39 Whitfield St, London, England, United Kingdom

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Dabbous is the first stand-alone venture of Ollie Dabbous, formerly chef at Texture; it opened in late January 2012.  The premises had the industrial look that is the fashion in London at present, with bare stone floor, exposed air vents, unplastered walls and plain wooden tables. There was a downstairs bar area that was, if anything, even starker in appearance. One consequence of all the hard surfaces is that noise levels are high; I had trouble hearing the waitress explaining the dishes from just the other side of the table. Its cooking style is even more overtly modern than that of Texture. A tasting menu was priced at £49, while the à la carte had “small plate” options that would quickly mount up to a similar cost level if you ordered the half dozen plates recommended by our server. A shorter lunch menu was available at £21 for three courses.

The wine list had just over 75 wines, ranging in price from £17 to £395, with an average price of £44. The wine mark-up averaged 2.75 times the retail price, so quite reasonable by central London standards. Example wines were Torrontes Reserva Terrazas de los Andes Salta 2010 at £29 for a wine you can find in the high street for £11, Chardonnay ‘Prelude Vineyards’ Leeuwin Estate 2008 at £65 for a wine that retails at £20, and 2007 ‘Les Noisetiers’ Sonoma Coast from Kistler at £115 for a wine that will set you back £43 if you can find it. We drank the pleasant Boekenhoetskloof Semillon 2008 from Franschhoek at £43 for a wine you can purchase for £16. Seeded sourdough bread was made from scratch and had good texture (16/20).

The first course was green English asparagus with a blob of rapeseed oil mayonnaise and a scattering of hazelnuts and meadowsweet. The balance of the dish was good, the textural contrast of the nuts with the mayonnaise effective, though the quality of the asparagus was pleasant but far from dazzling (15/20). This was followed by mixed alliums in a chilled pine nut infusion. The infusion did taste of pine nuts, but this kind of simple dish depends a lot on the quality of the onions. These were a world away from the sweet Cevennes onions that grace the table at Arpege in Paris, or the similarly superb onions that can be found in Japan, so what you were left with was some prettily presented but ordinary quality onions in an infusion, which my experienced dining companion likened to eating pickled onions (12/20).

The meal improved sharply with the arrival of a coddled hen egg served in its shell, with woodland mushrooms (mousserons, button) and smoked butter, served on a bed of hay. This was a warm, comforting dish, the smokiness nicely controlled (17/20). Barbecued halibut was served with iodised sour cream, boiled beetroot and watercress stems with a smear of parsley puree. The beetroot was fine, the parsley flavour rather dominant to my taste, and although the halibut was cooked properly by the time it arrived at the table it was by no means hot (14/20). Iberico pork was served with turnip tops, savoury acorn praline and apple vinegar. The turnip tops were tender and worked well, but although the pork had nice flavour and seemed to be cooked correctly it had become rather dried out, which was a pity (14/20).

Iced lovage is one of those things that some chefs seem beloved of, but I am afraid that for me desserts should be, well, sweet and devoid of shrubbery. This was doubtless a magnificent specimen of iced lovage but that didn’t make me want to eat it. Custard cream pie was better, made with milk jam and vanilla cream, the texture reasonable (14/20).

Service was good throughout. The bill came to just over £101 a head for the tasting menu at lunch, with a modest bottle of wine between two but a glass of champagne apiece. There is clearly a lot of work going on in each plate, but this seemed to me far from a bargain, and overall I found this an uneven meal. The egg dish showed that the kitchen can produce a very fine dish indeed, but I found it troubling that two dishes had some technical issues, and the dishes were not always well balanced. Presentation was very pretty, but I suspect that my halibut would have arrived hot if less effort had been spent dressing the plate. To me this was a kitchen that is still developing, and would in some cases benefit from removing rather than adding dish elements.

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User comments

  • Sklad

    Under whelming….. We had wanted to eat at Dabbous for quite some time now. A couple of years ago when we called and tried to make a booking we were told they would not make a booking, even six months in advance. Therefore when we finally made a reservation we had high expectations! We had a booking on Friday 27th February at 18:45. We arrived and having travelled on the tube we wanted to wash our hands, only to be told that there was no water due to an issue with the mains supply that had effected the whole street. “Anti bacterial” hand wash was provided – however toilets were not able to be used and there was quite a “pile” of tissues and other bits that should have been flushed down the toilet in them. We ordered some cocktails prior to our food that took nearly 20 minutes to arrive. We had the tasting menu which at the price was well priced. Food was ok, but nothing memorable or special. Exceptions being the bread which was very well made and the barbecued beef sirloin that was cooked extremely well. Service….. we had empty plates and glasses sitting on our table for over 10 minutes before they were cleared. Glasses of water had to be refilled by ourselves. Not wanting to sound fussy – but from a restaurant with a Michelin star this is quite shoddy. We ate at Lima two nights before and service was excellent as you would expect from a Michelin star restaurant. Finally….. there is a very vibrant bar downstairs which is fine. However the music coming from downstairs was louder then the music being played in the restaurant so the two clashed and the volume was to a point where I had to ask my wife to repeat herself on a number of occasions as I could not hear what she was saying. Would I go back or recommend Dubbous? Unfortunately not.

  • Name unavailable

    Another example of one of London's latest finest to be overhyped to the extreme. The service was poor, the food no better than any number of 5 star hotel restaurants in London. The only upside was it was remarkably cheap

  • Name unavailable

    I also went to Dabbous before the near ubiquitous adulation (back in February). My friend and I went for the tasting menu and had a pleasant lunch but it was by no means amazing or particularly memorable (I remember a celeriac broth with hazelnuts that was rather good: very clean and pure). I was perplexed when the stream of rave reviews came out. I was heartened to see your review, Andy, and the other comments which I feel are far more measured and realistic.

  • Name unavailable

    Andy I ate at dabbous a month back and was generally underwhelmed. What has been championed as a well priced tasting menu in fact consists of ingredients of that level so it's correct not great value...apart from the coddled egg (superb) I was not inspired. The iberico pork dish was slightly overcooked, the onion dish like your partner reminded me of pickled onion. Modern fine dining maybe but it did not rock my boat. Horses for courses maybe

  • Name unavailable

    Hi Andy, I went a couple of times (once for lunch and once for dinner) a few weeks after they opened but before the current hysteria kicked in ;-)  I actually quite liked the room and setup - it is a bit noisy and the tables a bit rickety but that's the style for a lot of places trying to be 'fun'. I thought the staff were friendly and on the ball too.  For me it was the food that let the whole thing down, both in quality of the ingredients and the execution.   A single scallop was £11, not of great quality was also overcooked. The pork wasn't too bad but like yours was overcooked and dry. I found the salad combinations particularly bizarre and bereft of coherence. I quite liked the egg, especially the texture, but the smoke dominated for me and made the whole thing one-note.  The only thing that stood out for me was the chocolate dessert which showed a light hand and a bit of invention. I had assumed that the kitchen might be having a bad day and revisited for dinner but like the previous time the meal never really took off which was disappointing. It does sound as if the kitchen is developing but I'd rather spend my limited funds elsewhere. Am I one the few people in London not worried about getting a(nother) reservation there?