The Manor - Another Clapham goldie

Pudding bar
So, Clapham is suddenly getting it's mark on the London map for seriously awesome places to eat within. Valentine's day was fast approaching and I was finding myself ever so slightly stuck for a place to seat 6 of us to have supper a 'mere' month or so ago.

We managed to get a cancellation for an 8:30pm seating at The Manor. AKA, the people behind The Dairy's newest venture. I was surprised, and yet extremely pleased with bagging such a spot for this rather popular evening for dining out and even more so because, once the evening was over I am desperate to go again as I am sure many other feel the same...
Unexpected evenings always turn out to be my most enjoyable. Tonight was one of those... Firstly, It was Valentine's night and I was spending it in a restaurant, something I have always sworn against doing. Secondly, we were therefore made to have a 'Lover's' (not their words, my own) tasting menu which is the main reason I choose not to go out on the 14th. Often, over-priced and somewhat thrown onto your table in attempt to get you out asap... thankfully, The Manor could not have been more of an exception if it tried.

The venue is off Clapham High Street on a really non de-script road that when arriving I thought I was in the wrong place. However, on walking through the door it's a completely different story. You are transported to an exceptionally vibrant room which only gets better as the evening draws in. The d├ęcor is much like it's sister restaurant, rustic and industrial however, a little more, stylised (and yes, the loo's are a little 'out there'!).
We were seated towards the back on a large farmhouse kitchen dining table already set with mismatched vintage crockery and cutlery. Being as it was Valentine's night we were pre-warned of the set menu and this was already at each place sitting. A flute of champers was brought to the table and we were briefly taken through ingredients for each course whilst nibbling on an amuse bouche of seaweed on top of a tapioka crisp and white miso, I loved this little mouthful of sea saltiness along with others. Mr D was not so fussed. 
Following that, we were then given a small sharing board of spicy beef droewors, pork and fennel salami (both delicious) and a hessian bag (with its own 'heat pack') of freshly baked bread. 
Now, this bread is like no other, each roll is meant for sharing...I managed to devour a whole loaf to myself in record speed without anyone round the table noticing, it is THAT good! 
Served with...wait for it... CHICKEN SKIN WHIPPED BUTTER...daintily placed on a cool rock. Just so, SO gooooood!
Our feast then came in thick and fast. Crispy chicken skins, kimchi and burnt kale. A wonderful mix of textures and flavours.
Cauliflower, grue de cacao, medjool dates and kefir (fermented milk). Was another win on unusual flavour combinations. The chocolate in particular was incredibly caramel-esque I was getting every last drop off the plate with my finger. 
The final of our starters was a rather huge applewood smoked eel, cultured cream, new potatoes and parsnip. I can't actually ever remember whether I had eaten eel before or not. Here, it was only lightly smoked therefore, letting the rest of the plates elements shine through. Again, another mix of textures with added 'crisps' and 'burnt' onions - de-lish. 
For mains it was a choice of two...

Hay smoked pigeon, fermented grains, malt granola and parsnip for three of the family and had an all round thumbs up.
And, suckling pig belly, braised head, carrots and caraway for me - simply put, it was heaven! Perfectly cooked belly with a crisp crackling (a certain GP would approve!), and an incredibly tender braised pork head cube - a seriously delicious plate of food made even better by a wonderful mix of colours. 
We then opted in for the £3 extra midi-cheese course of Tunworth with walnut toast and earl grey prunes. 
Puddings then swiftly followed starting with a refreshing palate cleanser of kombucha, gin, cucumber and sesame (ice cream and sorbet).
Rhubarb and tonka bean custard for the majority of the table...
and then my choice of dark chocolate mousse, blood orange and brown butter ice cream. Yet another, exceptionally put together plate of ingredients, thoroughly enjoyed and a great dish to finish off the evening.
And then finishing off with some delightful little cakes things however by the time these came out I was nicely tipsy from my father plying me with delicious booze (thank you!). 
The Manor surprised me, it was so hyped up I was expecting it to be good but, it exceed my expectations in so many ways from start to finish. A wonderful place for friends and family whom love food and enjoy a great buzzing atmosphere. It's a welcome and fantastic addition to Clapham's forever expanding restaurant scene. I predict this place to be getting a star very soon... 

A: 148 Clapham Manor Street, London
T: 0207 720 4662

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World's End Market

Courtesy of JPR Media
World's End is this weird place in Chelsea where it's always been a little bit of a thoroughfare and certainly not a huge destination place. Then came Medlar and now arrives The World's End Market making it slightly more of a reason to stop by. 

Courtesy of JPR Media
What was once a bit of an institutional pub has, sadly, for years been left to go a little bit grotty and a few people have tried and failed to make this building alive again. The 'Market' group took over the place and totally redesigned it giving it masses of punter appeal and a bit of 'oomph' as a 1930's, brasserie style, cosy dining room and a fully functional bar/dancing space below - 30th birthday party sorted! 

Towards the back of the dining room is an open kitchen where everything is cooked on a charcoal grill "to lock in the natural flavours that come from sourcing the best local ingredients", according to their website. Beside the kitchen is an array of fresh fish (including a rather pissed off live lobster) and a meat counter. It all looks fantastic and literally couldn't be fresher... 

Courtesy of JPR Media
Courtesy of JPR Media
We sat down and ordered a bottle of the house white (on one of my apparent 'none drinking evenings') and got stuck into the menu.

Starters read all too well and we decided to share three. Focusing heavily here on their raw or cured ingredients as many of the starters are carpaccio's and tartar's (heaven if you ask me!) and all sound delicious.

My cousin F started with the tuna tartar, Moroccan eggplant and cumin mayo which was polished off swiftly and got a thumbs up. Not overly heavy on the spice this was a really refreshing dish and the portion size was far from stingy.

Due to my love of scallops and never not being able to order them we shared a plate of the carpaccio with lemon salsa and harissa. These babies slipped down incredibly well and the harissa gave a warm chilli kick to what would have been a simple (but very enjoyable) dish. 

I had the Octopus carpaccio, which, can be a dish that can go terribly wrong or terribly right. In this case they went right and the wafer-thin octopus was wonderfully tender, almost a cured ham-like in texture and sprinkled with a dusting of paprika giving a smokiness to the dish. Crunchy capers added more texture to the dish and a slight saltiness balanced out the flavours. Overall? A really pleasing plate of food to start a meal off with.

Mains are kept simple, there is also a rather enticing burger menu from Sunday-Thursday featuring a truffle burger to highlight a particular one. All meat and fish are charcoal grilled (as said above) to let the produce sing. These are then all served with a dressed side salad and skinny fries - I have heard rumours that their steak is (whisper it) 'better than Hawkesmoor's' but you will have to decide for yourself...

F had the whole rainbow trout which was cooked well with crisp skin and served on the bone with a slightly 'gloopy' parsley butter sauce which complimented the fish well.

Yours truly had the yellowfin tuna as suggested by the charming manager and was served with a caper style salsa and the same sauce as above. Perfectly pink in the middle and charred slightly on the outside I was thoroughly pleased with my choice as it was delicious and the tuna incredibly fresh. My only gripe was that the fries were quite often too crunchy but, this is a personal preference as I'm sure there's a million people out there whom love their fries crisp. 

Next to us a man-date was in full swing and seemingly some regulars of this new joint. They promptly ordered the cheesecake without even looking at the menu and told us it was 'insanely good and a must'. We did just that and ordered both the caramel and fruit versions... These boys weren't wrong although I think we could have happily shared one between us and still felt that our sugar hit was well and truly satisfied, very creamy, very sweet but oh so good! A certain cheesecake lover, Mr C, would be in heaven. 

I can The World's End Market getting popular with the locals very quickly. The atmosphere even for a Tuesday night was buzzing and tables were being filled with walk ins from the moment we arrived. What is apparent is that the staff clearly love working here and they take pride in the produce they serve. Service was always with a smile and they were happy to talk us through the fresh fish at the counter. I really hope this place stays put as I'll be coming back for a burger very soon. 

Address: 459 King's Road, Chelsea, London SW10 0LR

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(n.b. I was invited down to review as a guest)
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My top London Valentine's restaurants

So I have been asked on numerous occasions to give a list of restaurants I would go to with my Valentine...

Sadly, as one friends other half found out many, if not all, are fully booked but, here's food for thought for if you want to take your other half for a slap up evening out on the tiles. These are places where most are serving 'sharing plates' which is one of my favourite ways to eat as a twosome - no food envy and you can pick away to your hearts content.

Barrafina - Soho and Covent Garden

I wasn't going to put any restaurants in which you can't book but, seemingly it's near impossible to miss a few out because of this 'craze'. You can, however, stand and have a glass of sherry and some iberico whilst you wait and the wait is hardly ever longer than 40/60mins or so, more than enough time for some flirtatious catching up.

Bocca di Lupo - Soho

A fairly recent addition to my blog and one that had been on my 'go to' list for as long as I can remember. Here, it is bookable however a good few weeks notice is needed. For romancing, book the bar stools and enjoy an award winning wine list with yummy food and an electric atmosphere.

Polpo/Polpetto - Soho, Notting Hill and Covent Garden

A firm favourite of mine for both lunch and dinner. This place has served me some fond memories over many small plates of delicious Venetian food and carafes of vino. At night the lights are dimmed and music is turned up making it all rather cosy and romantic. Again, no bookings here for evenings but you can enjoy a glass of wine whilst you wait. Bar seating is bar far the best way to soak up the atmosphere here. 

Claudes Kitchen 1, 234 and 5 (the first ever visit)!- Parsons Green

Avid readers will know how much I adore this place (and also probably from the link numbers above!). This is a cosy, cute restaurant serving sensational in season food, the menu changes weekly which shows off Claude's excellent chef-ing skills - I am yet to have a 'new' flavour combination I haven't liked. Relaxed it may be but Claude knows his flavours and out of this tiny kitchen comes some lip smackingly good flavours and punchy wines to match. Head downstairs afterwards whereby they have a champagne bar which is open well into the night. 

Berners Tavern - Off Oxford Street

Still almost a year on this is one of our most enjoyable nights... one of those where spontaneity gets the better of you (read I get overexcited!) and you roll in home at 4am. Berners Tavern has 'attitude' at night and a cocktail menu to match. Head there early, prop up the bar, enjoy Atherton's amazing food then head on down to the 'secret basement' club attached. Warning it is eye-wateringly expensive when one gets sloshed but trust me, it's worth every penny. 

Hunan - Pimlico

Hunan has been around since 1982 (it's older than me!) and its 'no menu' tasting feast has attracted foodies, celebs and locals thick and fast since opening. Always a fun evening out with friends as you never know what the chef is going to throw at you and it has a wonderfully competitively priced wine list. It's regarded as one of London's 'best Chinese restaurants' and once visited it's easy to know why. Go with a long-timer (not a first date) as you leave full to bursting which won't set you up if you're planning on staying up until the early hours... 

Dabbous - Goodge Street

Innovative modern food served in an industrial style restaurant with a bar to boast about serving banging cocktails and fabulous bar snacks. Tasting menu's are the only way forward here which gives you an incredible insight into his skills as one of Britain's gifted chefs at this time.   

Places I return to often but haven't blogged about:

Julie's - Notting Hill. A bit of a NH institution for the past 30+ years. A really pretty restaurant with 'themed' rooms and serving excellent refined British grub.

Tinello - Pimlico. Fantastic family run smart Italian restaurant serving pretty incredible pastas and fantastically flavoured 'secondi Piatti'. When I go here I tend to fill the table with loads of the small eats and antipasti and fight over whom gets the last Gamberi Fritti, then move onto their home made pastas - delicious.

Ember Yard - Soho. Incredible 'refined' BBQ food, Just go, I can assure you, you won't be disappointed. 

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Trinity, Clapham

Wednesday was 'Date Night', and a recent flurry of cooking for (many, many) friends meant a well deserved meal out for the two of us and we chose a classic, firm favourite 'Trinity' in Clapham.

The restaurant is hidden away off the main 'Old Town' stretch and upon entering the restaurant you are transported to a wonderful fine-dining(-esque) room which has more of a laid back modern feel to it and isn't in the slightest bit stuffy, like so many are.

We came mid week due to its Winter blues busting offer of 3 courses for £27. Somewhat of a bargain when a lot of the mains are £25+ off the A La Carte and also when feasting on Adam Byatt's cooking this is most definitely a bit of a bargain.

And then we were quickly presented with these wonderful cheese stuffed 'profiteroles' (Mr D already whipped his away) and their infamously delicious smoked cod's roe with radishes, I repeatedly dipped scooped this up with the warm home made sour dough bread which was served with a whipped (to its nth degree) cheddar whey butter.

The set menu comes with two choices for each of the three courses. For starters we both went for the Game Stuffed King Cabbage and Toasted Walnuts. This was as pleasing for the eye as it was for us hungry diners. Sat on top of what I think was a rich cauliflower soup and sprinkled with lashings of parmesan and truffle shavings. The cabbage was stuffed generously with wonderfully well-flavoured mixed game. A seriously impressive start to the meal, it tasted totally sublime. 

Veal bolognese, hazelnut gnocchi, white onion and parmesan for Mr D.

Excellently cooked Cornish Cod, Puy Lentil with Sherry Vinegar, House Chorizo and Mussels for yours truly. The mussels, in particular, were fab. Coated in a light breadcrumb then fried until crisp, leaving the molluscs still succulent inside.

A rather delicate vanilla Ice Cream and cherry Sorbet with Honey Madeleine's for him...

And the Queen Bee of desserts for me... 'date pudding' AKA. One of the most decadent and delicious sticky toffee puddings I've had in a long time, possibly, ever. AB, please kiss your pud chef for me. 

Trinity is, in a word, superb I've been fortunate enough to eat here with both family and friends on several occasions and never once have I left feeling any less that truly satisfied. I am still, three years on, so confused as to why it hasn't got a star. The restaurant is wonderful, the food is exceptional and the staff are always impeccable. Michelin judges, pull your finger(s) out they thoroughly deserve it.

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