The Dairy and its sibling The Manor have been high on my list of must visits. Tucked away in a little lane off busy Clapham High Street, Kris and I managed to find a last minute reservation at The Manor, one busy summery Saturday evening.
We were seated at the high tables towards the front, which is quite cosy if you are dining on your own or as a couple. I would recommend this more than the bar seats, as it gives you a bit of peace and quiet to have a conversation, yet plenty of opportunity to enjoy the bar action. The narrow space at the front gives way to a more spacious restaurant at the back.
The interior design is a lesson in pared-back sophistication, with bare-brick walls and dangly designer lamps.
The concept of The Manor is contemporary British small plates with seasonal ingredients.
First of the many dishes to arrive was the Crispy Swaledale Lamb, Goats Curd, Heritage Tomatoes (£6.50). For me, this was the best looking and best tasting dish of the evening. The little morsels of lamb; crispy and crunchy on the outside; soft, stringy and piping hot in the middle was heavenly. The lamb was beautifully offset by the cooling, luscious curd and the sweet tomatoes.
Next up was the Crispy Chicken Skins, Kimchi and BBQ Sauce (£6.50). I ordered it on the recommendation of our waitress without realising I am not a fan of either kimchi or BBQ sauce. (Note to self – no matter how strong the recommendation is, always go for what you like). My dish was slathered in sauce. Once I devoured the deliciously fatty chicken skins, all I was left with was a plate of fermented vegetables and quite a sharp sauce. This dish was just not for me.
Things livened up with the arrival of the Cured Monkfish, Brown Crab Peanut Mousse, Apple and Sorrel (£7). The luxurious mousse, light as a feather, was a perfect backdrop for the little chunks of the fish and snappy sorrel leaves.
We also ordered the BBQ Potato Flatbread, Smoked Aubergine, Miso and Toasted Sesame (£6). I thoroughly enjoyed the flatbread – it was clever both in terms of texture and taste. The dip had a lovely smoky aftertaste.
From the ‘Sea’ section, we ordered the ‘Julie Girl’ Monkfish, Sprouted Wheat, Piatonni beans and Furikake (£11.5). The moist and delicate monkfish was spot-on, but I wasn’t too keen on the rest of the greens. It was a bit too raw for me. The scattering of furikake (dry seasoning) brought a nice flavour to the dish.
Both choices from the ‘Land’ section were superb. Mr. K had the Yearling Lamb, Courgette, Sage and Olive (£12.5). It was the perfect dish for Kris as lamb and courgettes are two of his favourite things. Both were beautifully splayed on the plate. It was a winner for him: the lamb was supreme and sliced like butter, the courgettes soft and slightly charred.
I had the Saddleback Pork, Braised Head, Celery and Sprouted Lentils (£12). The braised head was fatty and delicious. The sprouts added the all important texture against the tender pork.
The dishes at The Manor have lots of unique and creative ingredients and combinations. The cooking is ambitious with an imaginative approach.
There were triumphs but also a couple of misses. I felt some of the dishes lacked a bit of cohesion and some of the food was under-seasoned. At £100 for two with drinks and service, it was not a cheap meal either.
All in all, this is complex, seasonal cooking at its best. I am happy to have ticked The Manor off my foodie bucket list. I would be keen to try The Dairy next to see how the older sibling performs.
More details can be found here.
N.B: All photos and opinions are mine. I review anonymously and pay for my meals.