As one of the hottest restaurants in London at the moment, you might be surprised to find The Dairy out in Zone 2 of London instead of the centre. But it’s just a testament to chef-owner Robin Gill’s cooking that people are veering a little off the beaten track to eat there. It opened in 2013 without much fanfare, but as soon as the critics tasted the food – now cooked by head chef Richard Falk – it became a must-visit venue for the capital’s foodie crowd.
Robin wanted The Dairy to feel like the trattorias of Italy; a relaxed, welcoming restaurant where you can get to know the staff and come back again and again. He’s certainly managed to do that, as throughout the day suppliers, locals and curious tourists pop in through the front door to deliver produce, make bookings and just catch up with various members of staff. The whole team at The Dairy work as one – there’s no division between front and back of house and the chefs often bring out their dishes themselves.
The menu is incredibly produce-led, with The Dairy’s suppliers championed as much as possible. Diners can choose between the full tasting menu or go à la carte, which is comprised of three meat dishes, three fish dishes, three vegetarian dishes, three desserts and six snacks. The mix of customers is eclectic; people pop in for a few craft beers at the bar and choose a few snacks off the menu while whole families come in for a splash-out meal for a special occasion.
There’s plenty of pickling, fermenting and preserving going on, with homemade salamis and tangy vegetables present throughout the various dishes, which change regularly, depending on what the restaurant’s suppliers have that day. Only the truffled brie and salted caramel with cacao and malted barley ice cream stay on the menu throughout the year, and the kitchen staff are always experimenting and coming up with little tasters that are sent out to the dining room for free. There’s even a rooftop kitchen garden where the chefs source their more interesting herbs, and several beehives containing 60,000 bees, creating amazing, seasonal honey that’s liberally used in The Dairy’s dishes.
The interior is all stripped back wood and brick, complementing the relaxed, Scandinavian-inspired menu and buzzing, lively atmosphere (the restaurant is almost always at full capacity) perfectly. Even the crockery highlights the rustic, trattoria-style approach to serving food; giant, polished cow bones might come adorned with slivers of goose ham, while the aforementioned rooftop honey is brought to the table still on the hive’s screen, spooned out and drizzled over Jerusalem artichoke crisps. These little theatrical touches, combined with the incredibly friendly service, delicious, inventive cooking and a great wine and beer list to match, make The Dairy one of London’s coolest and most exciting restaurants. And with Robin constantly reinvesting in the kitchen, expanding the charcuterie, garden and honey operations and constantly pushing the chefs to cook the best dishes they can, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future.