I must have been to The Old Dairy a hundred times or more for a drink but I don’t recall ever having eaten there. Fresh from a refurb and with options in Stroud Green thinning out (Gustavo’s, I notice, has bitten the dust) we took a table in the Dairy of a Saturday night.
Well, that makes it sound easier than the process of getting a table actually turned out to be. Could we have a table for 5? The guy said he’d check. I could see at least five empty tables immediately in front of me and I was pretty sure there were more next door but hey, it was a Saturday right so maybe they had a lot of bookings. Our man had disappeared and was next seen taking a payment from a customer having, goldfish-like, completely forgotten what he was supposed to be doing.
Another server strolled past – were we waiting for something? Table for 5 please … oh, I’ll just have a look. Hmm, been told that before but on this occasion we did get a table, a nice big one. Everybody gruntled again.
The menu is pretty extensive and has a lot of tempting things on it. I opted for chicken livers to start and then venison for a main. Would we like drinks? You betcha – wine for the adults and a beer for the teenager. ‘How old is he?’ ‘Seventeen, is that a problem?’ ‘I’ll check with the manager.’ Well, the manager said no but we protested that if he was eating he should be allowed to have a drink. A concession was made. Everybody happy again. The wine, a white Rioja, was very good and our waitress charm itself in the face of disintegrating gruntlement.
Four starters arrived but where were the chicken livers? Somewhere else, obviously. Somewhere else for long enough that I asked the others to start without me while I looked for the livers. Eventually they arrived and were okay but seemed to have come from very large chickens. The livers I liked but the sauce had too much raw heat and some pointless cold cherry tomatoes in it. Squid on the other hand looked good.
More drinks? Sure, same again please. Ah but no, you see the boy could have one pint but not another. ‘Are you sure?! I mean that seems a little inconsistent.’ ‘I’ll check with the manager.’ Nope, it’s a one drink policy. We took it philosophically. Mains taking a fair while to arrive it was clear that the kitchen was having a slow night. Or that hungry bar customers were taking precedent over those in the restaurant. But when it arrived the venison was decent, if a little undercarbed with potatoes of the straw variety making a meagre contribution. But I snaffled some (good) chips from the chicken muncher across the way. Crunchy cabbage was a good thing. Did we want dessert? Hmm, I don’t think so.
The waitress could see that we weren’t entirely happy about the way things had gone and did a good job of emollience but it really should have occurred to the manager that a personal visit to the table might have been wise. I don’t like it when managers leave their staff to face the music, it’s happened too often at work to me in the past. It might just have been an off night for the resto but for over forty quid a head I expect a bit better. Oh, and I forgot to mention the health and safety testing floor chip.
To end on a brighter note the highlight of the evening were the plates! Hand turned pieces of lovely crockery that showed off the food very well, I coveted them.
To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).