With a head chef who once worked at Noma (voted best restaurant in the world three times) and opening times that range from 8am to 2am, The Dairy has everything going for it to enable it to thrive in one of the most culinary competitive areas of London.
The Dairy fits in well with Clapham Old Town, even though it is just on the edge of the fanciest part of Clapham. It looks every inch the independent eatery with a sleek, black exterior with large floor-to-ceiling windows and a simple white sign. Inside, the décor is stripped back but homely, with cream walls jazzed up by a wooden board with the Dairy logo emblazoned upon it, battered-looking mirrors and basic wooden tables and chairs. There is a bar area if you’re just popping in for a drink (or for when the restaurant is full) but it’s perfectly comfortable for eating in if you are unlucky enough not to get a reservation – not an uncommon occurrence…
The Dairy opened very much under the radar. Food bloggers have largely ignored it so far, there was no fancy launch party covered in OK Magazine and the papers have barely noticed. However, it is already regularly full to capacity. Locals have latched onto it and the word has spread – this is a damn fine place to grab some dinner and you can continue your evening into the wee hours. It’s only a matter of time before the news spreads and it’s inundated with ‘foodies’ *shudder*. Get in quick.
Brunch, lunch, dinner, bar snacks: The Dairy has really gone all out with its menus. Headed up by chef Robin Gill, the food is focused on seasonal dishes with some ingredients grown in their own ‘urban’ garden. There’s a British skew to the menu but it doesn’t feel too heavy with a Spanish tapas edge of smaller (and cheaper!) plates. It’s a clever concept for the area, where drinking and dining go so readily hand-in-hand.
The evening menu is divided into Land, Sea and Garden, depending on whether you like meat, fish or vegetarian dishes. However, it’s the meat section that really delivers on flavour and quality ingredients. For example, the miso barbecue lamb (£7.50) is simply incredible. The lamb is tender and sweet with a light barbecue flavour that is heightened by the natural saltiness of the miso glaze. It’s served with an incredibly strong hit of wild garlic (so not one for first dates), purple aubergine and olives. It easily could have been a disaster with so many strong flavours vying it out in one dish but the skills of the kitchen are clearly evident as they maintain the balance. Alternatively, the 24 hour slow-cooked short rib beef (£8) is a lesson in slow cooking, producing the most melt-in-the-mouth tender meat imaginable. It’s served with caramalised ‘burnt’ onions and a rich, sinfully-good bone marrow. Beautifully presented but rustic in flavour, you can see why this place is already regularly full-to-capacity.
It’s great to see that The Dairy is following the emerging bar trend for biodynamic and organic wines, including bottles from unusual regions. The menu is helpful, with descriptive sections to help aid your decision, such as ‘textured, intricate and mouth-filling’ or ‘perfumed, harmonious, vibrant’. The bottles are also very well priced between £18-£53. On top of this they have an above-average selection of wines available by the glass and they haven’t just gone for the obvious cheap and cheerful selection.
The Last Word
The Dairy is one of those places that don’t need a big fanfare when they open – the quality of its produce speaks for itself. Just don’t go telling everyone…