On a Friday afternoon I headed to London to visit Helen and we were meeting at The Dairy, Clapham for 6.30pm. I found my way fairly easily, on time and also found somewhere to park for free – result. The Dairy is situated in Clapham Old Town and whether it used to be a dairy many, many years ago I have no idea as I can’t find anything online about it’s history. No matter, but if there is history on a place I think it’s nice to know. The restaurant was quite dimly lit – so I’m afraid the quality of our photos are not great – and had a nice cosy feeling. We were warmly welcomed by a friendly waiter and shown to our table. He took time to explain to us that people usually order 3 – 4 dishes each and share. I normally hate to share my food whereas Helen loves to try other people’s dishes and then usually ends up wanting theirs as it’s better than what she ordered. I had to be brave and embrace the situation. The menu was split up into different parts with ‘sky’ obviously being bird/poultry, ‘garden’ being vegetables and ‘land’ and ‘sea’ – I won’t bother explaining those. We did find it hard to make a decision as most of it sounded great.
Once decisions were made – after a lot of ooming and aahing – we were served with a bowl of cocoa bean soup with almond milk. This was served in a little bowl which resembled half a coconut shell. The soup was cold – it was supposed to be – and had a few flakes of almonds on top and thin slices of grapes. This was very nice, smooth and creamy.
Next to arrive in front of us was a little hessian sack containing hot soda bread. I’m new to soda bread but how I love it! This was extremely fresh and was kept warm from underneath by another little sack containing wheat or something similar and reminded me of those lavender bags you pop into the microwave and sling on your neck for aches and pains. The butter was very interesting, served on a stone! Never seen this before and I liked the novel idea, also it was spreadable. The butter was smoked bone marrow and was really tasty. In fact it had a sort of ‘bonfire’ taste to it.
We chose something from the garden for our starter, roast parsnips, 3 year aged Comté, rooftop honey (made on the restaurant’s roof I believe), muscat grapes. This was very tasty and there was a lovely hint of honey but not overpowering, the Comté was in very thin strips and went well with the dish.
I don’t generally like fish unless it’s in breadcrumbs from Waitrose but I know Helen likes it so I agreed to try some. Dover sole on the bone, cauliflower, caramel, malt. This also had capers on top, the sauce was very nice but I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy the fish and in fact even Helen was disappointed with it and always goes for fish dishes when out. The capers were a little too vinegary, the cauliflower a little hard for our liking and we couldn’t taste the caramel.
We also shared suckling pig, butternut squash, black cabbage. This was lovely, I would have liked the crackling to be a little crispier but it all melted beautifully in the mouth. A sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and tiny, tiny pieces of butternut squash and a lovely creamy butternut squash sauce.
Slow cooked ox cheek, hay baked celeriac, bone marrow. I’ve come across hay baked things a lot lately, one was whilst on board Brittany Ferries where I had a little pot of it on my plate! Smelt lovely – there will be a review of this in the future. Anyway, the ox cheek was very tender, no gristle, just how I like it. The celeriac was wafer thin and the dish was beautifully presented as were all of them.
For desserts we chose hay ice-cream, toffee apple, citrus ice. I think we chose this mainly because of the hay ice-cream which was great, the citrus slices were wafer thin and made the dish look very pretty.
Our favourite though was the salted caramel, biscuits and malted barley ice-cream. I think we both wished we had ordered one each and not had the citrus dish. The thin shards of chocolate were crisp and dark and tasted excellent, the ice-cream was smooth and creamy and lovely pieces of cocoa dusted chocolates were on the plate too.
With the bill – which wasn’t cheap, it came to around £75 including a glass of white wine each – we were given a little dish with two little cubes of sugar coated jellies, two ‘lighter than air’ doughnut balls and two wafer thin biscuits. We do like little touches like this. I enjoyed my experience at The Dairy and wouldn’t hesitate on returning. The only thing I didn’t like were the plates that the dishes were presented on. They were very thick and heavy, a little like marble but not smooth, they didn’t have a nice feeling/noise when scraping the plate. The Dairy was on Helen’s list – take a look here. Helen’s quest to get through a list of ‘must visits’ in London before 2014, she’s been busy ticking them off and reviews including two close to The Dairy, Brickwood Coffee and Bread and Venn Street Market are coming soon!
Live life, (not) loving sharing…