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Monday, 5 August 2013

Restaurant Review: Dabbous

Eeeeks, we finally got to eat at Dabbous last Friday.

As an avid reader of AA Gill's reviews I couldn't believe how amazing Dabbous sounded. We tried to book immediately (back in February) only to find that their next available Friday/Saturday night table was on August 3rd at 6.30pm(!)

FYI, Dabbous isn't one of those annoying places that says that they're full only to go and save tables for VIPs (what is a VIP anyway? - we've all got the same genetic info the last time I checked) - they have to wait their turn too. Apparently Nigella Lawson was denied a table when she tried to rush her booking. Bonus points for that.

Anyway, with increasing excitement I looked forward to our evening at Dabbous. However, I stupidly checked Trip Advisor last Friday and was more than a little deflated at some of the reviews. Some people had issues with portion sizes and the general ambience and noise.

I tried not to let it affect my excitement though. It's easy to understand people's disappointment when they've been waiting so long for a table. Your expectation gets so high, that unless Dabbous is seriously amazing, it will obviously be a disappointment.

Luckily for us it was seriously amazing.

We started with cocktails in the bar downstairs. Martin's Sex Panther was a bit meh. However, mine was incredible. I chose a Tropic Thunder which was made from rum, melon liqueur, lemon grass, kaffir lime lead, custard apple(?), coconut cream and lime juice. Yum yum yum.

We sat down to dinner. I was disappointed when I realised that they've altered their menu structure since we booked. Part of the attraction with Dabbous was that the menu was made up of small dishes priced approximately £7 each making dinner there not too expensive. On Friday we were given two choices:

1) set dinner - 4 courses for £42
2) tasting menu - 7 courses for £59

Our waiter recommended us the tasting menu and, having examined both carefully, we both plumped for that. We didn't order wine as we're cheap skates. Well not really, obviously, as we're eating at Dabbous but we still try and save money where possible. Plus, I'm half chinese and get the most frightful Asian flush so one cocktail was more than enough.

A note on the decor - Dabbous is very industrial chic - exposed vents, hanging lightbulbs, that sort of thing. It also plays music relatively loudly. I think it's great, but I understand why it grates with some people if they're expecting a quieter, michelin starred, white table cloths type of thing. Dabbous isn't like that - it isn't stuffy at all. The waiters and waitresses make you feel really relaxed and you don't feel silly inquiring what an alium is (it's the collective name for the onion family by the way).

I wasn't sure about taking photos. I decided I wasn't going to as I was worried it might seem a bit rude and out of place which is why I don't have a photo of the starter - pea and mint. However, Dabbous was noisy and vibrant so I decided that it wouldn't matter if I took a couple of discreet photos.

Anyway back to the pea and mint. This was to die for. So fresh and amazing - I loved the pea granita particularly combined with cold pea soup. I would eat this all day long if I could. The best starter ever.

We were handed a brown bag full of hazelnut sourdough accompanied by perfectly soft butter. It's all about those special touches - butter which is actually spreadable makes a welcome change.

This was followed by mixed aliums in a chilled pine infusion. The aliums were sweet and the infusion had a slightly smokey flavour.

Then it was onto sweetcorn with meadow sweet. Amaaaaazing. I want all my sweetcorn to be this juicy and tasty. Quite frankly, I don't know what people are talking about when they complain about the portion sizes. I was stuffed by the fifth course.

I don't eat fish so I had lamb instead of the monkfish which Martin had. Both were good, but probably our least favourite dishes on the menu. I didn't think that the various elements on my plate complemented each other as well as they could have. Plus, my lamb was slightly overdone.

I was getting full by the next course - barbecued Iberico pork, savoury almond praline, radishes and crushed green apple. The pork was meltingly tender and the savoury praline was a revelation.

Next up was a welcome palate cleanser - iced lovage which tastes a little bit like what iced celery would taste like, only slightly stronger. 

Finally dessert, this beautiful custard tart. The filling was beautifully soft and delicate - no scrambled eggs here. Probably my second favourite course after the pea and mint.

An unexpected final touch were some baby Japanese peaches. I had no idea that they existed but they were exceptional and I want to eat them every day please.

Dabbous is a foodie's heaven. The plates were artwork to look at and the flavours were combined in the most refreshing and interesting of ways. Importantly Dabbous introduced me to some new flavours which I think is essential at a really good restaurant - meadowsweet, lovage and baby japanese peaches to name a few. I left feeling pleasantly full and hugely happy - a great way to celebrate my new job.

PS We plan to book our table now for our next visit. With any luck we might get a table for February next year - the perfect gap between visits.

What's your favourite fancy restaurant? 


  1. That looks very swanky indeed! I don't really have a proper posh restaurant, but I am going to a pretty nice one for my birthday next Friday!

    1. I love your blog. Whereabouts are you going? My best friend moved to Durham last year and she loves eating out so a recommendation would be great,

  2. Ooh looks so fabulous and the food sounds (and looks) delicious, £59 isn't too bad for a tasting menu at all so I'll have to check it out! My favourite fancy restaurant is L'atelier de joel robuchon (got taken there for my birthday, it's good value for a weekday lunch time 3 course meal, minus the wine of course! But we had a cheeky pre-meal cocktail as well :) ) - the food was amazeballs but the best bit was sitting at the bar overlooking the chefs prepare the dishes, it really is a mixture of art and precision! But I really want to go to Le Gavroche if I ever have enough money to splurge as I've developed a not-so-secret crush on Michel Roux Jr ever since Masterchef the professionals...

    1. They both sound amazing. I love weekday lunch set menus. They're such good value and you get such a real taste of the chef's talented cooking. Thanks for the recommendations - I'll definitely bear them in mind next time we need to celebrate something :)