★★★★☆ / Modern European / Modernist

The Manor review – proof that Clapham isn’t just for wankers

Entire menu reviewed at intriguing Clapham surprise

When I’d heard that a restaurant in Clapham, The Dairy, was serving high quality, complex and beguiling food I dismissed the reports as utter lunacy. I regarded Clapham as full of nothing more than crap bars transplanted from the Costas and stuffed to the rafters with wannabe Hooray Henrys braying about their latest mergers and acquisitions jobs. The opening of The Manor, a spin-off of The Dairy, proved just how wrong I was.

Having taken over the premises of a former tapas restaurant, The Manor has an air of shabby chic about it which is all very charming until you get to the toilets. You’re encouraged to graffiti the walls and the resulting atmosphere made it feel like a dogging hotspot. Away from that unpleasantness, the service was generally friendly and efficient – but it became a little more intrusive once we got to dessert. Being badgered to see our desserts made at the dessert bar not once, but three times is irritating enough but especially so when I want to have a private conversation over the course of my meal.

interior the manor clapham

It gets a bit drafty near the window and fire exit at the back.

First things first

Eating with Baron Greenback can be a trying experience sometimes. He largely refuses to eat seafood and has some funny ideas about pork belly. Plus, despite being a swaggering City boy, he often refuses to enter a restaurant first preferring instead to wait outside for my arrival.

Baron Greenback is paranoid about fat in general, leaving it to me to scoff almost the entire lump of unctuously fatty, crisp and lightly salty cream. It’s oddly served smeared on one side of a rock, although in the end this doesn’t matter too much as you spread it over the warm hunk of fluffy bread.

amuse bouche at the manor clapham

Between a rock and a hard place.

The potato flatbread was much like an Irish potato farl, but thinner and tangier. It proved to be a good way of shovelling the aubergine puree into my gaping maw. Although the puree’s gentle smokiness was oddly obscured by a bold minty freshness, it still made for good eating.

fermented potato flatbread with smoked aubergine and mint at the manor clapham

Farl of the manor.

The slices of exceptionally beefy droëwors sausage had an unusually soft and coarse rillettes-like texture, making them all the more delectable.

spiced beef droe wors at the manor clapham

Apparently cured in house.

The roasted beets were not what I expected at all, but this is a good thing. The sweet, squidgy almost jelly-like beets were almost like a dessert and went especially well with the milky droplets of cheese. The crumbly horseradish failed to leave much of an impression, but this hardly mattered.

roasted beets with horseradish and fresh cheese at the manor clapham

Takes some beeting.

The cauliflower was also unusual and while not as well-rounded as the beets, it was no less delectable. The slightly bitter and tart taste of the florets was offset by the mildly creamy yoghurt, although the cocoa nibs and dates added little.

cauliflower, cocoa, dates and yoghurt at the manor clapham

Date night.

Although Baron Greenback is adverse to most seafood, he does make a limited exception for whitefish such as smoked pollock. The fish was delicate and gently cooked, with an almost rare, tendon-like texture to it that was utterly beguiling. The smooth and light cream was fine, as was the sorrel, but the crisps seemed out of place. I could quite happily eat the smoked pollock, without anything else accompanying it, all day.

smoked pollock with cream, crisps and sorrel at the manor clapham

Don’t be a pillock, order the pollock.

Sea bass is becoming a cliched dish at Modernist/Modern European restaurants and really needs to be retired unless kitchens can use it in a truly different way. The fish here was fine, but unexceptional. The milky flesh was topped with taut, crispy skin and served with crisp, thin slices of salty salsify and some forgettable chanterelles.

sea bass with salsify and chanterelles at the manor clapham

All your bass are belong to us.

Pork belly is also something of a cliche, but the pig here was exceptionally well done. The milky, tender chunk of meat and smooth layer of unctuous fat were topped off with crisp crackling. The contrast in taste and texture between all three layers of this compact slice of pork was truly remarkable. The accompaniments were well chosen. The mildly chocolatey sauce and fatty, moist, unctuous black pudding-like morcilla enhanced the meaty qualities of the pork, while the sweet and soft butternut squash and nutty pumpkin seeds ensured the dish didn’t become too heavy.

pork belly with morcilla and squash at the manor clapham

Rub my belly.

Although it looks unappetising, the pigeon was exemplary. Although a little too chewy, the meat was also smoky, taut, smooth and very dense. The exceptionally satisfying mouthfeel of the meat dramatically changes my opinion of pigeon flesh. The meat was complimented wonderfully by the crisp, oaty granola, soft parsnips and thin yet moreish cream.

smoked pigeon with grains, parsnip and malt granola at the manor london

The only good pigeon is a dead pigeon.

Baron Greenback’s frozen chocolate fondant dessert didn’t taste of much and its coldness makes it better suited as a summer dessert rather than as a winter one, but it was at least airy and fluffy. The crisp, airy texture of the milk wafer both mirrored the texture of the fondant and contrasted with it, which is just as well as it had a very neutral taste. The blandness of the fondant and wafer should’ve been negated by the dulce de leche, but the sweet caramelishness I was expecting was totally absent. This all made for a dull, lifeless dessert.

frozen chocolate fondant with dulce de leche and milk at the manor clapham

Distance makes the heart grow fondant.

Far better was the artichoke ice cream. It arrived enveloped in a dramatic cloud of liquid nitrogen that dissipated quickly (which you can just make out in the first photo below). Its strangely tart taste and subtle creamy sweetness was complex, but the layered taste was nonetheless delectable and complimented nicely by the more familiar tart sweetness of the poached quince. The oddly crumbled craime fraiche added little though.

liquid nitrogen artichoke ice cream with smashed craime fraiche and poached quince at the manor clapham

Heart of ice.

artichoke ice cream with smashed craime fraiche and poached quince at the manor clapham

Ice, ice baby.

Going back for seconds

Although you can keep each dish to yourself much as Baron Greenback and I did on my first visit to The Manor, it’s much more fun to share everything – especially when you’re dining with a group of bacchanalian rogues such as Templeton Peck, Vicious Alabaster and, err, Socialist Worker.

The droëwors were just as good before. So good in fact, that they showed up the less exemplary pork and fennel salami. The tender and coarse slices of sausage had a mild taste of fennel and were perfectly good, just not as show-stoppingly good as the droëwors.

droewors at the manor clapham

Templeton Peck made fun of me for describing these little beauties as ‘exceptionally beefy’. But he agreed upon tasting them for himself – it’s an apt description.

pork and fennel salami at the manor clapham

Sausage fest.

It would be tempting to ask for another helping of the salty cream and warm bread, but it’s best to save room for the crispy chicken skins and kimchi. The thick and large, yet light and crisp skins look like hunks of pork crackling, but have a distinct taste that’s oddly reminiscent of chicken-flavoured crisps. The accompanying slices of pickled cabbage aren’t really spicy and sour enough to be a traditional kimchi, but their light tartness was still pleasing and their clean aftertaste was a welcome respite after the relative heaviness of the crisp chicken skins.

chicken cream at the manor clapham

Rolling stone.

chicken skin with kimchi at the manor clapham

Not your Uncle Kim’s kimchi.

Pairing kale and cavolo nero was an odd decision as the two related leaves were effectively indistinguishable on the plate – wrinky and crunchy. The toasted almond flakes added a nice crunch, but it was the unidentifiable sauce that made this dish – it was so intensely moreish that I picked up the plate and licked it clean.

kale with cavolo nero and hazelnuts at the manor clapham

Bale of kale.

The cornish crab may look like nothing more than various blobs of beige, but the head meat proved to be surprisingly delicious. The lightly tart and acidic sauce was also mildly creamy and made the head meat irresistible. The odd scattering of hazelnuts added little, but the firmness of the thin celeriac slices provided a contrast in texture to the soft and flaky crab meat.

crab at the manor clapham

Nothing at The Manor is quite what you expect.

Tender yet meaty chunks of cod were made exceptionally moreish by a lightly sour cream which also had a hint of saltiness to it. The neutral-tasting cracker added a variation in texture without getting in the way of the cream or the fish.

cod head at the manor clapham

Cod piece.

The roasted beets, smoked pollock and cauliflower were all just as good as they were before. Less successful than any of those dishes was the mackerel with cucumber and dill. The delicate fillets of mackerel were bland with the tart gherkin-like slices of cucumber and punchy dill sauce almost making up for its tameness but not quite.

smoked pollock at the manor clapham

All you angry Clapham-ites are aware the provocative headline is a joke right? Well, mostly a joke.

cauliflower at the manor clapham

Partially devoured by Vicious Alabaster.

mackerel at the manor clapham

Fishing for compliments.

Pairing meaty textures with delicately constructed sauces is clearly a hallmark of the cooking at The Manor. Taut and meaty medallions of monkfish proved to be the best example yet of this preferential predilection with the delicate moreishness of the mushroom-based sauce proving to be especially complimentary to the poor man’s lobster. The thin slices of firm, neutral-tasting salsify were a little out of place and unnecessary, but I can easily forgive their unsightly intrusion given the beauty of the monkfish and sauce.

monkfish at the manor clapham

The poor man’s lobster.

The pork belly was just as superb as before. The steak tartare wasn’t what I expected at all though. While the small cubes of raw beef were very smoky and lightly chewy, it was the sweetness of the slippery onions and the oddly creamy, meaty sauce that dominated this dish. A very peculiar, but still eminently scoffable dish.

pork belly at the manor - the dairy

Rub my belly.

steak tartare at the manor clapham

Weird.

Interestingly the dish with the smoked pigeon from last time was present and identical in almost every way, but with the pigeon replaced by partridge this time around. Although far less chewy than the pigeon, the partridge was also far less interesting. It wasn’t as smooth, firm, taut, dense or as smoky as the pigeon. These qualities weren’t totally absent, just significantly more muted which was disappointing as the pigeon was the highlight of my first meal at The Manor.

smoked partridge with grains, parsnip and malt granola at the manor clapham

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Socialist Worker briefly considered having the artichoke ice cream for dessert until he learnt of the liquid nitrogen involved and declined, due to his irrational fear of having his ‘face frozen off’. He opted instead for the drearily dull frozen chocolate fondant which suits his rigid personality perfectly. Templeton Peck was far more sensible, choosing the vacherin mont d’or. You don’t get a whole wheel of vacherin though, just a smell segment melted into a bowl. Even so, the sweet nuttiness of the toasted wafer proved be a tasty way of spooning the creamy and mildly rich goo into Templeton’s gob.

vacherin mont d'or at the manor clapham

Cheese it.

Both Vicious Alabaster and I gulped down the apple parfait. This combination of jelly and meringue-style wafer managed to condense the sweet and tart tastes of several apple varieties into a single, cool, very light dish.

apple parfait at the manor clapham

iLike.

The Verdict

The Manor is good. Astonishingly good.  It’s so good that it’s worth visiting Clapham for. It’s so good that, with plusher surroundings and slicker service, you’d easily be charged twice the price for it in other parts of London. The Manor’s intriguing, inventive dishes are never dull and put the food from other, far more expensive Modernist restaurants in the shade. It’s still not cheap by any measure, but you’ll struggle to find such playful cooking at lower prices elsewhere in the capital making it great value. Go. Go now.

What to orderAlmost everything…

What to skip…except the mackerel and the chocolate fondant.

 

Name: The Manor

Address: 148 Clapham Manor Street, London SW4 6BX

Phone: 0207 720 4662

Webhttp://www.themanorclapham.co.uk/

Opening Hours: Tuesday 18.00-22.00; Wednesday-Saturday noon-15.00 and 18.00-22.00; Sunday noon-16.00.

Reservations: essential

Average cost for one person including soft drinks: £50 approx. (at least £60 approx. including coffee and wine) 

Rating★★★★☆

Manor on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Manor review – proof that Clapham isn’t just for wankers

  1. Nice review, but I don’t think Clapham is full of Wankers, the area has changed in the last 6 years as transient crowd has filtered out and the place feels more settled. this is reflected in more mature and upmarket restaurants opening. The crowd you find trolling Clapham High Street on Saturday night are mostly non-residents who come to use the bars and restaurants for night outs, most Clapham residents are usually holed indoors or visiting out of the way pubs and restaurants in the Old Town or Abbeville Road. Saturday day night is usually not seen by residents as the night for outings in main-town Clapham

  2. Pingback: Paradise Garage review – the best value tasting menu in London | The Picky Glutton

  3. Pingback: Sorella review – pivoting from one cuisine to another in hard times | The Picky Glutton

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.