Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Manor - New British

The Manor was one of the rising stars two years ago, and it expanded rapidly to open The Dairy and Paradise Garage, all have earned raving reviews. On the second day of 2016, we decided to venture all the way to Clapham for dinner.

The restaurant boasts warm country-house shabby chic decor; wooden floor paired with old-school furniture - our dining tables had all kinds of scratched scribbles, as if they had previous lives in an old school. Our server greeted us with filtered water and explained the menu to us; we opted for a la carte to sample more dishes.


We started with amuse bouche and warm sourdough bread with freshly churned butter and chicken skin scratchings. I couldn’t help but compare the butter with the ones from Viajante, which was still the best. The cold stone holding the butter was a good idea… until all the scratchings simply fell onto the table when we scrapped the butter with our knives. No one told them this wasn’t working?

Smoked Chart Farm venison tartar, malt and bread
No it’s not the leftovers; this was how it arrived at our table. To be fair it appeared quite stylish at the time, with the venison cubes swooshed along the curve of the plate, mingled with crunchy pieces of crouton, drowned in a meaty gravy glaze. Unlike like a typical zesty tartar, this was warm, savoury and on the heavier side of seasoning that somewhat drowned the gamey flavours from the venison. I still enjoyed the textures and rawness in the meat, but I prefer a more conventional tartar that allows the delicate flavours to come through. 

Fermented Potato Flat bread, smoked aubergine and mint
This was the best of the three snacks. The aubergine puree carried a distinctive smokiness that was balanced by a healthy dose of refreshing mint. It had a middle eastern flare to it.

Cornish Cod Cheeks, Brussel tops, sprouts & cultured cream
I’m a fan of cod cheeks - super bouncy when raw; slithery soft when cooked – so naturally I had high expectations when I saw this on the menu.

It was definitely unexpected to see it served as a yoghurt-like mixture in a leaf. But nothing could have prepared us for the salt attack; it was fiercely over-seasoned. At first I thought it was just a heavy pinch of salt for garnish, but then I was hit by a second wave of saline ambush, even the bitterness from the leaves and sprouts couldn’t save it. It could have worked I suppose, the thick viscous cream and springy cheeks had a playful and robust mouthfeel, just needed more control.

We pointed this out to our waitress when she cleared our plates, and she amicably offered to remove the item from our bill. It’s always good when they care about our feedback. 

BBQ cauliflower, Romanesco, dulse & kefir
So… I didn't know what dulse was and so it was hard to know what to expect; turns out it's a type of seaweed. The whole dish had a bitter tone to it. The slices of cauliflower and romanesco were charred on the outside with a soft centre, together with the leafy green that carried a gentle bitterness, which worked well with the dollops that tasted like toasted brown rice, whipped into an airy cream.

Applewood smoked eel, celeriac, sea beets & salted wild plums
This gently pickled dish was a refreshing break to cleanse our palates. The eel fillets were plump with a thin lining of fat that melted in mouth; its pungent flavours were dissolved by the tangy dressing, uplifting the array of pickles.

Suckling Pig, braised head, Jerusalem artichoke, apple, walnut
This had to be the most rubbery suckling pig ever existed. I spent a good minute cutting into the meat and he spent forever chewing it. The skin lacked a crispy touch, instead it was a gloppy gelatinous shell that refused to crack.  The layer of lard in the middle was strangely elastic, making the meat sinewy and rubbery - at least it held ample pork juice. Interestingly the braised head meat was compressed but not deep-fried with breadcrumbs, I can’t decide whether it worked. Bottomline - we didn’t like it.

Pine smoked wood pigeons, grains, parsnips, cavolo nero & sloe berry
I’m sorry it’s looks like the pigeon has gone missing in this photo. The breast fillet is hidden under the small pile of cavolo nero while the small leg of the bird was sticking out of the plate. The presentation wasn’t great - I agree. It tasted better than it looked though. The raw bloodiness of the pigeon was prominent, paired well with the bitter greens but balanced by the creamy oats that had a bit of bite. The toasted crusty grains that topped the pigeon breast were unnecessary though, they were more hard than crispy, poking at my teeth.

I have been ordering wild game whenever I see it on the menu, but only discovered during this meal that he’d had to concentrate on dodging the bullet. I'd never really thought about it. Well, I got the bullet this time:)

Brown Rice Miso, medlar & boozy prunes
Hi Prunes, we meet again. Despite being a fan of rice pudding, this wasn’t worth writing home about.

The Manor reminded me of Lyle’s; the whole New British cuisine doesn’t quite click with me. I can understand the controlled chaos and using only seasonal produce, but what’s seasonal don’t always work with each other and sometimes it end up more chaos than control. I guess what it lacks is finesse; there is little depth or layering to the dishes in terms of flavour, even if the ingredients should potentially complement each other, it was more like single blunders of flavours in each course. Perhaps had the seasoning been more careful, I would have enjoyed it more? 

We left slightly underwhelmed. I’m glad to tick The Manor off my eat-list, though I don’t think we’d be crossing London to come here again any time soon. Having said that, he booked Paradise Garage for lunch tomorrow…

The Manor
148 Clapham Manor Street
London
SW4 6BX
Tel: 0207 720 4662

The Manor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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