A food-led but very approachable and contemporary little bar and bistro, in Clapham, with dishes that surprise and delight.
By Guy Dimond
Recycled furniture, workshop light fittings, a bar serving craft beers: it might look like another beer and burger joint, or maybe a New York Italian ‘small plates’ place, but the Dairy doesn’t churn out a formula.
Seasonal British ingredients are treated with a level of finesse that would be the envy of many Japanese restaurants. You realise this from the very start. A robata grill is used not just for grilling meats, but for smoking the butter (using applewood chips). A pat of this butter is served on a big beach pebble, with some of the Dairy’s wholesome own-made bread.
This sort of attention to detail permeates the kitchen’s menu. Beautifully crafted rustic plates are used to present simple dishes such as a warm salad of new potatoes, sorrel leaves and a generous amount of fresh truffle, grated at the table. A fillet of mackerel is charred on the grill then placed on fennel, with its complementary hint of anise flavour; the plate decorated with a smear of cucumber and a fresh dill frond. Beef short rib is slow cooked for 24 hours before being served with grilled spring onions and bone marrow.This is fancy cooking: not what you expect in a neighbourhood restaurant.
Chef Robin Gill and his wife Sarah used to work at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. They’ve also acquired plenty of experience at several other high-end restaurants in London and elsewhere. They both hail from Dublin, but are now Brixton locals, and, with their colleagues, have created this food-led, but very approachable and contemporary little bar and bistro. The dishes surprise and delight: we relished a pistachio and rapeseed cake flavoured with fresh orange and lime, served with a ricotta and sambuca ice-cream, redolent with Middle Eastern flavours.
You can just pop into the Dairy for a morning coffee (an Allpress roast), bar snacks, a cocktail or a glass of biodynamic wine. Located just off Clapham’s heaving high street, the bar is open until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights. The Dairy could milk it on its late licence alone. But this is Clapham uncommon, and in its modest way, the Dairy is a real but much more affordable alternative to high-end locals such as Trinity.