After a month hiatus from this godforesaken judging pit, the moths at EIC have come swanning through the front door like they’ve got something to say. And mark my word, there’s loads to say. And mark my word again – none of what they have to say has anything to do with the Olympics(!) apart from perhaps a shout out to the man who danced on his hands last night at the Paralympic opening ceremony. Did someone say legend? Oof.
Anyway – best get started while the ever decreasing value of our opinions is ripe, the new trends piling on top of each other like Prince Harry’s naked mates, and the people we owe write ups, incalculable.
We’ll start with DABBOUS – a restaurant so cool, Prince Harry would definitely wanna get nude there.
Two months ago, I sat waiting for my bloke in the basement bar of Dabbous, W1, surrounded by dapper suited men, mostly, drinking colourful cocktails as expensive as my shoes [£12.99] No olives were offered. New trend? Like some gastronomic adoption agency, we’d been on the waiting list for Dabbous for nearly five months, and finally our numbers came up. One of those ‘drop-everything opportunities’ about which I’m becoming less and less fanatical on account of being much busier than I once was and subsequently forced into moving around diary stuff. Half an hour later we were seated upstairs in the dining room.
The vibe: Lofty – barren – dark.
We went all out with the 7 course taster menu at £53 each and ordered a bottle of Merlot for £1000. [Read as 30]
The maitre de was a delight, bumbling his way over once or twice before the first course arrived, looking every bit the guy who you just know was lying unconscious in a ditch hours earlier. This is his room and he can do what he wants. [Because it was so long ago now, I can’t remember what I said, but I definitely offended him at one point and had to call him back to apologise. We’re all good now.]
The pea and mint first course was very pretty if a little too big and a little rich. When I say rich I mean buttery. The tiny pod shoots and mint flavoured peas were crunchy and fresh, but the salt of the butter had me guzzling down pints of water and that contributes to the feeling of fullness. Not ideal to feel half full after course 1 of 7 so I was a tad concerned by how laboured the final eight spoonfuls of this course became.
The second course was a ripe tomato in a sweet [olive oil?] dressing. I like tomatoes so I enjoyed this but when you’re paying for a 7 course taster menu instead of a 4, every course needs to add justification. It didn’t. Partner wasn’t keen.
Next up was the signature coddled egg with smoked butter and mushrooms, which looks good enough to chase in one, and believe you me – it is. Lumpy egg and mushroom blobs in a butter sauce. Yes please. Everyday. I mean it. Where is it now?
The poached halibut with lemon verbena (flavoursome herb – aren’t they all) was exciting mainly because the oyster leaf underneath the fish tasted of mushroom?! Apparently this is the best thing about oyster leaves, and, well, I concur. By this point though – I’m just a bit concerned that everything is tasting like butter and mushroom. Bring back the coddled egggggg.
Luckily – and it was time to see some red meat – the iberico pork arrived which sent me over the edge. The perfect colour, size and my knife cut into it like cheese. Iberico can do no wrong at Dabbous.
I couldn’t shovel anymore food into my mouth at this point down the menu – the remainder of which were two desserts; a ripe peach in its own juice and the custard cream tart. Luckily, the man sat opposite me rarely finds himself in such situations and subsequently put all of it away with a wink and a smile.
So was Dabbou able to justify the much hyped experience we sought out? Yes and no. Yes – in that what I liked I liked very much – the coddled egg [a king], followed by the iberico pork then the pea and mint. The rest was just short of frustrating and perhaps too basic but with three strong courses for a narrative, perhaps that’s the strategy.
8/10 for COOL and 8/10 for food. If you think you might need to impress someone 6 months down the line, book now.
39 Whitfield St, W1T 2SF
0207 323 1544
Photos originally posted on Helen Graves blog Food Stories.