Restauranting is hard work, certainly there’s no denying it. So when my friend Jennie heard about the Dairy through the Irish bush telegraph (Jennie went to school with owner/front-of-house wonderwoman Sarah Gill in Dublin), I insisted we go and try it out. And because I obsessively Google everywhere I’m heading to, I came across this – a comment from a diner on the wonderful Marina O’Loughlin’s review sparked off a litany of truly side-splitting comments, only intensifying my need to find out what this was place was all about!
So focussed was I on this wee scandal it’s the first thing I asked about – but they’re pretty classy over here and no further gossip was offered. Shame on me really because I almost let it distract me from the real reason and wonder of the place.
The interior is unassuming,I’m not really one to give you specifics here sorry, I focus on 3 things – is it warm, is it comfortable and can you hear yourself think (Tick, tick and tick).
It’s also dimly lit, so the photos are even worse than my usually poor standard of photography, apologies. You’ll have to take my word for it when I say that the food looks far better than it does below.
On the Northern line down to Clapham, Jennie & I spent a long time debating whether to plump for the tasting menu (greedy option) or to go a la carte (far more sensible non greedy option). But one thing we were completely in agreement on was the kicking off with cocktails! We both opted for the chef’s selection – Fennel & Cucumber Gin cocktail. This is accompanied by amuse bouche’s of winter vegetable crisps and bread.
The soda bread comes in a little sack (I’m thinking gimmick here) but that thought is swiftly demolished when the butter arrives. The butter is amazing, shur it’s just butter you say but this one is mixed with bone marrow. Seriously. If not for the fact that licking butter dishes isn’t considered normal in decent society, I would have done it.
Dishes come out in menu order, so we kick off with the Venison Scotch Egg. Wouldn’t have been my first choice as I typically associate scotch eggs (unjustly it seems) with dry meat and dry egg. Not so here, how do they keep the yolk runny in there! One of life’s biggest mysteries.
Now this next course arrives at our table by accident and I wasn’t particularly pleased by the mistake. Onion broth I ask you. It sounds just as dreadful as French Onion soup, a soup I’ve never warmed to. But this, oh this I could drink buckets of. These onions were, well like no onion I’ve ever had. They were sweet, sharp, spongey and not at all oniony. Just completely gorgeous. No complaints here! (And no in case you’re wondering, we did not own up!)
The oat granola (another oddity) that comes with the rooftop carrots (so called because they grow on the roof!) is also plate-licking worthy, the goats cheese holding it together for substance.
Working here must give you guns of steel as it’s all hefty stoneware coming out of the kitchen, appropriate for a place calling itself the Dairy but presumably a nightmare to carry around. This is only a fleeting thought though because the meats have arrived – Chicken skin, Yorkshire venison with cocoa and Irish onglet.
The Yorkshire venison with chocolate stole the show for me, I felt we didn’t need both the Onglet & the Venison as they were both built along the same lines but the venison was far superior. The chicken skin was good but I’m still thinking about the venison. The chocolate sauce was cocoa-y and somehow complemented the meat beautifully.
By now I’m so full that even speaking is becoming a chore, but Sarah has popped over for a natter and convinces us to try all the desserts which I feel in hindsight, we really should have protested a little more over.
The clementine and brown butter ice cream was fresh and frothy and cleared the over-eating cobwebs but the Jerusalem artichokes & pears were so good I could have had another one of these. The salted caramel with barley ice cream was great but just too rich for us to do it justice.
With stomachs at breaking point, it was with some kind of horror we received the final little metal box of jellies, doughnuts and sugar biscuits. The doughnuts were hot with crispy sugar and the jellies were well, sugary as jellies are. I couldn’t manage the biscuits but only because otherwise I would have failed to make it home again and instead you’d find me still asleep on the Northern line, traversing from Morden to Edgware and back again.
Was it worth it? Oh yes. If I lived nearby, I’d be living almost exclusively on a diet of Scotch eggs, oat granola and venison with chocolate. Oh and the artichoke dessert. I may have to move. No seriously, I’m looking up Right Move now.