Sunday, 29 March 2015

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Dabbous



London is full of many incredible restaurants, so much in fact that it sometimes takes a while to visit them. This was definitely the case with Dabbous, having opened in 2012 to rave reviews and a near impossible wait list. After one rearranged visit Katie and myself finally made it to Ollie Dabbous' Michelin starred modern European restaurant in the heart of Fitzrovia last Wednesday. It's not often I drop £100 on dinner midweek (or ever) but the meal we had that evening was worth every penny.

A few weeks ago Steve and I had dinner at Barnyard, Ollie's dirty food joint around the corner and now having been to both restaurants it's hard to believe that they were created by the same person. That being said, the rough around the edges approach to fine dining does seem to interlink the two, as the food at Dabbous may be elegant and inventive but lacks the refined fussy element many Michelin star restaurants posses. In retrospect the concept reminds me of my recent trip to Le Chateaubriand in Paris. The dining room is dark and industrial with extremely well dressed waiters. We were sat slap bang in the middle, but careful positioning of metallic barriers add a touch of separation and privacy to the tables. The acoustics are noisy which adds to the urban atmosphere and rough around the edges vibe.


In the evening you have a choice of a set dinner or tasting menu, with a difference of only £10 it's silly not to choose the latter. We started the evening with a cocktails each, I went for a bog standard Hendricks and tonic with cucumber and Katie had a Rub-a-dub, an interesting tequila and pink peppercorn concoction.



First up were 4 delicious slices of freshly made hazelnut crust bread. Delightfully crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. I like how the date stamped, brown bag theme is continued at Barnyard.


Our first starter was an interesting one and something I didn't think I'd enjoy so much; grapes with almond milk creating a slightly sweet soup with a contrast in soft and crunchy textures from the fruit and almonds. This was a small portion to warm up the taste buds and show off the chef's inventive flavour parings, the perfect amuse bouche to tease us before the rest of the meal arrived.


The second starter may be simple but it was one of my favourite plates of the evening; home-cured goose, utterly delicious and a shame we were only given 6 strips.



The third starter is somewhat of a speciality at Dabbous, coddled egg and mushroom however you've all read about my aversion to this vegetable so I asked for something else. Katie described her lightly scrambled egg and mushroom as heaven in a egg, unfortunately I can't agree but I'm glad she loved it.


I was presented with a gorgeous plate of purple sprouting broccoli wrapped in chives with vinaigrette. The vegetable was cooked perfectly and retained a little bite, the vinaigrette was slightly tangy with lemon and all together this was one of the most delicious vegetable dishes I've ever had.

When it comes to tasting menus don't be scared to ask for something else (at the time of ordering of course), if you're paying a lot of money for dinner you want to make sure you get something you're going to enjoy. Of course there is a limit, asking for one plate out of 7 to be changed isn't a big deal and the waiter was more than happy to advise on the alternative but don't take the piss. I'll happily try most food but I know I hate mushrooms with a passion so if present I'll always ask if they can be changed.


Our fish course consisted squid, radish and buckwheat in the most delicious and earthy broth I've ever tasted. This dish was so warming and fragrant I could have eaten vast quantities. Again, the different flavours and textures from the samphire, squid and buckwheat was an absolute joy, creating a deeply rich taste. Another favourite dish of the evening without a doubt.




By the time the main course of barbecued pigeon, celeriac and quince sauce had arrived we were well through our bottle of wine and thought the pigeon claw was hilarious and wondered how we were going to eat it! The dish was wonderful, the pigeon breast was cooked perfectly pink and combined with the sweet quince, bitter celeriac and crunchy hazelnuts was a delicious, rustic taste. It was quite easy to cut the meat from the pigeon claw, it tasted more intense and gamy from the bone.

Here's a picture of Katie pretending to chew on a pigeon foot!



The pre-dessert was bread parfait and blood orange jelly. The bread wasn't as stodgy as I thought it would be and combined with the distinctive blood orange taste this was lovely and surprisingly light.


Rhubarb and custard, another dish that really surprised me. I don't like custard but this was set, akin to crème brulee, with a distinctive taste of vanilla and was wonderful. The rhubarb retained it's bite and the rhubarb jus was delightfully sweet with a subtle hint of lavender. Overall this dessert was wonderful and blew all my preconceptions away, I loved it!


At the end of a wonderful meal we were presented with these cute petite fours, I'm not entirely sure what they were but they tasted like almonds and had a cherry on top. Not my favourite thing as I would have preferred a little chocolate but they were ok.

Dinner at Dabbous was wonderful and the restaurant certainly deserves the hype it's created. The tasting menu is an excellent display of Ollie Dabbous' ingenious cooking with simple dishes made magnificent. None of the plates were fussy but everything tasted like real effort had been made when creating the dish. Even though I didn't 'love' everything on the menu I 100% believe it was worth the price (£64 pp) and whilst I feel like I don't need to visit again any time soon I know that the changing seasonal menu will lure me back again one day.

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

RESTAURANT REVIEW: The Cereal Bar


Cereal and crisp sandwiches, I sure am a sucker for a hipster food trend but all jokes aside I am rather fond of the sugary breakfast meal so why not go to a cafe serving a million different flavours. Living in Wimbledon I'm only a short bus journey from Kingston so I met Steph from Foods For Thought one evening for dinner. 

The Cereal Bar has only been open for a few weeks yet the choice of cereal is vast. Boxes upon boxes have been imported from the USA and they have every possible flavour you could imagine. You can have a bowl with one type or make up your own cereal cocktail. There's a whole host of milk options to choose from as well; from semi skimmed to soya milk, there's even flavoured.



There's also a fridge full of USA imported fizzy drinks such as vanilla Coke and cherry Pepsi. Unfortunately I'm only interested in Fanta orange so the fridge was a little lost on me.


As well as cereal they also do crisp sandwiches, pop tarts, toast with an assortment of toppings and ice cream milkshakes.





The menu consists of preconceived cereal cocktails but I decided to create my own; lucky charms, cookie crisp and cookies n creme with semi skimmed milk. I was also convinced to add skittles, don't ask. The cereal, as you can imagine, was a sugary delight plus the portion of milk is really generous. There are loads of toppings to choose from like marshmallows, sprinkles and sweets so you really can go all out. Don't get skittles!


Steph went for one of the cereal cocktails; cookies n creme, Reese's puffs, almond milk and a Reese's piece on top. She liked it!


There's also a range of imported Oreos including lemon and red velvet, we tried the latter which was extremely sweet and verging on sickly but also kind of delicious.


The Cereal Bar is good fun and perfectly located next the cinema and opposite Kingston railway station. Pop in for an afternoon snack or for a dessert after dinner like we did. There's even an old school Nintendo 64 you can play for free. The perfect place for adults to get a sugary high and full of far fewer hipsters than the Shoreditch place.

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Monday, 23 March 2015

The Pickled Fork - #Pickledpopup at Bean and Hop


I've blogged about The Pickled Fork and their South London supper clubs many times before; first there was the Brixton Diner, then there was the #Grimedining evening and finally the pop up at Brixton Cornercopia. Now Australian chef Alex is running #Pickledpopup evenings in Earlsfield and Wandsworth and very kindly invited me and Steve along for dinner last week.

With a monthly changing menu depending on what's in season and what Alex has managed to grow in his allotment the theme is always fine dining without the frills and hefty price tag. £35 gets you 4 wonderful courses of fresh, inventive food and you're guaranteed to leave with a smile and full belly.

I looked at the menu in advance (my friend Peckhamite had been the previous week) and knew straight away that I was in treat as cheesy cauliflower, roasted vegetables, venison and fudge are some of my favourite things to eat. Expectations were high!


Our  first starter consisted of roasted cauliflower and mature cheddar on top of a crumpet, accompanied by crispy pig ears and charred endive. The cauliflower and cheese concoction was simply delicious with the vegetable retaining a decent bite and the mature cheese adding a rich, indulgent flavour. Combined with the bitter salad, chutney-esque sultanas and slightly salty pigs ears this was really was a delicious dish with all the different flavours coming together in a wonderful harmony.


The second starter was a more simple affair with a plate of roasted root veg, red cabbage purée and  curd. As you can imagine the curd with slightly sour but combined with the sweet red cabbage this created a heavenly sauce for the vegetables to be dipped in.


I was really excited about the venison wellington as it is some what of a special occasion dish in my family with my mum doing a fantastic job of cooking the beef version. As you can see the meat was slightly overcooked and lacked a juicy pink finish, however it still tasted wonderful with that gamey taste venison possesses. The leek lasagne was wonderful and rich, as was the cockle pate and the slightly sweet liquorice gravy really added a higher dimension to the flavours of the dish.









The pop up was held in the Earslfield cafe, Bean and Hop that specialises in coffee and craft beer. It's a lovely site with a stripped back, casual vibe and I'm looking forward to checking it out during the day time. The range of craft beer is impressive with many different local brands including a selection of ciders.


The dessert was a wonderful display of home grown rhubarb including rhubarb and milk pudding, rhubarb and caraway fudge, and a toffee apply doughnut with smoked rhubarb dipping sauce. Every element of this plate was delicious with my favourite being the sweet fudge. The doughnut was perfect with a crispy outside and fluffy centre, heavenly.

Every time I've been to a Pickled Fork event the food has been perfect. Speaking to Alex you can tell he loves being a chef and coming up with new ideas and it's experiences like this that make me want to return over and over. I can't recommend this pop up enough, especially if you live in South West London and even if you're not local it's worth the trip. I know I'll be returning again, especially as there's talk about a 5 course menu with Sipsmiths Gin!

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