Oh my! The Manor is phenomenal. Not since my first visit to the Fat Duck or Barrafina have I had a meal so joyous and life affirming. And of all places, it is in Clapham! Bloody Clapham! I hate Clapham! London, my muse, you confound me!
After overcoming the initial shock of finding myself south of the river we were given Bread in a bag. A freshly baked, warm and nutty mini loaf of Sourdough, to be ripped apart with your bare hands. Next to it, placed on what reminded me of one of those new-age healing stones, a delightful dollop of airy and fluffy whipped butter. The bread crust was incredible. The interior sticky and moist. If I ever manage to make a bread remotely as perfect as this I will open my own bakery.
The Manor’s tasting menu was short of a few dishes that – according to myself and oddly somewhat against our waitress’ advice – needed to be tried. As a pretty highly developed food narcissist I had of course already made up my mind and hence opted for a freestyle pick and choose approach. Best of both worlds, but mainly my own!
We were bombarded with diverse and gorgeous presentations topped with beautiful and astounding flavours. The burnt Kale and Cavolo Nero was a surprise revelation – perfectly complimentary flavours and textures.
Staff at The Manor felt at ease and equipped with an abundance of skills and knowledge about their métier. At times the friendliness made me feel like attending an extraordinary dinner party. The line between professionalism and casual apathy towards customer service is often unnoticed and crossed too easily. Special skill and a certain instinct on what goes and what doesn’t is required to keep the balance and allow the customer to still feel like one. The Manor has this sorted in a very inconspicuous and pleasant way.
I have to mention the above suckling pig dish – I never thought I would embrace braised head, but it was a mouth melting epiphany with qualities of a “pork foie gras”, just with some more crackling. Hmmmmm …
You might be beginning to notice the overwhelming variety of food we were served – listing all the individual dishes would be a pointless exercise in bad writing. Just be assured, there was more, and none of it was mediocre.
I don’t know how long the charred Ox Cheek was cooked for, but it could not have been more succulent and tender. The bitter char was mirrored by the pumpkin seeds, the sweetness of the beef offset by the capers. It is hard to dislike a good Ox Cheek, but this one was probably the best I ever tasted.
A newby – fake graffiti toilets and neon lights. A mix of trainspotting and art installation? It feels disgusting but is in fact impeccably clean. Is it cool or a bit desperate? I can’t tell, but it offers some excellent photo opportunities and a nice intermission before we go ahead to the desserts.
The dessert bar is a Hestonesque Food Laboratory in the middle of the restaurant with two charming ladies exuberating nothing but love and care for their tasks. Giant appliances, arrays of ingredients and, of course, Liquid Nitrogen!
I always felt a sense of beautiful calm while watching other people prepare food, especially if the plate is meant to end up in front of me, which it usually is! No wonder that sitting in open-plan kitchens and taking part in the cooking process as a spectator has become one of our favourite pastimes.
The Yorkshire Rhubarb would have been a close to perfect dessert on any ordinary evening, in any formidable restaurant in the capital. Here on Manor Street it became nearly redundant, an almost unnecessary choice. Why? Because of the Sundae. That’s why.
Seriously people, if you die tomorrow and wish to visit your relatives for one last goodbye, cancel it. It is not important. The Sundae is important. It might not cure you, but you will forget about death and live one last time, to the fullest.
An estimated 100 toppings to choose from – each individually good enough to be a dessert by themselves – all piled onto a smooth and delicious liquid nitrogen buttermilk ice cream. We finished all of it and proceeded to almost pass out.
What a fresh, unpretentious, exciting and courageous restaurant. What a memorable night. On our way back to the tube station Clapham somehow felt different. Almost like a place I liked. If that isn’t magical, then I don’t know what is.