Whoever invented brunch I salute you. I love breakfast, but by calling it brunch it means you can acceptably drink alongside your poached eggs without anyone raising an eyebrow.
My visit to the Manor had been rescheduled after a tiresome virus left me good for nothing a few weeks before.
I worked in Clapham Common when I first arrived in London over a decade ago, and like everywhere else it has changed dramatically. I feels almost unrecognisable but I managed to find where we were going – hazy memories of nights out guiding the way.
I’d visited the Manor’s sister restaurant The Dairy a few years ago (also in Clapham Common) and totally loved everything about it. When I saw the Manor were offering bottomless weekend brunch, a friend’s birthday provided a great opportunity to give it a try, and see if it matched the quality of down the road.
Ex-electrician turned chef Robin Gill has a few places in London now. He has worked at some outstanding restaurants including the Manoir in Oxfordshire and Noma in Copenhagen. For him it’s all about the ingredients – dishes are creative and beautiful but unfussy at the same time. They grow herbs and vegetables on the roof of nearby Dairy and even have their own beehives – so pretty local then.
Situated up a quiet residential road off the less chi-chi end of Clapham High St you feel like you are stumbling across a gem before you’ve even gone in.
Inside it’s bright and airy, industrial mixed with woods, vintage china and flowers for a softer edge. A huge skylight throws sunshine over the restaurant, which on the day we visited was packed out. The crowd consisted of bright young local things who wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in an episode of Made in Chelsea mixed with older stylish couples and hipsters.
Two of us opted for the bottomless brunch. Unlimited prosecco or bloody mary, a starter, main and side.
All the staff we came into contact with were lovely – slick professional but friendly. More of that later.
Now some “bottomless” “unlimited” menus are a total let-down. Sometimes you spend hours trying to catch the waiter’s attention in order to get a refill of warm prosecco in the 60 minute window you have been alloted. Not here. Catching up with friends I barely noticed the waitress continuously topping up our glasses unprompted. She even came back at the end and said she’d fill our glass as brunch was ending in five minutes. Now obviously I cannot and won’t condone binge drinking but I do like to get my money’s worth.
Right food then. Uncharacteristically I struggled to choose as everything looked great but settled on crispy chicken skins with kimchi, scrambled eggs on sourdough and crispy potato hash which was supposed to have a side of Crazy Bitc* sauce which I avoided (I’m a wimp with super hot stuff.)
Other dishes round the table included Brixham crab nori and buttermilk buckwheat pancakes with charred quince and honey cultured cream. The girls then chose some Colston Bassett cheese with homemade crackers and chutney, and I had a rum soaked sourdough crumpet with quince and milk ice cream.
I tried pretty much everything and am not going to talk about each item, as I’d be here all day. Standout dishes for me were the chicken skins – served with barbecue sauce and the kimchi. It was a punchy dish, the chicken skins layered like crackling were ruddy amazing. I could have eaten just a massive plate of those. The potatoes – oh lord those potatoes. I don’t know how they got that crunchy. Tears of joy all round.
There are ingredients on the menu I didn’t recognise but when the quality of the cooking is this good you trust that you’ll like it because everything is so expertly pulled together.
After dessert, the Front of House had heard me say it was a friend’s birthday and appeared with three mini banana cakes and dark chocolate sauce and a candle. Well done – I didn’t have to ask. Nice touch.
I urge you to head south of the river to The Manor or The Dairy – the food is joyful and exciting, and the restaurant is a shining light amidst the chicken cottages and generic chains of Clapham. Robin also has Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green for South London phobes. Go now…it might not be in your Manor, but you should definately visit this one…..
Jan 2018 – The Manor has now closed. The same team have now opened Sorella.