There are some places that have languished on my restaurant bucket list for years…often these have been places that I’m really keen to go to but it’s always been impossible to get a reservation. Dabbous in Fitzrovia is one such place. For years the restaurant has been fully booked, tables taken months in advance and little hope of securing a much sought after reservation in the small dining space. And it’s hardly surprising, AA Gill and Faye Maschler raved about the place and Dabbous was awarded a Michelin star only a matter of months after opening. But on Friday night, fancying a spontaneous date night, Mr S and were browsing availability on OpenTable and there it was, a table available at my bucket list spot at 9.15.
With a date night dressed donned, we headed out the door to start with a cocktail in the restaurant’s basement bar, Oskar’s.
Now despite the Michelin accolade Dabbous and Oskar’s are no-frills kind of places and admittedly the bar looked a little like a car park…
With exposed brick wall and tables and chairs that reminded me of primary school BUT the drinks list is well and truly epic.
I stuck with a glass of one of my favourite champagnes, Ruinart but the bar menu contains many of owner Oskar Kinberg’s own creations. All cocktails are seasonal and contain only homemade syrups and infusions so quality is paramount.
Mr S really enjoyed the barrel-aged Negroni; Martin Miller’s gin, Cocchi di Torino vermouth and campari are aged in an American oak barrel, stirred and then poured on ice to make the drink.
He also tried one of the bar’s most famous drinks, the Beer Grylls which was a mix of Diplimatico Blanco rum, banana liqueur, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, lime and manuka honey and topped with white ale. It sounded like it might be too sweet but actually it was the perfect balance with the ale adding a dry smoothness to the concoction.
The restaurant upstairs is just as starkly decorated, sort of industrial-chic with the same concrete floors and school-desk like tables. But the decor means that all your senses will be focussed on the food with no fussy distractions. There’s also something about this style of dining room that gives a restaurant a more buzzy feel as opposed to the hushed reverence of ‘white table cloth dining’.
First a bag of warm, home-made bread lands on the table, the printed date emphasising just how fresh it is.
Soft, salty butter glides across the soft and slightly chewy bread and I’m in doughy heaven! We had the choice of an eight course tasting menu or a four course set dinner menu and choosing to keep things simple, we went for latter.
A dish based on a single ingredient is brave and can either wow or fail. Unfortunately I found the starter dish of tomato in its own juices underwhelming; the basil oil was delicious but the tomato and the consomme needed a more intense flavour to really knock my socks off.
The fish course was a beautifully plated and perfectly cooked roasted sea bass. Enhanced by a tasty, creamy tarama sauce and a fine courgette ribbons. The Chef Patron of the restaurant is the eponymous Ollie Dabbous who has some fantastic restaurants on his CV. With his formative years spent at Le Manoir, Ollie also had stints at Noma, Texture, The Fat Duck and Hibiscus before partnering up with Oskar Kinberg in 2012 to set up Dabbous and later their other restaurant Barnyard.
Next was an incredibly tender piece of veal – you can see that perfect pinkness in the picture – served with a simple side of runner beans and a drizzle of Spenwood and parsley pistou.
We decided to go ahead with the optional cheese course, giving us the opportunity to try a delicate array of British cheeses with a side of sweet baked apple.
Mr S enjoyed a beautiful lemon elderflower and creme fraiche tart with wild blue berries and marigold shoots where as I asked to substitute the dessert for the tasting menu sweet.
A really delicious combination of fresh strawberries and milk ice cream which was a refreshingly light dessert.
We rounded off the meal with some delicious cherry topped cannelés presented on a very beautiful plate.
I checked out a blog reviews just before leaving for our dinner and responses to the restaurant were hugely mixed. Overall we had a really enjoyable dinner with great food and a buzzy atmosphere. A few comments have been made about service but we also found this friendly and attentive, overall I’d recommend Dabbous for a fun date night with a focus on food.
PIN FOR LATER:
39 Whitfield Street
020 7323 1544