Despite living a Cacklebean egg’s throw from The Dairy in Clapham for all eight years of its existence, we never quite made it to that renowned restaurant. Fortunately, sometimes you can repeat the past or at least extend a presence, for The Dairy has reopened as Bermondsey Larder, a shortish south London drive away. Dublin born co owner Chef Robin Gill trained in classical cooking at The Oak Room (once in the Hyde Park Hotel London) run by Marco Pierre White. He met his wife Sarah, who’s also now a co owner Chef, when they were both working at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (still going strong in Great Milton Oxfordshire) run by Raymond Blanc.
The Gills’ other enterprises include Darby’s, a New York style restaurant close to the American Embassy in Nine Elms, and Sorella, a neighbourhood bistro in Clapham. Fashion designer Zandra Rhodes trailblazed the rejuvenation of Bermondsey when she opened her Fashion and Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street in 2003. Its shocking pink exterior matches her shocking pink hair. The surrounding warehouses have all been converted now to apartments and workspaces. Bermondsey Larder is on the ground floor of a new mixed use development next to Newhams Yard off Tower Bridge Road. Meanwhile uses like nearby Vinegar Yard, a collection of prefab style eateries and bars, keep the area vibrant and constantly changing.
The restaurant’s airy interior is eclectic industrial with white painted exposed ceilings and polished concrete columns. It’s several times larger than the petite Dairy. A variety of tables, banquettes and bar seating is complemented by mismatched crockery. There’s a central tiled bar and metal framed kitchen hatch. The industrial chic reaches a zenith in the unisex bathroom with trough basins and factory taps.
Robin and Sarah’s aim is “to create memories” or sometimes “to create memory loss”, the latter presumably depending on the volume of Pebble Dew sauv blanc consumed. Their goal for The Dairy was “to create an experience as close as possible to dining by a farm or coastline a in central London with direct relationships to our beloved purveyors from the land and sea”. The same goal applies to their new establishment. The word “larder” has a comforting old fashioned feel to it, but while the duo’s is clearly well stocked, this is cutting edge cuisine.
The brief menu is divided into starters, small plates, large plates and puddings. Going vegetarian, we share potato and rosemary sourdough with smoked butter followed by broad bean dip, onion chutney and heritage radishes. The sharing continues with tartlet of grezzina courgette and Westcombe ricotta, then grilled English asparagus, Cacklebean egg and furikake. Cauliflower is the vegetable of the moment in London so we opt for a roasted one with coco beans, almond and sorrel. Whey poached loquats, natural yoghurt and seeded honey tuiles complete the gastronomic journey. SW4’s loss proves to be SE1’s gain.