Sunday, 26 February 2012

Dabbous: London's best new restaurant

Coddled egg with woodland mushrooms and smoked butter
There's been so much buzz about Dabbous since it opened a mere five weeks ago. The simple and elegant food, the rockstar chef with a pedigree CV, and prices which are shockingly affordable (well by London standards).

I heard about Dabbous via user restaurant reviews on Bloomberg before the big hitters like the Evening Standard showered it with five stars. Thankfully I booked a few weeks back and had the choice of sittings. Now Dabbous is booked out for the next two months. They deserve to be as this was one of the best meals I've had in London for a long time.


Salad of fennel, lemon balm and pickled rose petals
The philosophy of the restaurant is simplicity. Clean flavours and seasonal ingredients not mucked about with too much so that the whole is much greater than just the sum of the parts. The cooking at Dabbous echoes the new Nordic cuisine style: there are no fancy ingredients, they use butter and cream sparingly and aim to keep dishes light and healthy.

The dishes are on the small, tapas-sized side, so they suggest ordering around five courses if you go a la carte. With a few people I think you could sample a good chunk of the menu in one night. We chose the tasting menu, however, which is £49 for seven courses. For another £9 you can get a cheese course too (and I'd suggest you do).

Celeriac with muscatel grapes, burnet, hazelnuts
First up was a salad of fennel, lemon balm and pickled rose petals. What a beautiful way to start the meal. Fresh, light, crunchy and so well balanced. It went well with the glass of viogner we were finishing off.

Next was celeriac with muscatel grapes, burnet and hazelnuts. My view of celeriac was changed forever after eating it simply roasted in Copenhagen a few months ago. This dish was a just a few shavings of celeriac, paired with sweet grapes, roasted hazelnuts and "celeriac jus" poured over. This dish was really the essence of the main ingredient. Wonderful.

The coddled free range egg was next. It's gently cooked with wild mushrooms and served in an egg shell inviting you to dig in from its little hay nest. One of the most visually appealing dishes matching the earthy nature of the morsel itself.

Roast King Crab with warm buttermilk an Hispi cabbage
Next we moved into seafood territory with roast king crab with warm buttermilk and hispi cabbage. There were also some cubes of parsnip in the soup. This dish was slightly Asian in concept, without the Asian spicing - kind of like a crab and sweetcorn soup from the Chinese restaurants of my youth. Maybe it was just the cabbage that the sparked the taste memory. Anyway, the king crab was incredibly tender and sweet and a great match to the buttermilk-based soup. A great dish.

BBQ Iberico Pork, savoury acorn praline, turnip tops, apple vinegar
The final course before dessert was BBQ Iberico ham with a savory acorn praline, turnip tops and home-made apple vinegar. It's perhaps a bit literal in pairing Iberico pork and acorns, but the crunchy texture and the sweet praline along with the glaze on the pork was inspired. The turnip tops dressed in vinegar cut through the richness of the pork and praline.

Five courses in, but since portion sizes aren't huge we opt for the cheese course too and I'm glad we did. Four British cheeses, ranging from goat to blue with some warm baked apple and sourdough toasts. A really fine selection.

Cucumber and perilla in a chilled lemon verbena infusion
The first dessert was more of a palate cleanser but was actually one of the stars of the entire meal. Cucumber and perilla in a chilled lemon verbena infusion.  It's maybe a little early in the year, but this is the taste of spring if ever there was one. Clean and fragrant.

Choc & hazelnut oil ganache, basil moss, sheep's milk ice cream
The eclectic service was charming. I loved our French waiter who struggled to pronounce Lancashire. I mean, he wasn't trying on a Lancs accent at the time, it just didn't roll off his tongue. The wine list was also comprehensive without being daunting. The Rully we had was a good choice for the food, though not particularly cheap at £49.
The final flourish was a dish titled chocolate and virgin hazelnut oil ganache, basil moss, sheep's milk ice cream. There was also some crunchy chocolate meringue and a green smear of delightfully intense dill paste. This was as good as it sounds and again very textural. The basil moss was a like a fine granita, complimenting the denser sheep milk ice cream. Rich but not cloying.

The bread comes in dated paper bags with home-made butter
The music reflected the relaxed atmosphere of the place and was a bit Spuntino-esque in the rock vibe. The space was all exposed air ducts and bare bricks, reflecting the simplicity and rawness of the food. The bar downstairs also looked good fun.

There is clear passion in Dabbous. You can taste it in the food and you can see it in the staff. It's only February, but I think this place will be hard to beat for the title of London's best new restaurant. I've only tasted seven dishes and there's a lot more on the menu that I want to eat. Sadly for me, I'll have to wait a couple months before I can, but I hope to see you there.
Dabbous on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

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