Exhilarating Dishes From New Restaurant The Manor
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
The Manor has opened in Clapham, giving locals reason to rejoice and further-afield Londoners motivation to get on the Northern line.
The restaurant is from the same people as The Dairy, which has been so heaped with praise since its launch in the middle of last year that tables have become hard to get and its owners — husband and wife Robin and Sarah Gill — have had no say whatsoever in its change of status from local gem to foodie destination.
Restaurant sequels — almost as difficult to successfully pull off as the movie equivalents — are usually sleeker, shinier and more polished than their originators. This might be because of the lessons that their owners have learned along the way, or perhaps simply because there’s more money to throw at them.
The Manor doesn’t conform. The space, which used to be tapas restaurant El Rincon, is stripped back to the point that we’re not quite sure if it’s finished. Hand-drawn murals add interest to an otherwise bare and roughly plastered wall, staff scrawlings decorate the back-bar, and toilet-goers are offered marker pens and invited to add their own designs. It sounds hip, but it feels genuine.
Heading up the kitchen is Dean Parker, who — as well as doing stints at Notting Hill’s two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury and with Tom Aikens — has worked at The Dairy since its launch.
You can judge a good restaurant by its bread, and The Manor is no different. A hessian sack of warm sourdough comes with a heated bag of grains at the bottom, keeping it warm and soft. With it comes a whipped butter that’s been infused with chicken so as to taste like spreadable chicken skin. It’s is served on a shiny stone — a presentation those who’ve dined at The Dairy will be familiar with.
The rest of the menu is split between starter plates, vegetable-led dishes, fishy options and meat. Diners are urged to pick one or more from each section, but we’d recommend sharing everything tapas-style rather than going it alone.
Our first wave of dishes includes some refreshing maritime bites of citrussy, soft cod’s head on crisp seaweed crackers (£5.50); a rich crab mousse served with the earthy autumnal flavours of charred celeriac, hazelnuts and sweet buttermilk (£7.50); and tangy, dense ‘fermented’ potato bread served alongside a vibrant, smoky aubergine and mint dip (£5.50).
Next up are the vegetable dishes. Multi-coloured roasted beetroots are lavished with a jammy beetroot purée, tangy curd-style cheese and fiery horseradish (£8.50, pictured above) — a moody assortment of deep and earthy flavours. Cauliflower florets (£8.50) come roasted until singed and crispy-edged, paired with sharp yoghurt, crunchy and slightly bitter roasted cocoa nibs, and sticky-sweet medjool dates. A staunch off-white colour palate and subtly seductive creamy flavours provide the backing for a textural fairground of a dish.
To the fish. A salmon fillet comes almost raw in a sprightly, grass-green sauce of dill, cucumber and apple, along with some nutty chia seeds for added crackle. A lightly smoked cod fillet (£9) is moist and fleshy, blanketed in a silken foamy cream sauce and given lift by gently acidic sorrel leaves — it’s a highlight and an exercise in elegance.
Meaty offerings round off the savouries. Rare strips of hanger steak (£12) are served with roasted onions and delectable chunks of oozing bone marrow, along with a roasted onion ‘tea’ to pour over like a light gravy. Crisp-topped, soft fleshed shoulder of suckling pig (£12.50) comes with braised pig head, morcilla and squash to make a meaty menage a trois.
When it’s time for pudding we’re urged to move from our table to a dedicated dessert bar in the corner, allowing us to watch our puds being crafted and plated. An assembly of frozen Jerusalem artichoke, crème fraîche and poached quince (£6.50) is nutty and aromatic, but cheese is the winner. Baked Vacherin (£7.50) is a gooey, spoonable treat served with a floral honey from The Dairy’s rooftop beehives.
Grab a table before the whole of London catches on. Exhilarating cooking, exemplary service and earnest prices will make this newcomer lord of the manor in no time.
The Manor is at 148 Clapham Manor Street, SW4 6BX.
Last Updated 28 November 2014