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This totally on-trend tapas bar comes from chef Robin Gill (The Dairy, The Manor, Paradise Garage). Here he’s transformed The Dairy’s old deli into a 15-seat temple to inventive cooking, prepared behind the counter by just one chef and served by solo front-of-house Coco Crean (ex-Paradise Garage). Counter Culture takes bookings, it’s BYO and it’s great value (around £40 a head). “Just order everything” Coco cheerfully told us after we’d taken a stool at the counter. So we did. Standouts from the nine-dish menu included potato sourdough that really did taste sour, spread with exhilaratingly spicy homemade ’nduja, and a cultured cream to cool things down. We also loved the earthy salsify ketchup, scooped up on a Quaver-like curl of pork crackling. And we were smitten by a jumble of beef tartare, caviar and radishes, all gleefully rubbed around the plate to mop up bone-marrow salad cream, as well as Galician octopus served with fried ’nduja and cooked in the ’nduja oil. And that’s the thing: nothing goes to waste, nearly everything is made on site – there’s a curing room and a smokehouse, fermenting bottles lining the shelves and beehives on the roof – and prepared using labour-intensive methods. It’s not hard to detect Gill’s time spent at Noma and Le Manoir in his refusal to cut corners. The restaurant’s website calls Counter Culture ‘The Dairy’s naughty little brother’. As we hugged Coco good night (blame the BYO), we couldn’t wait to return to this naughty but very nice newcomer.
I hate admitting it, but a raving review can influence my decision to move the restaurant to the top of my “must visit” spots list. The Dairy in Clapham had been on my list for a long time and for one reason or another I had to cancel bookings there multiple times. But when I read the fantastic review of their sister restaurant, Counter Culture, in Time Out last week, and managed to get three out of their 14 seats for dinner with my friend Guy who was visiting from LA, I couldn’t believe our luck.
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