Clapham’s always been a graduates playground – a place to relive university years of partying in terrible clubs, living with five too many friends and spending afternoons lazing in the park. It was never the place for cutting edge food; if you were hungry, a high street chain would have to suffice.
This is starting to change. As restaurants run out of space in central London, proprietors are forced to face the suburbs, making it easier to get a decent meal on your doorstep. The Dairy is a great example. Nestled between Clapham Common and the tube, it has a menu that’s reminiscent of Dabbous…and a price tag to match.
We went for a long, boozier than expected, Sunday lunch. We sat towards the back of the rustic dining room and, after our waiter’s pitch, soon agreed on the £45 tasting menu. After all, sharing plates always add up and take time to decide on; we just wanted to eat, drink and gossip.
Over three hours, we had everything from wickedly moreish Chicken Skin with Kale & Wild Mushrooms, the many textures Cornish Crab, Malted Barley & Salsify and a board of freshly baked sourdough with lighter than air Chicken Liver Mousse and an interesting Smoked Bone Marrow Butter. And that’s just a handful of our ‘Snacks’.
We moved onto the ‘Sea’ and ‘Land’ courses, with a pleasant Monkfish with Swiss Chard & Bonito Butter, the more robust Lady Hamilton Smoked Cod and my favourite of the mains – melt in the mouth Yorkshire Venison with a creative combination of sweet beetroot, sour rhubarb and flavour enhancing nibbed cocoa sauce. A must if you’re going a la carte.
The cheese was an extra £4 per person, so as we’d already spent and eaten too much, we shared a plate between three for curiosities sake. As it turned out, the truffled brie was so intense, we couldn’t have managed more than a mouthful.
The desserts didn’t blow me away. The ideas were interesting, but I personally found them too sweet or too insipid. Unsurprisingly, Salted Caramel with Biscuit & Malted Barley Ice Cream stood out, but still lacked the punchy flavour I’d hoped for.
Fortunately for my sweet tooth, there was a secret dish in store – a delicious meringue with fruity ice cream. It was a lovely end to what was, on the whole, a lovely meal.
I’m giving The Dairy a LLE Rating of 8/10. Long may Clapham continue to give South Londoners an interesting place to eat when you don’t feel like venturing far from home.
The Dairy, 15 The Pavement, Clapham Old Town, London SW4 0HY