Dabbous is without a doubt the new restaurant of 2012 in the seriously packed, competitive restaurantland of London. When food critic Fay Maschler from the Evening Standard reviewed it on 2 February this year, she gave it full marks (she tends to do this every two or three years) and used words like: “ethereal”, “ingenious”, “knock your socks off” and “best thing I’ve eaten in a long time”. A glowing critique from the pen of Ms Maschler is hard to find (especially this glowing), so it’s no surprise that her words – and a raft of equally good follow-up reviews – started a rush to book tables. I mean a real rush. We booked our table for October in May!
Of course, the weight of expectation after such a wait for a table is huge. The verdict: it’s definitely worth it, the food is fabulous. And I loved the smart, minimalist, urban interior too.
The chef Oliver (Ollie) Dabbous is only 28 but clearly is totally inspired in the kitchen. Dishes are cleverly conceived of and beautifully presented. The freshly made bread comes served in a paper bag – a fabulous idea, as soon as you open it the amazing aromas rush out.
We had three courses. The coddled free range egg with woodland mushrooms and smoked butter was spectacularly presented in a bed of hay. The smokiness of the butter and earthiness of the mushrooms with the egginess was a revelation…eggs don’t get better than this.
The pumpkin with orange blossom, macadamia and rosemary soy cream is a great, clean, fresh flavoured dish with lovely contrasting textures and flavours.
The grilled mackerel with iodized sour cream, lovage and samphire is, I think, the best mackerel dish I have ever tasted and certainly goes on my list of the best dishes I’ve had this year. The combination of ingredients was spectacular and the mackerel was so perfectly cooked.
The braised cod with coast herbs was the most beautiful looking dish with gentle flavours and soft textures.
Next course was the barbecued Iberico pork, savoury acorn praline, turnip tops and apple vinegar. Again, fabulous with the deep flavours of the pork and amazing savoury praline.
The rare grain-fed beef, avruga, warm horseradish buttermilk was truly extraordinary. Horseradish and buttermilk is absolute genius.
All I can say is it was well worth the wait and I would go again without hesitating. Sadly, the earliest lunch booking available is for April 2013, while the earliest you can get in for dinner is October 2013 – a whole year away!
However, there is a really cool bar downstairs where you can also eat (without reservations) and it wasn’t full when we popped down for a pre-lunch prosecco, so that’s the best way to try this exceptional food if you can’t bear to wait a year. And you really shouldn’t wait. Go now
Dabbous was awarded a Michelin star just before my visit.
Dabbous is at 39 Whitfield Street, London W1