Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Dabbous

I’ve been busy. So I haven’t been blogging. I have continued to eat however. And now I am back (for those of you possessing a modicum of interest). Since my last post back in April I have sat exams, undertaken a half iron triathlon, worked in Uganda, climbed Kilimanjaro (overrated), worked in Ethiopia, savoured the Olympics, had weddings in New York and the Cotswolds (neither of them mine), worked in Washington D.C. wrote a dissertation for an MSc and enjoyed Bestival. So I’m not lying when I say I’ve been busy. At this point you’re also thinking I’m a bit of a wanker. And you’d have a point.
I have had some excellent and not so excellent food during this period (Ethiopia being a low point, as was eating copious amounts of Maltesers whilst writing my dissertation – they are not lighter than ordinary chocolate). I’m going to start with the best of the best however, and the subject of this blog. For my birthday, 3 of my friends and I booked into Dabbous for lunch. Now, I called Dabbous aeons ago to make a reservation and any date I suggested to eat they were fully booked out. Eventually I asked them to give me dates they could fit me in. When they suggested the 31st of August, I booked it on the spot and figured I’d find 3 friends to come with me. Within an hour I had a full complement, less about my likeability and more about the popularity of Dabbous.
 
I was worried however. Having read so many rave reviews about the place, the expectations were so high, that any let down would accentuate any disappointment. So we arrived for lunch on the last day of August celebrating a blue moon, the end of the summer and my birthday. Impressions were initially positive. The restaurant had a clean, industrial feel to it. Staff were pleasant as we perused the menu and offered (helpful) suggestions. Green olives were brought to the table as we made our selections.

In order to maximise our interpretation of a tasting menu, that is, we (I) like to taste what everyone has, we opted for 2 set menus and 2 from the a la carte menu. The menu seemed rather simple. By way of example, ‘peas with mint’, ‘ripe tomato in its own juice’ were on offer as a first course. The simplicity of the description had the effect of inuring excitement in attempts to conceptualise how they were going to taste. In addition to the above we selected the salad of fennel, lemon balm & rose petals.


Upon tasting each of the first plates, the uniform response from the table was that the food was stunning, not only in its presentation, but in its taste. I’m not going to detail each plate for each course as I’d be here for a long time, but the peas with mint shall suffice as the exemplar of the first round of courses.

Fresh garden peas were presented upon a mint mushy peas alongside crushed ice peas. Make any sense? Probably not. Suffice to say it was quite simply stunning. This was replicated throughout each of the plates.
Fresh and warm bread was brought out in a paper bag with the date on the bag. Bread in a bag. I don’t know, but it worked. As you do.
Next up was the braised halibut with coastal herbs; grilled mackerel gooseberries and horseradish; barbequed lamb rump, violet mustard and pickled vine leaves; roast veal rump, summer vegetables and chrysanthemum leaf in a light cheese broth; and barbecued Iberico pork, savoury acorn praline, turnip tops and apple vinegar. Each excelled.




  

Where sauces were served with the fish and with the veal, they were poured upon the plate at the table by the waiters, adding a simple act of theatre to the occasion. Occasion is the right word to use here as central to the eating was an appreciation of the food on offer (at least that’s what I thought). There’s a danger that this sounds total wanker, but it didn’t come across like that at all. In fact, it came across quite simple, stylish and unaffectedly charming. For me, the Iberico pork with the savoury acorn praline was just sublime and highlighted the intelligence of the menu on offer. Great food all round.  




A visit to the toilet downstairs opened up an additional world – enroute, a bar for punters that offers some food. According to one of the girls, you’d sell your grandmother for the chicken wings. And apparently it’s easier to get a space there. So that’s my recommendation. At the time of writing, Dabbous is booked out for lunch until December 2012 and for dinner until May 2013. So, head to the bar and have some chicken wings.
There was of course still time for dessert. Our table hosted ripe peach in its own juice, Mara des Bois strawberries with Tahitian vanilla ice-cream, custard cream pie, and artisanal cheese from the British Isles with baked apple and toasted sourdough. The juice was poured at the table for the peach and also for the strawberries.




Seriously, peach in its own juice, strawberries and ice-cream – so simple, but so bloody amazing. Absolutely delicious. I’m still unsure whether the custard was my favourite part of the pie or the slightly salty pastry that just offset the sweetness to perfection.
I could go on, but I’m salivating again. This food might sound simple, but it’s nothing of the sort. Clearly the concoctions are created by an individual who intimately understands flavours and winning combinations. It wasn’t just the kitchen staff who were on form however. Everyone, from the woman on the telephone who took the reservation, to the staff who welcomed us as we arrived, to the service staff, to the waiter who recommended venues for cocktails after – each were friendly, knowledgeable and made Dabbous a very comfortable, long and leisurely lunch. Certainly the best food I’ve enjoyed in 2012.

Coffees and cannele bordelaise with cherries were provided before we decided to head to Dukes for martinis. The bill for 4 including 2 bottles of red wine with our dinner came to £200. An amazing lunch, I doff my cap. This place is fantastic.



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