Ollie Dabbous has successfully and elegantly avoided ‘difficult second album' syndrome with the most anticipated opening of the year. Janie Manzoori-Stamford reports
"Clarity of flavour, but lightness of touch. That's the nirvana for a chef." Ollie Dabbous is describing his aim for the food at his new Piccadilly restaurant Hide, the multi-floor joint venture with Hedonism Wines that opened last month.
Like Dabbous' eponymous debut, it has quickly garnered rave reviews, including five stars in The Evening Standard and The Telegraph, laying to rest any danger of ‘difficult second album' syndrome. As executive chef and co-owner, Dabbous oversees a vast 12,000 sq ft operation that spans three floors, incorporating subterranean bar Below and a top-end bistro and bakery offer in Ground at street level.
Fine dining can be found on the first floor, with former Dabbous head chef and 2017 Roux Scholar Luke Selby in charge of the kitchen. Accessed by a breathtaking bespoke Gaudi-esque staircase, Above serves refined yet deceptively simple tasting and set lunch menus (£95 and £42 respectively) alongside stunning full-height views of London's Green Park.
Dabbous talks about highlighting the best ingredients in an elegant and restrained manner, with a little nod to the neighbouring royal park and a bit of theatricality thrown in for good measure. This ethos permeates the menu.
Made up of three modest elements – coddled eggs, smoked butter and mushrooms – ‘nest egg' was a fan favourite at Dabbous and the only dish from its menu to be brought to Hide. Its presentation in a cleanly scalped egg shell sat snugly in a nest is delightfully whimsical, but it's the flavour punch that diners will remember.
A palate-cleansing pre-dessert arrives at the table, served atop a crisp block of ice with delicate flowers frozen at its core, but the ‘garden ripple' sheep's milk ice-cream swirled through with vibrant green sorrel is the star of the show.
"For me, everything feels elegant – not overly complex. If you adopt a more minimalist approach, you can be more striking," he says. "The turbot with the nasturtium broth is the dish that best encapsulates the tasting menu."
It comprises pickled courgette, perfectly cooked turbot brined in sea lettuce and a herbaceous and peppery sauce made from turbot bones and nasturtium. "Just three things," says Dabbous. "When you eat the dish you taste all of them, but there's a lightness and clarity to it."
For each of the fish, meat and dessert courses, diners have two dishes from which to choose, as well as an optional extra course of Cornish fish in two services (£16 supplement). The alternative to the turbot is pan-roasted king crab that is carved and soaked in butter so that it permeates the fibres of the crab.
"For the sauce, we press turnips to get a lovely clean juice, add a little buttermilk to get that yogurtiness, and then blend in some butter and a little bit of lemon juice," explains Dabbous.
"The dressing is honey-infused camomile, rapeseed oil and lemon juice and it's served with a little bit of raw pickled turnip. It's indulgent without drifting into clumsy richness."
The most understated dish, in terms of appearance, is the birch sap-infused roast goose. Served in indulgently thick slithers beneath a crispy heap of charred kale, it is a marriage of fresh and earthy with rich and gamey. But the award for the most down-played dish on the menu must go to one of the desserts, which is described in one word: coconut.
"A lot of people think of coconut as something you serve with exotic fruit or chocolate. It's got a really lovely gentle flavour and biscuitiness. This dish elevates that flavour with the soft macaroon, the coconut chantilly and the sorbet," says Dabbous. "It's quite virginal in its look and taste, but sophisticated at the same time."
Dabbous' partnership with Hedonism wines mean that diners are spoiled for choice when it comes to a tipple. iPads showcase around 4,000 wines and there are three flights available with the tasting menu: Classic (£65); Discovery (£115); and the Hedonistic (£295).
"You can also get a glass of wine for a fiver," Dabbous adds. "We genuinely want customers to be able to come in and have some home-cured charcuterie and a glass of wine after work, or come in for their 25th wedding anniversary and to really treat themselves."
Critical acclaim and busy dining rooms – the hallmarks of restaurant success – have come quickly to Hide. But the coveted nirvana? It's safe to say Ollie Dabbous is already there.
From the tasting menu
• Vegetables • Flesh and bone • Bread and broth • Celeriac, avocado and angelica seed • Raw tuna with prickly ash and Exmoor Caviar • Nest egg • Roast king crab, turnips, camomile honey and salted butter • Steamed ikejime turbot, crushed nasturtium broth • Roast goose with birch sap and kale • Barbecued organic Welsh lamb, runner beans, savoury pine nut praline • Garden ice-cream ripple • Jasmine and peaflower religieuse, sparkling cold-brew jasmine tea • Coconut
Hide, 85 Piccadilly, London W1J 7NB www.85piccadilly.co.uk