Rob: For the next restaurant challenge, I booked for Counter Culture, so we could tick off number 2 on Time Out’s top 100 list. This was one we really wanted to try as we both like sharing plates, any restaurant by The Dairy, and BYO.
So, the question is: What Can the Owners of The Dairy Possibly Do Wrong? Having successfully smashed our way through three tastings at The Manor, The Dairy & Paradise Garage, expectations were high.
A very good spot for a date night, we are pleased to report that Counter Culture is simply incredible. The small, intimate tables and sharing plates (and BYO wine/vodka/any alcohol you want) make it an ideal spot for a date. As advice to newcomers, just order everything you can see, and then ponder each dish as it comes. The menu is seasonal and changes weekly, but if the dishes we had were enough to go by, you will be very happy!
We started with a potato bread and spicy Nduja sausage coupled with a cultured cream; the cream countering the saltiness of the sausage and enhancing the subtle potato flavour. This was also served alongside a plate of delicate house cured salami with fennel, which left your palette begging for more despite the generous portion size.
Following this, charred pumpkin slices were served with a caramelised yogurt, which, although scrumptious, was eclipsed by the salty, nutty and sweet pumpkin seed & puffed rice praline.
After allowing this to go down (and 1/3 a bottle of red wine), we were presented with the braised octopus and leek miso (and the crispy onions, which were “the tits” as the Mrs would say). The supple octopus tentacles were the perfect accompaniment to the leek miso, with the vinegary leeks and fresh new potatoes complimenting the entire dish.
Next, and another glass down, we started on the Ox cheek. My god, we need to talk about this stuff as it could quite easily be regarded as culinary bugle. So tender and melty-on-the-tongue, served with addictive purple sprouting broccoli in a spicy oil and some pickled garlic tops… suffice to say, there was nothing left.
AAAND then we had the bao. Bambi bao to be precise. So one assumes short of chopping up a beloved childhood cartoon, the filling was actually a dark venison meat ensconced in a fluffy bao with kimchi and crushed peanut. Which was absolutely smashed out. No trace. This topped both our rankings of the dishes, easily.
More glasses of red wine in (we need to talk about red wine!) we stopped for a cheese breather. It was called Harbourne Blue, was basically goats cheese and a blue vein, and was served with figs and this sugary oat biscuit that counteracted the saltiness of the cheese perfectly. I definitely could have eaten all of the cheese, and being as dehydrated as a pisshead in the morning, ordered just the biscuit for desert.
The main dessert was a warm malted milk foam with chocolate and ginger bread. Incredible as it was, it didn’t touch the sides and I can’t describe it further due to the short amount of time it lived on our tiny table.
All in all, an incredible meal, and well done Counter Culture! Shout out to chef Ben for making us feel welcome, explaining every dish to us and for having a beautiful mise-en-place. (Alix: apparently this means good preparation) A thoroughly deserved top spot on the Time Out top 100!!