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 added a touch of separation and privacy to our table. 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 each.
The third starter is somewhat of a speciality at Dabbous, coddled egg, smoked butter and mushroom however you've all read about my aversion to mushrooms 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.