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Dabbous, Fitzrovia

June 24, 2012

Dabbous: famously known as the restaurant booked solid until October. Or is it December now? In any case, I was lucky to have secured a reservation before things got too out of hand. I dined on the Friday of the Easter weekend for lunch. 12pm was the only slot available even then. Sitting down at 12pm meant there wasn’t much atmosphere – it was just us and two other tables, leaving us feeling like we had to have a hush-hush conversation, even though it wasn’t really that type of restaurant. However, the food that came out more than made up for it, and midway through our meal the atmosphere had improved noticeably with all the tables filled.

Bread comes in a paper bag stamped with today’s date. Cute concept, and would have been lovely as a take-home present, actually! Served with butter and olives. The bread was warm, the butter was salty and creamy and the I had the olives all to myself as dining companion doesn’t like olives. I was quite happy.

I was even happier to learn that a 3- or 4-course set lunch menu was priced at £21 and £24, respectively. All the reviews I had read in anticipation of my visit to Dabbous had mentioned the fabulously good value set lunch. I’m a little torn – the portions are tiny, admittedly, and I did leave wanting a little more, but if the portions had been any larger I think the magic, the elegance would have been lost. The first starter we had was beef tartare with cigar oil and whisky. Masculine and smoky, but it wasn’t really to my liking. Thankfully, my starter was gorgeous:

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE asparagus? I’m willing to tolerate the unpleasant side effects for daily asparagus consumption. Alas, British asparagus has such a short season. Here it was served simply with virgin rapeseed oil mayonnaise, toasted hazelnuts and meadowsweet. Beautiful produce = a gorgeous dish. I used to hate mayonnaise. I am now a convert for homemade mayonnaise. Tangy and rich and creamy without an overly strong flavour thanks to the rapeseed oil, it was perfect for the asparagus. The toasted hazelnuts were an additional textural delight, with the meadowsweet giving off a gentle perfume just before you bit into the asparagus.

My 2nd course was a stunner, visually. That blowtorched surface of the salmon was such a contrast with the barely translucent flesh underneath. Paired with elderflower, spring onions, and almonds, it tasted every bit as good as it looked. The elderflower puree was tangy and sweet, cutting through the fatty salmon but it wasn’t overly greasy, thanks to the char.

However, the real winner of the day was clearly dining companion’s main course of barbecued iberico pork, savoury acorn praline, turnip tops, and apple vinegar. It looked simple; the taste was anything but. The pork was cooked to such an even shade of pink you’d think it was sous-vide, but it wasn’t; someone was just really, really good at cooking that pork. The savoury acorn praline was amazing – it was almost like a salty peanut butter with notes of sweet caramelized onion. It was savoury, it was full of umami, and if there was one criticism it would be that I was hoping for a smokier crust from the barbecue. Nevertheless, I was so jealous of dining companion. If I am ever able to come back to Dabbous, this would be the sole reason for my return. Damn that man who made this savoury acorn praline.

Having tasted dining companion’s pork, my 3rd course of braised veal shin, spelt, celery, and kinome fell short of my expectations. The shin was a little on the dry side despite coming with a shallow pool of broth and there just wasn’t that much flavour coming out of it. The broth was too salty, the pickled garlic was a garish shade of pink and visually did nothing to attract me to the dish, and I thought the celery overpowered the meat. On the plus side, the shin was tender and the spelt was a fun textural contrast. I was a little disappointed, though, and at this point I hoped dessert would pick me up.

When the iced lovage arrived, I wasn’t too happy. A meagre portion of sorbet which is meant to be a palate cleanser, being passed off as dessert in the set lunch? Not cool. I’d have been happier paying an extra £2 for a proper dessert, which I had come across reading other reviews. It tasted a little bizarre to me – I think it’s an acquired taste, as lovage is very similar to celery. I wasn’t a huge fan, and unfortunately left the meal on a bit of a dud note.

Happily, the barbecued pork with the savoury acorn praline and charred salmon were fantastic, and were definitely the highlights of our meal. At this price point, I would say it’s fair value for money considering the quality of the food and it is affordable fine dining. A few misses, but mostly hits, and deserves all the praise it’s getting. I will be back for that savoury acorn praline, dammit!

Dabbous

39 Whitfield Street

London W1T 2SF

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Caroline permalink
    June 25, 2012 12:59 am

    That made me very hungry.

    I can’t wait until the two of us are in the same city! Overanalysis and gastronomic snobbery awaits. Miss you, Durrie.

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