Scores: 1 M*/ GFG 5/ Z 26/ H 1
Dabbous is one of the two hardest restaurants to get into in London, it is extremely difficult to get a table there and apparently it is fully booked until into the New Year. I had given up trying to get a reservation anytime soon but luckily ended up getting given one here this weekend. The restaurant is owned by Ollie Dabbous, who most recently was the former head chef at Texture after working in many restaurants around the world. He also previously worked at Le Manoir and Raymond Blanc is a financial backer of Dabbous.
Situated just off Charlotte Street in an area containing many restaurants and bars Dabbous is obviously doing something to massively stand out from the crowd. One of the things that is possibly appealing is that this restaurant may have some of the most interesting décor for a Michelin starred place. To get in one has to pull open a massive metal door that is not exactly welcoming; however, thankfully the staff just through it are. The restaurant is very industrial with stone floors and bare walls; with vents etc. on display- it reminds me of bars in former New York warehouses. Also it caters to only about 35 covers which is fairly small considering the demand.
Usually I would have been keen to take on the 7 course tasting menu (£59) especially since it is unlikely that I will be back anytime soon given the booking difficulties. Although, as it was lunch time we had a look at the excellent value lunch menu which provides 4 courses for £28 (it is great that they actually still offer this as many restaurants this popular have withdrawn it). We realised that if we took the different options on the lunch menu and shared we could have the first three courses on the tasting and then a fish and meat course, then a dessert. The fish and meat were different from the tasting but the meat was a barbecued dish which I was keen to try after being recommended a similar dish.
We ordered a drink before the food came, the cocktail list from the bar downstairs had a good selection of drinks and the one I tasted was very nice, there was also a decent selection of wines by the glass (£6 to £21). Some of the cocktails had quite amusing names, such as ‘2 blueberries, one cup’ (if you don’t get this- don’t ask!). Some juicy green olives arrived with our drinks. Four slices of bread turned up in a branded paper bag; this was still hot and well baked with a nice nutty crust. The butter was also very tasty and was served whipped having a slightly molten consistency.
A salad of fennel, lemon balm & pickled rose petals is one of the main signature dishes of the restaurant, the other being a coddled egg which was not on the menu for seasonal reasons. It was a very pleasant looking dish and tasted good; it was very refreshing with a nice level of aniseed taste from the fennel. However, I did not find this particular noteworthy. Ripe tomato in its own juice was IMO a simple but great dish, based on a classic flavour combination. The tomato had a real intensity of flavour and the basil oil accompanying it added taste and fragrance to the cold consommé below. A middle course of toasted sweet corn with salted butter & meadowsweet was interesting. This was served as a whole corn on the cob and usually is not the sort of thing one would except to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant. This was a very tasty corn on the cob, perfectly cooked and the butter with meadowsweet, a herb, that adds a slightly flowery aromatic flavour to the slight richness of the butter. Overall here the balance of flavours was excellent and this was a very tasty dish, although perhaps one you could pull off yourself relatively easily.
Grilled mackerel with iodized sour cream, samphire & lovage came on a bed of cucumber and was a good preparation of mackerel; the fish was very well cooked- perfectly tender with a cooked skin. Although this was tasty I don’t think it was as good as the preparation at the Ledbury where it is one of their signature dishes. The second main of barbecued lamb shoulder, violet mustard & pickled vine leaves was a great dish. The lamb was well cooked, being pink but with a smoky taste, the mustard, vine leaves and spring onions made a very tasty dish.
Scottish raspberries with barley & strained yoghurt was a surprisingly pleasant dessert, considering I am not a massive fan of yoghurt in general. Here the raspberries had a good amount of taste and the barley added some texture. What made this dish was an intensively flavoured raspberry coulis that was poured in at the table. The meal finished, as it had started with some small green balls- in this case some baby Japanese plums that were served with coffee.
The service was mainly great throughout being friendly and helpful (although I am not too sure about the men’s dress code- braces!), although personally I think that at this level a server should be able to answer a basic question on an available by the glass wine without having to go and ask the sommelier. This was a very nice meal in somewhere a bit different but cool, the food was tasty and interesting but really why it is booked up so far in advance constantly is a mystery to me! It definitely deserves its Michelin star but IMO it is far from being one of London’s very top restaurants in terms of food quality (thankfully these are generally easier to get into). In fact I had more memorable meal in Texture when Dabbous was a chef there.