Please note, The Manor has now closed and Sorella has opened at the same site. Time Out Food editors, January 2019.
Most of London’s really exciting new restaurants open in the centre of town – and you’ll pay two limbs for the pleasure of eating in them. So when somewhere special opens in a residential area, word gets around. This last happened in Clapham in 2013, when The Dairy – a wine and British tapas bar –introduced an innovative, but reasonably priced small plates menu to the neighbourhood.
The Manor is run by the same team, but this time has a fully fledged dining room as well as a bar. Prices are a little higher – but still reasonable – as the cooking has gone up a few notches, too. The Manor looks and feels casual, like a slightly more grown-up version of The Dairy, despite the graffiti, old desks and industrial light fittings. But the imagination and skill of the kitchen places it among the city’s most cutting-edge restaurants: The Clove Club, Story or Lyle’s, to give just a few examples.
Case in point: two slivers of meat resembling pork belly were in fact crisp chicken skin. Something that resembled soft cheese turned out to be the flesh from a cod’s head mixed with sour cream.
Fermentation, one of the most transformative kitchen techniques, is used to good effect on the ‘malt granola’ and fermented grains, both served with the claw-on leg and breast of partridge. The New Nordic technique of scorching and burning is used successfully on both kale and cauliflower, and a smoky aubergine purée (coloured green using mint) served with Irish-inspired potato scones was sublime. There’s a tasting menu (£42 without wine) but the à la carte features the same dishes. Whatever you choose, it’s official: modernist cooking has arrived in SW4.
For dessert, head to the bar stools at the ‘sweet shop’ counter to watch the pastry chef blast liquid nitrogen from a laboratory-style tap to create ultra-smooth ice cream. Sundae bar toppings include nuts, honeycombs, popcorns and meringues. Or have frozen-to-order chocolate fondant with dulce de leche and baked ‘milk foam’.
The drinks bar is terrific for a snack, though it’s a proper come-as-you-are place to pop in for a drink, filled with a stylishly casual mix of drinkers and diners, including one hardy lass wearing a sequinned bikini top on our visit. The kombucha sours cocktail tasted of citrus, tea and the tart notes resulting from the kombucha fermentation. There’s also an interesting selection of craft beers and a good wine list. Clapham folk are very lucky to have The Manor in their manor.