Such is London’s appetite for burgers, BBQ and tapas, you’d be forgiven for thinking gastronomic dining has packed its bags and jumped on the bus. No way. The Ledbury, Hibiscus and Hedone are all big on modern haute cuisine, and posh hotel dining’s alive and well at Seven Park Place and Alyn Williams at the Westbury. Then there’s the British bistronomie of the Young Turks and, newly opened off Charlotte Street, a newcomer to the affordable/accessible scene: Dabbous.
Pronouced ‘Dabboo’, this restaurant and bar is flaming hot right now. Chef/patron Ollie Dabbous, a protégé of Raymond Blanc’s, pairs his light, clean, technically exact food with a low-key atmosphere and an ace bar. Nowhere else in the West End has achieved ‘stripped-down fine dining’, as he calls it, with this sort of credibility and feel for what young Londoners want.
The dishes are scaled down in size and price, so you can order quite a few: we tried sensational celeriac in herby broth with Muscatel grapes, then Jerusalem artichokes with virgin rapeseed oil mayonnaise, smoked butter and marigold petals. Beef tartar with cigar oil, whisky and rye is a concept that works beautifully, a warming, earthy version of the classic. Iberico pork comes pink, with savoury acorn praline, turnip tops and apple vinegar adding depth – clever and, more importantly, delicious.
You might have a bit of a wait before you get to try the meadowsweet ice cream – tables are hard to come by. But the downstairs bar, presided over by Oskar Kinberg, is a destination in its own right: the sloe gin punch is perfection, and we can vouch for his negroni. Snacks such as chicken wings or black pudding with mango chutney are all from Ollie’s kitchen, too.