Posted on Tuesday, 19th May 2015
When Dabbous opened in 2012, it became THE most talked about restaurant in London. The cutting-edge Modern European cooking by Oliver Dabbous, previously of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Hibiscus, Mugaritz, The Fat Duck, Noma and Texture, bewitched the critics. Dabbous went on to earn critical acclaim, a Michelin Star in 2013, and the distinction of being the most unattainable dinner reservation in town.
The décor at Dabbous is every bit as cutting edge with the restaurant carving out a dark, minimalist space. Dabbous oozes industrial chic with the sound of loud house music ringing in the background. In the basement is Oskar’s Bar, named after Ollie’s business partner and Dabbous co-founder Oskar Kinberg who was once the head barman at The Cuckoo Club, a private members’ club. Here bar snacks and a heady array of cocktail delights is served, making Oskar’s Bar a go-to destination for cocktail lovers. Together the pair also opened Barnyard in 2014.
Dabbous offers a four-course set menu (£56) as well as a seven-course tasting menu (£68). We chose the latter option, which began with a dish of burrata, basil and tamarillo which was lovely. The burrata was creamy and the basil was fragrant. But it was the deliciously zingy tamarillo that proved to be the most exciting element of this dish. It’s lively flavour and freshness brought all the elements of the dish together beautifully.
The next course was a home cured goose with fenugreek. The goose had a bold deep flavour and the fat was very tasty. The use of fenugreek was a wonderful choice. It added a tinge of nutty sharpness to the dish and provided an interesting contrast to the depth of flavour in the goose.
Coddled eggs with mushrooms followed. This dish was exquisite and was the highlight of the evening. There was a heavenly creaminess and lightness to the eggs, tempered by the robust earthiness of the delicious mushrooms. My only disappointment was that there weren’t more of the eggs as it was mesmerisingly good.
We went from a high to a low point. Squid and buckwheat with a light broth was disappointing. The broth was Asian inspired, but it failed in its attempt to pull of that depth of flavour that is typical of a fragrant Asian broth. In fact, it did not taste particularly Asian at all. The squid was also bland and it was difficult to see what the buckwheat added to the dish.
Dabbous kindly substituted the squid dish with an alternative fish course, one from the four-course menu, a broth of Cornish cod with tartare sauce. The cod was nicely cooked, the broth was light, and the tartare sauce was a lovely pairing for the fish. The use of capers also proved to be a nice touch because of the added acidity. There were also some potatoes as well although these were slightly over cooked. In the round this was a very tasty fish course but not particularly memorable.
The main course was barbequed pigeon with miso quince. All the elements were extremely well executed – the pigeon was pink and nicely cooked and the quince was a considered choice for the pigeon. But there was no sauce on the plate so the effect of this dish was one of dryness on the palate which made this plate of food a little difficult to enjoy.
We tried both desserts, the one from the standard menu as well as the one from the tasting menu. The former was our favourite and was a yoghurt sorbet with sorrel and rose petals. Each element had been astutely balanced to achieve a wonderfully harmonious result, one that was decidedly refreshing and lively.
The dessert in the tasting menu was a barley sponge with vanilla cream which was tasty, although the choice of barley left the sponge with a rather heavy texture rather than a light fluffy one. The vanilla cream was deliciously creamy and helped soften the dessert.
Refreshingly original, the menu at Dabbous was to be admired for its inventiveness and minimalist construct, and the cooking to be applauded to its technical excellence. At its price point, the menu was very reasonable especially for the quality of the cooking. But in spite of all that, and the fact that Dabbous has many fans, I wasn’t completed enamoured with the Dabbous experience. I liked the food but didn’t fall in love with it. And as ‘cool’ as the restaurant was, I found the music to be too loud, the décor too harsh and the ambience too cold and sterile to allow for a relaxing dining experience, especially for restaurant with a Michelin star. As for the service, the restaurant had no qualms in quickly replacing one of our dishes, which was pleasant to see.
So in summary, Dabbous was worth trying once, especially for its amazing coddled eggs, but hard to love.
1) The coddled eggs which were incredible.
2) The reasonably priced menu.
1) The squid and buckwheat dish.
2) The noisiness and the harsh ambience.
Food rating: 3.75/5
Service rating: 3.5/5
Prices: The four-course set menu is £56 and the seven-course tasting menu is £68, excludes drinks and service.