Robin and Sarah Gill, owners of a clutch of celebrated south London restaurants, have announced that they will permanently close The Dairy — the pair’s first restaurant, and the group’s flagship site. The Gills have also said that next-door wine bar and deli, Counter Culture will close.
On Instagram, the owners said: “This has been one of the toughest decisions of our lives. The pandemic has hit us harder than we ever imagined it would.”
The message continued: “The Dairy has been our way of life for almost a decade, the memories created, the wonderful friendships (the bloodshots [after-hours supper clubs]), the bees, the people and culture of our little journey will never be forgotten.”
In the mid-2010s, Robin Gill established himself among the city’s most successful new-wave chefs — alongside the likes of James Lowe, Isaac McHale, and Ollie Dabbous — promoting a style derivative of Noma (where he’d previously worked) that used a modern tasting menu format formed from seasonal British ingredients. It kicked off with homemade bread and butter, presented on Flintstoneian ceramics, which paid tribute to the chef’s Irish roots and reflected new consumer tastes. The style has percolated into countless wine bars, small plates venues, and the dining rooms of less talented Michelin-adjacent also-rans across the city in the intervening years.
The Dairy opened in 2013; a second restaurant, nearby called The Manor followed in 2014; and Counter Culture came in 2016. In 2015, Gill opened Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green. That restaurant closed in the autumn of 2017. Shortly after, the group reinvented The Manor, replacing what was a modern British bistro with a neighbourhood Italian joint called Sorella.
More recently, Gill has been behind big projects such as Darby’s in the new Nine Elms development in Battersea. Separately, he was tasked with developing the menu for the restaurant at the old Metropolitan Police headquarters, the Great Scotland Yard Hotel. The Gills’ latest project is a hotel-restaurant in Hertfordshire, called Birch.
In Eater London’s first essential 38 restaurant list, The Dairy was among those selected:
This is a restaurant that said a lot about the industry in 2017. Chefs love it, critics eulogised it and locals fill it day and night. Ostensibly, it’s a classic neighbourhood joint. But Robin Gill represents the modern inclinations of the best young chefs, using his tasting menus to show off local ingredients tempered with New Nordic best practice to produce dishes like Cornish mussels with English corn and bread miso.
Robin said on Instagram that he hoped it would not be a goodbye forever. “It’s not gone in my mind, it’ll never be gone. It’s only sleeping for now — we’ll be back.”
Sarah added: “It’s not how we wanted The Dairy to end,” paying tribute to the resilience of staff throughout the difficult recent months. “I wanted to say a huge thank you to our team who are still working with us today, and helping us thrive and push forward and their resilience through this time has been absolutely incredible.”