Dabbous. It's the D.B.'s
30 August 2012
Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond manages to get a seat at Dabbous – and absolutely loves it
*Warning* This review is fairly pointless because unless you have magic powers, you won’t be able to get a dinner reservation until next July or possibly August. Which is quite ridiculous and annoying as I need to go back to try all the other dishes on the menu and quite soon.
If you have a even a passing interest in the London restaurant scene, you will have come across the hype. You will also be wondering whether or not it’s a foodie conspiracy and not for real people like you. Is it prissy? Is it a bit Heston-scary? Is it a bit of a forage-feast? Well, no, it isn’t any of those things. It’s not big but it is clever and I loved it.
Because I could, I started with ‘The Thriller in’: gin, violet liquor and perilla leaves, as well as grapefruit bitters and lemon juice. Perilla. Looks like a nettle and tastes like a cross between mint and fennel. Well balanced and unusual. It’s that sort of place.
The chef is either 28 or 31, depending on who you read and trained at Le Manoir, but this is not Le Manoir food. In my view it’s far more interesting than that. The food is deceptively simple. And not able to be categorised easily. It is all beautifully executed and wittily presented. Shove me in Pseuds Corner now, but it’s all true.
Even the bread was memorable. It had a slight taste of smoky bacon. I asked how. Apparently they sit it on a shelf above the barbecue and it infuses the flavour. Simple.
The deal is that you have lots of small plates or a tasting menu. We plumped for the latter, which at £54 per head was a bargain for this level of cooking. Hence the hype. And the waiting list.
And a great wine list. Asked to recommend something, the sommelier brought three bottles to the table and talked us through each. Sadly, we only had the one. A really interesting white Condrieu. I will be having that again.
Stand-out dishes included peas with mint. Doesn’t sound much does it? It came on a mousse, with a pea granita, pea shoots and fresh peas in a pod. Intensely flavoured, beautifully presented, it was a perfect dish. A coddled egg. A hit of umami and creamy-rich. Then a tomato in its own juice. Again, it doesn’t sound wildly enticing, but it was. And the mackerel with horseradish. And the Iberico ham on acorns. That tasted like grown up crunchy peanut butter, but better. And my favourite? The custard tart. It’s custard Jim, but not as we know it.
Encased in a salty pastry, with caramel and banana, it was a grown-up version of banoffee pie. Which I confess is a guilty pleasure. My only criticism is that it wasn’t big enough. Not because it was actually small, but because I could happily have eaten six of them.
Each dish was a treat. Each dish slightly unusual but not outlandish in any way. Each dish showing an understanding of classical technique but mixed with inventiveness.
And the atmosphere? We went at night. It’s stripped-back industrial with lots of bare brickwork and iron. Simple dark and fairly funky. This isn’t the place to take your more conservative colleagues or clients. And the loos are so dark the mirrors are pointless, frankly. And there is music, which is a shame, as I don’t like a nightclub vibe when faced with fabulous food. It’s a tribute to the food and the brilliant service that I almost forgot about it.
So what’s the point of this stomach-tease? Well, for all I know, you may have already managed to get a reservation. Or you may be insanely lucky and get a cancellation. Or you might go to the downstairs bar and have some of those killer cocktails and a few of the treats on the menu. Or we may all be lucky and Mr D might find himself with larger premises before too long.
Try it. You’ll like it.
Scores on the doors: 9.5 out of 10 (I could have lived without the music).
Best for: Making someone happy. Anyone who has an open food-mind.
Worst for: Anyone you don’t love. Why would you share this?