“We should go to The Dairy”
“Yes! Let’s book a table“.
I think this exact conversation took place five or six times before Angie and I finally arranged a date for her to come down to Clapham and to visit The Dairy. It was a perfect Saturday afternoon: good friends, great food and delicious wine.
I’ve been to The Dairy a number of times, usually for dinner, but somehow I had never taken my camera with me. The Dairy is located on The Pavement, at the heart of Clapham Old Town. Clapham has a wonderful village-like feel, with laid back restaurants, cafes and all centred around Clapham Common. Walk into The Dairy and you’ll see wooden tables, a slightly open kitchen and people milling around and laughing.
It was the perfect occasion to toast to our friendship (I’m not sure a day goes by where my phone doesn’t buzz on at least three different platforms with messages from Angie!), and so glasses of sparkling wine were ordered, and cheers was said to fun, laughter and this very casual, simple restaurant which is a bit of a gem.
The menu at The Dairy, much like its sisters The Manor and Counter Culture, is small and made up of sharing style dishes. Perfect for two foodies who would inevitably share their dishes anyway…
The menu at The Dairy Clapham is split into seven distinct sections: Snacks, Garden, Sea, Land, Vegetarian, Sweet and Cheese – and your dishes come out of the kitchen in that order. From the ‘Snacks’ section we started with truffled Baron Bigod, fig & walnut toast, homemade rooftop honey, which was a real highlight. Having ordered this dish before I couldn’t turn it down – even though Angie was a little concerned it might be a touch too sweet. The brie (which happens to have been made very close to where my parents live – take note mum!) was delicious, and I loved the depth of flavours in this dish.
Our second dish from the snacks section was the grilled cavolo nero, montgomery cheddar and artichoke, which was much more of a snack size, but was just as delicious as the first.
It’s not just the decor of The Diary which is relaxed and quaint, but also the crockery. Firstly, there wasn’t a dish or a bowl which I didn’t want in my kitchen, and I loved that instead of the usual simple white plates, there were a selection of patterned plates.
From the ‘Vegetable’ section we indulged in a very autumnal dish, which was roughly the same colour of burnt orange as many of the leaves in Clapham Common. Igor’s pumpkin served with almond milk, Burr and cobnut was a lovely, light dish that I could eat all autumn! Angie and I both mentioned that we hadn’t had Burr before, but it was a very flavoursome goat’s milk cheese with a little hint of spice.
The next dish was the one that my eyes had gone to as soon as we’d looked at the menu (which of course, was after about 10 minutes of catching up at the beginning…). In fact, since we both eat such a lot of fish, we’d ordered both of the dishes from the ‘Sea’ section of the menu.
The River Fowey mussels were served (again in a gorgeous dish!) with English corn, bread miso were a slightly salty treat, especially with a little sweetcorn on the side.
Our second ‘Sea’ dish was the applewood smoked eel, leek and squid ink vinaigrette. I think eel can be an underrated fish, but the way that this is prepared is just perfect, especially with the slightly darker taste given to it by the smoking process.
The Dairy’s head chef, Robin Gill, is an exceptionally talented Dublin born chef, who has worked with chefs such as Marco Pierre at The Oak Room and with Raymond Blanc at Le Manor aux Quat’Saisons. And after all this impressive training, he found his own style of cooking: something a little simpler, with a market based menu and smaller dishes. With a curing room on site and even beehives on the roof, The Diary has been a hit since it first opened in 2013.
From the ‘Land’ menu we ordered the fallow deer with cocoa beans and smoked muscat grape. I loved the perfectly cooked, tender deer and the sweet yet soft grapes.
I admit… By this point I was umming and ahhing about whether to order dessert… But the best thing about good friends is that they always convince you to do the right thing: and dessert is always the right thing. So we ordered the blackberry leaf panna cotta with summer fruit and black pepper sable, which was a gorgeous, light dessert to end an excellent lunch!
Never quite ready to leave straight after our lunches, we headed to Balans for a last glass of bubbles to celebrate, before heading our separate ways for the evening. Another wonderful lunch with Angie – and it’s so nice to be able to share a restaurant with her in my area! Among the various – and many – conversations we’ve had since our lunch at The Dairy, plans have been made for more lunches, dinners and even a trip away! I’m so grateful for such a close friend to share as many experiences as we do! Angie definitely fits every reason I’m grateful for my travel companions!
15 The Pavement
Clapham Old Town