One of the biggest influences on Robin’s restaurant and overall style of cooking came from his time in Scandinavia, which he visited while on a sabbatical. ‘I knew a few guys working at Noma so I got to cook with them and work the service, which was really cool. But the restaurants that really had an affect on me were the little places, which were relaxed, played music and had a great mix of people. You could go in there for a beer and a few snacks or sit down and have a proper celebratory meal. There was less on the plates but loads of textures and the ingredients really related to the surrounding area. I wanted to do the same thing in London.’
After an investor fell through for his own place, Robin and his wife decided to borrow money from friends and family and open up The Dairy themselves, in 2013. They put a team together made up of the people Robin had worked with at Le Manoir and other previous jobs, and quietly launched the restaurant in Clapham – to critical acclaim.
Just a few months later, Robin had gone from being a very talented yet unknown chef to the owner of one of the hottest new restaurants in London. By letting the produce dictate the menu – he never asks his suppliers for certain things, working his menu around what they can offer him instead – and combining Nordic-inspired flavours with brilliant British produce, his small restaurant is booming. But The Dairy isn’t the only string to Robin’s bow.
‘About eighteen months after we opened The Dairy we launched The Manor, then The Delicatessen three months after that, and then Paradise Garage two months later,’ Robin explains. ‘Everything happened in the space of about two and a half years – it was crazy. They’re all different – The Dairy is very small, cosy, rustic and buzzy, whereas The Manor is more spacious and Scandi-inspired. At The Dairy we focus on natural wines and craft beers, whereas The Manor has an amazing cocktail selection. Paradise Garage has a huge five metre pass, so the bar, kitchen and dining room are all part of the same thing. But it’s the chefs that really make the food different; I’m not running all over the place writing the menus.’ With three restaurants and a deli to manage, he might not be writing the menus, but we think Robin probably has to do a little bit of running from time to time.
Robin hosts The Bloodshot Supper Club, where groups of chefs get together to let off steam and share ideas. It happens on the last Saturday of the month and begins at 1am, finishing well into the early hours.
As well as having his own curing room, Robin set up beehives and a kitchen garden on the roof of his restaurant.
Robin sources his fish from a tiny Cornwall-based supplier called Kernowsashimi. Every morning he is sent a text by the company's fishermen telling him what they've caught before it even reaches the shore.