Opening of the month: The Dairy Bermondsey

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurant opening of the month The Dairy Bermondsey chef Robin Gill

Related tags: Robin Gill, Restaurant, Chef, The Dairy

The second incarnation of Robin and Sarah Gill’s highly influential neighbourhood restaurant The Dairy may look and feel a little different, but it continues to champion the same produce-led approach.

When Robin and Sarah Gill took to Instagram back in August to announce that their flagship restaurant, The Dairy in London’s Clapham, would not be reopening post Coronavirus lockdown, it was met with an outpouring of grief. Fans couldn’t believe that this cult hit, which is credited as being an early proponent of a more laid-back, rustic and affordable approach to fine dining, would be no more. Regulars from all over the world shared memories of their favourite meals there; it was, for so many, a restaurant that really meant something.

Robin Gill says he was overwhelmed by the messages of love and support the pair received following the announcement. Indeed, it was this that spurred him on to try and find a new home for The Dairy. Thankfully, he didn’t have to look far.

At the time Gill says he was working as a consultant for aparthotel brand Locke, looking for a chef to take on the recently completed restaurant space within the newly opened Bermonds Locke in Bermondsey. After a brief consideration, he realised it could be an ideal place to relocate what was back in 2012 his first solo opening.

“Closing the original Clapham site of The Dairy was a very difficult decision for me and Sarah, but finding a brilliant [new] site so quickly was such a relief,” he says.

“The space itself is quite different; it’s light, fresh, well-spaced out, and with our love of seasonal cooking and big focus on vegetables it really seemed to fit in.”

Thanks to the speed of the turnaround – little more than two weeks passed between confirming the closure of Clapham and announcing the opening of Bermondsey – Gill has been able to retain all his staff from the original Dairy. The team, he says, have used the lockdown time to reassess and refine the operation, which will allow the new restaurant to have its own identity whilst retaining the same character that was beloved by so many regulars.

“The Dairy was and will always be a family-run restaurant led by nature. Our original goal was to create an experience as close to dining by a farm or coastline in central London with direct relationships to our beloved purveyors from the land and sea.

“This has developed over the years, and while we have moved to our new home in Bermondsey our aim remains the same, which is to be the heart and soul of the neighbourhood.”

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Alongside its many local fans, the Clapham Dairy was a favourite of off-duty restaurant workers - including a number of top chefs - and at one point ran an infamous industry-only supper club, called ‘bloodshot’ owing to the fact that guest chefs serves up a meal between 1am and 7am in the morning. It was also a smash hit with the critics, attracting rave reviews across the board; and was a regular on Restaurant’s​ list of the top 100 places to eat in the UK.

Located a stone’s throw from the historic riverside street of Shad Thames and foodie hotspots of Maltby Street Market and Borough Market, The Dairy Bermondsey follows the same produce-led focus that helped define its predecessor.

The new menu, developed by chefs Will Faris and Amber Francis, is ‘a touch more casual’, to use Gill’s words, but continues to champion techniques like pickling, fermenting and smoking.

Gone is the tasting menu, for which the original was well known; what remains is an à la carte featuring an ever-changing selection of small and large sharing plates. Prices, crucially, remain accessible, with smaller plates pitched between £6 and £12 each; and larger plates ranging from £13 to £17.

Old favourites from the Clapham menu remain, such as the truffled Baron Bigod served on fig and walnut toast topped with ‘rooftop’ honey; chicken liver mousse with rhubarb jam; and a salted caramel dessert with malt barley ice cream and cacao that offers the sort of rich indulgence many will be craving as the nights slowly draw in.

However, there are a host of new dishes too, including a tartlet of smoked roe topped with cuore del vesuvio tomato and marjoram; mackerel with dilled fresh gherkins, sea purslane and dashi; grilled radicchio with broad bean puree and pickled Tropea onions; and wood-roasted lamb served with a caper-studded 'hayonnaise' and charred lettuce, and drizzled in mint oil.

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The success of the Clapham Dairy helped establish both Robin and Sarah’s reputation as significant players in the hospitality industry. Since launching it in 2012, the pair have gone on to establish Sorella (also in Clapham); and Darby’s in Vauxhall. Separately, Robin has been tasked with developing the concept and menu for The Yard restaurant at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel; and most recently helped launch country house hotel Birch in Cheshunt.

Gill has previously said that his dream is to “create an institution, similar to likes of The River Café or St John”. Though, like many, his business has suffered as a result of Covid-19, the decision to relocate The Dairy suggests that he’s still determined to realise this.

Bermond Locke, 153-157 Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 3LW
thedairybermondsey.com

Related topics: Openings, Restaurant, Chef

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