Le Manoir alumnus Ollie Dabbous launched his eponymous London restaurant to phenomenal success.. Kerstin Kühn found out what all the hype is about
Right from its launch in January, Dabbous received rave reviews, with the London Evening Standard's Fay Maschler scoring it a perfect five, hailing it as one of those restaurants that "comes along and changes the game". As a result it has been booked up for months, making a reservation one of the hottest tickets in town.
"I'm delighted, especially for the people who work here and the investors," Dabbous says. "Oskar and I were both unproven in our own right so it's great to have their leap of faith rewarded."
Dabbous is spread over two floors, comprising a 36-seat dining room above a buzzy basement bar, where Kinberg's cocktails take centre stage. The interior is somewhat cold, with an industrial feel, including exposed brickwork, sheet metal and copper pipes.
Dabbous spent four years at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons "covering every section" before stints at Hibiscus and Mugaritz in Spain and two years at Texture, run by fellow Le Manoir alumni Aggi Sverrisson and Xavier Rousset.
He describes his cooking as "restrained, product-driven, organic and clean", a mixture of influences from all the restaurants he has worked at.
Most diners at Dabbous opt for the seven-course tasting menu and, priced at just £49, that's no surprise. Indeed despite its popularity, Dabbous has not hiked prices since the opening.
The restaurant offers exceptional value with a set lunch menu at £21 for three courses or £24 for four, and Á la carte prices from £4 to £14. "I don't really consider the GP that much," Dabbous admits.
"I'd rather have smaller profit margins and a restaurant that's permanently busy." The tasting menu kicks off with English asparagus, virgin rapeseed oil mayonnaise, meadowsweet and hazelnuts (£6 on the Á la carte). Served without cutlery it instantly introduces the diner to what Dabbous is all about: a sense of informality and a simple, clean style of cooking that is ingredient-led, incorporating the best of the season's fresh produce.
Meanwhile, coddled free range hen's egg with woodland mushrooms and smoked butter (£7) has been a constant on the menu. Served on a bed of straw inside an eggshell, it's arguably the poshest scrambled egg ever.
"It's gently slow-cooked egg with plenty of smoked butter and wild mushrooms, chives and a touch of cream," Dabbous explains. Toasted button mushrooms give the dish added savouriness and a meaty texture.
Another stalwart on the menu is the barbecued Ibérico pork served with savoury acorn praline, turnip tops and apple vinegar (£14), which, thanks to its almost Wagyu-like quality, has been a major hit with critics and diners alike.
Fish dishes include grilled monkfish with beetroot and watercress stems, a dish designed to taste like the sea. Dabbous achieves that flavour through iodised sour cream made with gin, oysters, parsley and lemon.
"It's a strong dish but very simple," says the chef. On to desserts and chocolate and virgin hazelnut oil ganache with basil moss and sheep's milk ice-cream (£7) is gorgeous and light, while Dabbous's personal favourite is the custard cream pie (£7), which has a rounded sweetness, with banana, camomile and vanilla as the main flavours.
"I like to have something that's a bit nostalgic; a pudding that you can just enjoy," he says. Dabbous has only been open for a few months but has already established itself as one of London's top restaurants. You might not be able to get a table right away but the wait is definitely worth it.
Sample dishes from the menu
- Mixed alliums in a chilled pine infusion
- Beef tartar with cigar oil, whisky and rye
- Squid with seaweed, radishes & toasted buckwheat in a light broth
- Braised veal breast, spelt, celery & kinome
- Iced lovage
- Fresh milk curds, black sugar, rose petals
Dabbous 39 Whitfield Street London W1T 2SF 020 7323 1544www.dabbous.co.uk