It’s slight surreal to realise that famous people eat. I mean, on an intellectual level, I realise that they must have favourite foods or love to cook, but with the exception of cutting edge Jamie Oliver restaurants, it’s hard to imagine them out to eat. So when Irish foodie Donal Skehan (known to some, mainly me, as the Irish Jamie Oliver) mentioned at a workshop he was teaching that he loved The Dairy in Clapham for its fresh ingredients and seasonal influences, I was intrigued enough to make a reservation.
The restaurant itself is quite small, with a handful of outdoor seating tables and not that many more inside – combined with the popularity of the restaurant, this is why I would definitely recommend booking several weeks in advance. This place is far too popular to show up spur of the moment. The Dairy menu operates on what I’d think of as tapas style – the restaurant recommends that most people order about three or four of their dishes to make a full meal. I’m not a fan of big portion sizes and so a starter, one main and a dessert suited me, but for someone who likes quite a bit of food, two would probably be better.
We started with some of their lovely homemade bread as well as the thin, spicy potato crackers that all customers receive at the beginning of the meal – which gave me a lovely spicy crunch. I’m a sucker for homemade bread with such soft, well whipped butter, so definite points from me.
For me, my starter was absolutely the highlight of the meal: I would go so far as to say it was one of the best starters I’ve ever had. The toasted, honeyed brie on toast absolutely melted in my mouth and perfectly balanced the silkiness of the brie with the sweet honeyed flavour and the soft toast. I would be perfectly willing to come back and just have three of the starter! Beardy Fiance went with the pate on toast and absolutely loved it.
While I agonised over whether to get some fish (is there anything more lovely than simply seasoned fish?), I couldn’t resist the chicken oysters, served with some lovely fresh mushrooms and those perfect pieces of crispy skin. (As we all know from bacon, no one can resist crispy skin – especially me, with its delicious sense of wickedness.)
Finally, I went with the barley ice cream, accompanied by salted caramel sauce and cacao shavings. The barley has a grainy texture, which is unusual in ice cream, but plays with the textures, especially when combined with salted caramel sauce (my weakness!) They also finished the meal with some complementary sweets – a madeleine and what seemed to be a piece of Turkish Delight. The madeleines were amazingly fresh and Beardy Fiance, madeleine connoisseur, absolutely loved them.
Overall, this is a restaurant for people who love food. The tasting menu (which gives you an option to sample many of their courses) would be perfect for a special foodie night out and their lunch menu (four of their courses for 25 pounds) is an amazing bargain of wonderful food. I would definitely come back in winter to sample their seasonal changes!