cacao, malted barley ice cream. I went for the Ivy House milk tart, rye, apple. I was told that this was chef Robin’s favourite dessert and it is easy to see why. Sort of like a pannacotta but with a soft rye base that brings a little bit of texture. The apple in the form of sorbet, refreshing and sharp and cutting through the creamy tart. It wasn’t too sweet and very enjoyable for a non-dessert lover like me.
I was extremely impressed with how knowledgeable all the staff were about their product. They were so accommodating with the small changes we wanted to make to some menu items and their friendliness really added to the relaxed vibe of the place. It’s the kind of place that you could spend a very long time in. Our total bill came to £111.31, which included drinks, service and a supplement for the lamb dish.
I’m really not sure why it’s taken us so long to dine at The Dairy, we both really enjoyed everything about it. The food, the service, the atmosphere were all top notch. Robin has two other restaurants in his portfolio – The Manor (also in Clapham) and Paradise Garage (in Bethnal Green). I am going to make it a priority to visit both these restaurants and I think you should too!
Until we eat again!