Way back when it was still summer (remember that time when you didn’t have to wear scarves and a coat?), my friend told me she managed to secure a Friday lunch booking at Dabbous, a place I’d read about and had resigned to never being able to eat there. I said yes, filed the date away and promptly forgot about it. Autumn has now rolled around and oh hey look, it’s November and we have a table at Dabbous! When you’ve waited months to eat at a restaurant, there’s no rushing through it. I’m going to take my own sweet time, thank you very much. Good thing I had the afternoon off.
After deciding on the 4-course set lunch (priced at a reasonable £26), we were brought some homemade mixed grain bread and hand-churned butter. It tasted like…bread. Quite honestly, they could have given me Hovis and I’d have been none the wiser. I’m really all about the butter. The bread is really there to hold that creamy deliciousness. The bag was a cute touch.
Course 1: Hispi cabbage with sunflower
Rather underwhelming. It’s cabbage with fancy mayo, with some toasted sunflower seeds and sunflower petals. It’s not bad, but really tastes more like a side dish or a bar snack. Go with the celeriac if you’re eating there soon.
Course 2 (not part of set menu): Coddled egg with woodland mushrooms and smoky butter
Don’t you just love that presentation? Much, much better than the cabbage. It had a perfectly beautiful creamy and smoky flavour that sent me into happy food heaven. Note: don’t grab the eggshell too tight because *newsflash*, it will break. That may not be a bad thing actually, because I ended up licking bits off the broken shell. Also, I’ve just realised that I paid £8. For egg. Oh well, it was really good.
Course 3: Braised cuttlefish with swede, chickpeas, sea aster & golden raisins
You know those clear broths you get at fancy Chinese restaurants? This tasted just like that. This really brought back memories of home. I could have eaten a whole pot of this.
Course 4: roast pork belly with acorn praline, turnip tops & apple vinegar
The comparison to Chinese cooking doesn’t stop there. The crackling tasted like the finest siew yoke, especially when paired with the greens, which tasted like choy sum stalks. The acorn praline was a nice addition to the dish, adding delightful crunch to the fatty bits of meat.
Course 5: Milk curd, birch sap & winter fruit
Milk curd is really just a fancy way of saying yogurt. I guess if you put ‘yogurt’ on your menu, you’ve going to have people turning their noses up at that and saying, “I didn’t wait a year to have yogurt for dessert.” Well, you should, because this was a sheer delight. It’s been a while since I’ve had such a refreshing and yet satisfying dessert that has very different tastes and textures from your usual pudding. There was the creaminess and slight tartness of the curd, the mellow sweetness of the honey(?), the crunch of the winter fruit – I believe the waiter said it was water chestnut, and the lovely graininess of chestnut. While digging through the bowl, we realised this was in many ways a sweet version of chawanmushi. What would have made this dessert perfect would be the addition of gingko nut. It’s also given me inspiration to eat my morning yogurt in a different way.
To finish off: cherry canele & mint tea
By this time, we were at that happy balance of feeling satisfied but not overly full. The canele was the perfect cherry on the top, acccompanied by some fresh mint tea.
So is Dabbous worth all the hype? In some ways, yes. I liked the strong Asian influences and quirky presentation. The service is also lovely. If you’re lucky enough to have a booking, don’t think too much about it, don’t read too much about it and go without any expectations. But do order the egg.
39 Whitfield Street
London, W1T 2SF