Dabbous, in central London, launched in 2012 to rave reviews. It was quickly impossible to get a table, with a year-long waiting list, especially after winning it’s first Michelin star in 2013. But it’s not about formal fine dining; the decor is like an industrial workshop – battleship greys, rough plaster walls, cold steel scaffolding pipes, bare wood and concrete. There’s no linen tablecloths or flowers, the service is calm and friendly, and wines are served by the carafe. The dining room is on the ground floor, while downstairs is a bar where the well-dressed drink cocktails.
So, how good is it?
The chef, Oliver Dabbous, trained under Raymond Blanc and worked at The Fat Duck and Noma. The food is balanced, carefully thought-out with a focus on the ingredients rather than fancy foams. The 4 course set menu lunch is short, simple and seasonal, and a real bargain at £32.
We kicked off with a healthy plate of shaved raw celeriac, muscat grapes & toasted hazelnuts and the alternative starter of iced raw scallop with eucalyptus – a savoury granita idea, not entirely convinced but definitely an experience. A dense acorn flour noodles in a rich duck & fenugreek broth with garlic chive flowers followed. One foodie declared it was ‘lick the bowl’ good while the other really disliked it – bit of a marmite experience, I’d say!
Perfectly cooked, poached cod with warm potted shrimps on a bed of potato puree, pea shoots and a fish broth was the highlight dish. Light and delicious. The roast pink veal fillet with autumnal vegetables & a cheese broth was well executed and interestingly topped with nutty, thinly sliced raw mushrooms.
We felt the burrata and tamarillo: a creamy mozzarella with caraway and a slice of sweet, roasted tomato-like tamarillo was ok, but steep at a £5 supplement. But we both loved the dessert of a miniature warm fig & honey cake, and a chilled, frothed rice milk infused with fig leaves. We’ve been determined ever since to recreate this simple dish at home. Finally, chilli-infused, gold bullion bar chocolates ended the meal perfectly!
So why was it so special? Probably the fact that we’re still talking about it. It was a real treat to be able to have a very ‘London’ foodie experience without a massive bill …. maybe we’ll go back for the eight course tasting menu next time!
Dabbous, 39 Whitfield Street, London, W1T 2SF