"Clapham gains another culinary gem"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
The sheer number of drinking holes in Clapham makes the area resemble Watford’s town centre come Friday night, all kebab containers and their contents (sometimes in semi-digested form) strewn along the pavements. But for all its faults Clapham has been known to offer the odd culinary gem; Adam Byatt’s Trinity and gastropub Abbeville Kitchen are just two great eateries that drive punters daan’ saaf’ for their dinner.
The Rookery is on the site of what used to be a bar called Firefly, yet another generic drink-as-much-as-you-can-before-8pm type affair. The loud pop hits have gone, the harsh lighting has been replaced with candle-lit semi-darkness, and the bar stocks rows of enticingly-labelled wines instead of Jägermeister.
The head chef is one Stephen Gadd, previously of Hibiscus and Pied a Terre. The menu looks promising, with plenty of game and winter vegetables, it also has today’s date on it, suggesting seasonality. There’s an intriguing cocktail list too, with fashionably old fashioned negronis and sours.
Velvety ox tongue is cut into slices and tarted up with bright mustardy piccalilli. A warm smoked mackerel salad with slices of sweetened rhubarb, horseradish and fresh leaves in a light dressing is fantastic, dainty but with plenty of flavour.
Mains are just as impressive. The grilled wood pigeon is moist and rosy in the middle, rich and gamey, served with creamy Béarnaise. The triple cooked chips are simply glorious, golden and crispy on the exterior, fluffy on the inside. Another main of braised rabbit leg has tender meat that slices off the bone with ease, and a piquant black pudding gravy, buttery mash and lightly cooked kale are divine accompaniments. The onglet steak is yet another dish of succulent meat, with lentils having absorbed its juices as well as the interesting addition of a vinegary salsa verde. Simple, yet heavenly.
Desserts arrive in little glass tumblers, one consists of two scoops of lemon curd meringue semi freddo - rich, pillowy ice cream with just a hint of citrus to offset the creaminess - but even better is the blood orange Campari jelly, a little like trifle revisited, with the fantastic combo of a sweet layer of orange atop deep red boozy jelly.
Other things we like are the bread, which is homemade, and includes a salty focaccia, seeded sourdough and doughy white bread, served with olive oil and salted butter, and the fact that the food is served in enamel oven dishes rather than gastropub-standard white platters.
The Rookery is excellent value too - a three course meal for two is around £85, and that includes a £35 bottle of 1999 Decenio Rioja Reserva. All the more reason to venture to Clapham.
Leila reviewed The Rookery on Mon 26 Mar 2012