At the time of writing this, a table for lunch at Dabbous wasn’t available for 5 months and for dinner it was a wait of 1 whole year. This must be the most booked up restaurant London has ever seen, and having just received a Michelin star, I imagine its popularity will only continue.
Ollie Dabbous (pronounced da-boo) has a CV that can do nothing but impress, having worked at Le Manoir and more recently Texture, with brief stints at Noma and The Fat Duck to name but a few.
We arrived at the restaurant (on Whitfield Street round the corner from Goodge Street) at 1pm and the restaurant was half full. It stayed between half and three quarters full for our entire visit – meaning the atmosphere was a little flat. I half expected it to be bursting at the seams due to its popularity but there were many empty tables – no wonder they’re booked up so far in advance.
The restaurant was very small and tables were very close together – so no private conversations were to be had during this lunch! The walls were exposed brick and there was an industrial warehouse feel to everything.
A bowl of olives kicked things off which were so plump and juicy they looked like mini apples. I have never had such beautiful olives in my life – they really were amazing.
Next up a date printed bag of bread was brought to the table – inside being some homemade sourdough accompanied by some salted butter. It was warm and delicious and we devoured it in minutes.
I let my sister order the wine and she went for the cheapest (we’re a classy family) which was a bottle of screw top red priced at £19. Our sommelier who looked about 12, had a stand off quality to him – far from friendly and verging on rude. Mind you, we did order a bottle of wine for £19.
We decided to go for the reasonably priced tasting menu which was £54 for seven courses. They also do a four course set lunch for £26 which seems brilliant value too.
Our first (cutlery-less) course was a wedge of hispi cabbage with mayonnaise and sunflower seeds. It was a little bit messy, I even managed to get the tangy mayonnaise on my nose. It was pleasant – but I can’t say much more than that.
Next was celeriac with muscat grapes, lovage and hazelnuts. The thinly sliced celeriac had a strong smokey flavour which was soothed by the sweet grapes; the toasted hazelnuts added some much needed texture. All this was brought together by a fresh tasting clear liquid. It was nothing out of the ordinary.
The coddled free range hen egg with woodland mushroom and smoked butter was served in an egg shell sitting on a bowl of straw. The thick smokey egg was full of earthy mushroom flavour and I loved it. Finally a dish which excited me.
The braised halibut with coastal herbs was tricky to eat with a fork and spoon. The rubbery herbs were impossible to cut with a spoon and were too long to fit in my mouth without splashing the sauce across my face. The foamy sauce which tasted of the sea and was heavenly, was difficult to scoop onto the spoon as the dish was served on a plate and not a bowl. The halibut was cooked perfectly though which saved the day.
Barbecued Iberico pork, savoury acorn praline, turnip tops and apple vinegar was next. The pork was beautifully tender and had a smokiness from the barbecue which didn’t overpower it one bit. The acorns were a rich, pleasant accompaniment but the turnip tops were stringy, chewy and impossible to cut through – they just didn’t work for me.
The first of two desserts was fresh milk curds infused with fig leaves, fig and pistachio. Ripe fig, crumbled pistachios and tangy curd all worked together very harmoniously – as to be expected. As was common opinion with each dish – it was pleasant, but nothing life changing. ‘Alright’ would be the word I would use to describe it.
Our final dessert was chocolate soaked brioche, barley malt ice cream, azuki beans and pecans. This was a very innocent looking dessert but what lay underneath that chocolate soil was a rich silky smooth chocolate sauce with chewy pecans and crunchy azuki beans. I was in heaven. It was absolutely incredible. The courses at Dabbous were quite small so ending on such an indulgent pudding was the perfect way to finish.
When paying the bill we were presented with two very pretty canelé which were wonderful. Chewy crunchy outside with a moist spongey inside. Lovely.
Service on the whole was unmemorable. No-one chatted to us or made conversation nor did they top up our water or wine. That’s fine if that’s their serving style but they were topping up other people’s so why not ours? Service lacked passion for me.
If I hadn’t had that wonderful chocolate dessert I would have been really really disappointed in my lunch at Dabbous. Instead, I’m only disappointed. To be honest, I’m a little shocked how this restaurant achieved a Michelin star. The food was alright (there’s that word again) but it was nothing new or exciting.
6/10 because of the dessert.