Several months ago, our good friends Wayne and Vicki (Mrs Petticoat) went to a little known place called Dabbous. Ollie Dabbous has worked at some of the world's most highly regarded restaurants, including Le Manoir, The Fat Duck, Mugaritz, Hibiscus and Noma, so he really has learned from the masters. A good chef really becomes great, when he takes inspiration from his mentors, but does not imitate them. Many chefs have passed through the academies of the greats, and attempted to emulate their idols. After all, no-one wants to go to 'something like Noma'. They want the real thing.
So is Ollie Dabbous the real thing? Fay Maschler loved Dabbous so much she practically shouted it from the rooftops. More raving reviews followed from the likes of Giles Coren and AA Gill. Next thing he knows, Ollie Dabbous is rubbing shoulders with Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria at Downing Street, winning awards left, right and centre and being presented with the coveted Michelin star.
What does this mean for us, the humble diners? You guessed it. Tables are like rocking horse poo. We rang in May after Wayne and Vicki had such a great time, mainly out of curiosity. I think it was a major fluke, but there was a table available for lunch early-November. Only a couple of days after our anniversary, so we booked it. I believe you cannot get a dinner reservation until well into 2013!
Since then we have heard some really bad reviews. Bothered. I have this theory. I have seen it in action many many times. Some people love to hate popular things for no other reason than they like to go against the grain. With restaurants, there is often an air of 'everyone says it's great, but it's still not good enough for my high standards'. I'm sure some people have genuinely had bad experiences at great restaurants (as have we), but folks, I urge you to go to a restaurant with an open mind and with the aim of enjoying yourself.
On that note, we were off. Although we contemplated the lunch menu, we quickly binned that off in favour of the tasting menu. I love a tasting menu because it gives you the opportunity to try a selection of dishes picked by the chef. When allowed to be, I can be quite a fussy eater, so tasting menus often force me into trying something new. For example, I would never order fish from a menu, but the stone bass from Le Gavroche will remain one of my favourite dishes of all time, as will the now legendary 'razor role reversal' from L'Enclume.
Our waitress was friendly, and explained the menus as she took our drinks order. She added that we could change things around on the tasting menu if there was anything we didn't like. The last time we were offered this was at Gordon Ramsay's Royal Hospital Road. This assures me that they want to you enjoy your food. Being a total cake-face, I swapped the chocolate dessert for the apple cake off the À la carte. Cake and apple? Of course. Rude not to try it really...
Within a few minutes a cute little brown paper bag appeared with some butter. No, he hasn't gone quite mad (although if anyone starts serving brown paper and butter, I predicted it first...), the bag contained two large slices of soft seeded bloomer. It also has the date on so doubles as a nice keepsake.
Ollie Dabbous' food is pretty. He is also very fond of seeds and nuts. Nearly every course served to us had some form of seed or nut involved, and vegetables were generally served in their simplest form but with maximum flavour. It reminded me a little of Frantzen/Lindeberg in terms of getting masses of flavour from something relatively uncomplicated.
For example, the celeriac with muscat grapes with lovage and hazelnuts was packed with flavour, despite it's rather insipid appearance. The liquid which surrounded it was clear but tasted strongly of celery, whilst the couple of sliced muscat grapes scattered over the top were very sweet. The celeriac was firm and the hazelnuts were toasted and crunchy. This was like nothing else I have ever eaten. An epic collection of flavours and textures.
The apple cake was everything I hoped it would be. The milk curd dessert was a little too rich for me, whereas this small cake served with fragrant frothed milk was beautiful. Very light despite its appearance, my only concern was that I wanted more! (Pig).
Our tea came in a fantastic-handled pot and was served with two beautiful petit fours topped with cherries. I liked these a lot. Little chewy, nutty cakes. Yum. I also forgot to mention that my husband was absolutely thrilled to see Anchor Steam on the menu too! Dabbous - we salute you!I am not a restaurant critic. I am just someone who loves food and likes to share my experiences with other people. I love it when someone tries somewhere I have recommended, and loves it too. I'm not interested in writing scathing reviews. That's not what my blog is about. I like to write about happy times in the hope that you will enjoy it too. Therefore, my opinion of Dabbous is purely as someone who went in with an open mind. I enjoyed the dining experience, the food was different to what I have tried elsewhere and some of the dishes truly stood out as being spectacular. Is this restaurant going to change the world? No. Does it matter? No. Just go and have a good time.
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