One of the best but also annoying food fads in the last few years has been the small plates revolution. Borrowing from established cuisines such as tapas and dim sum, the ability to try a lot of different tastes and flavour combinations is fantastic when executed well.
I’ve had some amazing small plates meals at places like Stones Throw in San Francisco. However, I haven’t been so enamoured with the small plates scene in London. With notable exceptions like Antidote, I’ve found that the portions are small and the prices high so that it’s possible to run up a huge bill for an average meal very quickly.
The Manor in Clapham has been quietly wowing influential critics for a few years and I finally got the chance to have dinner there on Saturday with Emma and my sister. It’s tucked away in a little side street between Clapham Common and Clapham North Tube stations.
Firstly, the decor deserves a comment. They’ve really taken the distressed look to another level with deeply scratched walls and severe spray paint graffiti in the toilets. I didn’t mind it but it may not be to everyone’s taste.
However, what was to my taste were the intriguing dishes on the menu. Divided into snacks, garden, sea, land and sweet & cheese, the descriptions of the dishes gave enough detail to pique the interest.
Before the meal proper began, we received a plate of lovely crackers as canapés. After ordering, a basket of warm bread arrived – fantastic crust. The bread came with The Manor’s signature chicken butter – chicken flavour infused into the butter and then topped with bits of crispy chicken skin. The butter didn’t melt because it was served on a chilled stone – impressive attention to detail.
This was the biggest section divided into half charcuterie and half other dishes.
Our favourite dish from this section were the crispy chicken skins, kimchi & BBQ sauce. Perfect balance of crunchy salty skins, sweet sauce and sour kimchi.
Balance was again the word that sprung to mind when we ate the Cornish cod cheeks, roe, Nduja & tomatoes. The restaurant thoughtfully assembles ingredients with complementary flavours and textures, each one playing its role to achieve harmony.
Smoked Chart farm venison tartare, malt & bread proved a good way to appreciate the full-bodied flavour of the venison.
Pork & fennel salumi was our token charcuterie choice and this tried and tested combination went well together.
I’m a definite carnivore and I was surprised that my favourite dishes came from this garden section.
Brassicas, almonds & lemon had an unexpected smokiness in the broccoli, giving it a nuttiness, which was delicious.
Spring alliums, goat’s curd & The Dairy’s rooftop honey showed versatile onions could be, with sweet roasted onions and also crunchy shallots.
The dishes in the sea section were quite similar and again, there was inventive use of vegetables.
‘Julie Girl’ monkfish, roe emulsion, celeriac & nori had the familiar balancing act of balancing ingredients.
‘Lady Hamilton’ smoked cod, cultured cream, new potatoes & sorrel was brought to life by the bright tang of the sorrel.
Saddleback pork, braised head, Grezzina courgette, olives & chickpeas could have done with a sliver of crackling but then, I adore crackling.
Honey glazed Daphne’s lamb, ricotta, turnip, peas & broad beans was a yummy tribute to spring lamb.
Poached rhubarb, cultured custard & camomile kombucha sorbet proved a light dessert, a necessary quality for the 13th dish!
We were given a last treat of hemp cakes to send us on our way.
Food: ★★★★★ Service: ★★★★★ Ambiance: ★★★★☆ VFM: ★★★★☆ Overall: ★★★★★
Price: Our bill for 3 came to £150 with 2 cocktails and 1 mocktail. We probably did go a bit overboard with the number of dishes but they were delicious
148 Clapham Manor Street, London SW4 6BX