On 12 May 2012 I emailed Dabbous and asked for the next available table for 4 people. The response: lunch on 27 October 2012. Wow!
Having waited for almost six months, during which time Dabbous was awarded a Michelin Star, I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was about this particular Saturday lunch. They say the best things come to those who wait and this certainly didn’t come without a few hurdles. First my husband booked a trip to Berlin on the same weekend (he was swiftly replaced), then the day before my boss informed me, in a non-negotiable manner, that he needed me to fill in for my Jewish colleague on a job that had kicked off and would require work on Saturday, and finally, a phone call from Dabbous confirming my table for 2 people!
Despite all of this, we made it and had an absolutely marvellous time. We were booked in for 2pm, which is my number one choice for a slap up meal. I love a lazy morning followed by a late afternoon lunch which goes on into the early evening. You can still have an early night and not feel too rotten the next day. I also find that when I go somewhere fancy it all feels a bit more relaxed in the day which suits me perfectly.
Before I tell you about our meal I must mention the bar. It’s gorgeous and available for walk-ins any time, so if you can’t get a reservation in the restaurant I would highly recommend popping to the bar. It does a few nibbles, including the coddled eggs from the restaurant menu, but most importantly it also served the best bloody mary I have ever tasted. I’ve had two, on two different occasions, made by two different people, as I wanted to be absolutely sure before I made this bold claim, but it is true. I’ve tasted hundreds of bloody marys, I absolutely love them and for me this was the best. So so fresh, perhaps due to the incorporation of freshly crushed cherry tomatoes. Dabbous is also footsteps away from Bubbledogs so if you do go for a bar snack, you really should pop over there for a hotdog and a glass of champagne.
Anyhow, back to our lunch. We had a drink in the bar first and then went to the table. The restaurant is actually very small and certainly nothing fancy. It has a fairly formal feel but there are no white table cloths or stuffy waiters. We were tucked away in the corner which pleased me as it meant we didn’t have to worry too much about being loud.
We were presented with a number of menus, the set lunch menu was very good value at £26 for 4 courses, but after such a long wait there was no way I was going for anything other than the tasting menu. This was still reasonable at £54 and consisted of 7 courses plus an optional cheese course. It was delicious and also really interesting. The first three courses in particular were different to anything I had ever eaten before.
We started off with olives and some homemade sourdough delivered in a paper bag and served with whipped butter. We ordered a bottle of Chablis and off we went. It turned into one of those lunches where the chatter flows, the bottles of wine keep being replenished (although we did move on to a Cote-Rotie and then a Clos de Grillions) and the delicious food just keeps on coming. We were still there when everyone else had left and the manager kindly allowed us to stay, having a grand old time and drinking yet another bottle of wine, until 6:15pm when he had to re-set the table for the evening diners.
Hispi cabbage with sunflower
I somewhat embarrassed myself with the first course one by assuming that the waiter had forgotten to give us any cutlery. Turns out you don’t need any! The crunchy cabbage is used as a vessel for the smooth sunflower mayonnaise. It was a really clever dish and a great way to start the meal.
Celeriac with muscat grapes, lovage and hazelnuts
This was also really clever and tasty. The only way to describe it is ‘fresh’. It always astounds me when something so simple tastes so delicious. I should mention that one of our party of four did not like this dish at all, but I think I liked it enough for the two of us!
Coddled free range hen egg with woodland mushroom and smoked butter
The famous Dabbous coddled egg. If you can’t get a table in the restaurant this is one of the dishes that you can sample in the bar. It is every bit as delicious as the rumours suggest. Creamy, rich and deep with those lovely mushrooms.
Braised halibut with costal herbs
This was my favourite dish of the entire meal. As you know, I’m not a massive fish person so that is saying a lot. It was amazing. Really delicate and almost Thai-like in flavour. I could eat it every day.
Barbecued Iberico pork, savoury acorn praline, turnip tops and apple vinegar
I’m afraid this one didn’t really do much for me. It was perfectly nice but after the delicious and creative dishes that came before it, I just wanted to get on to the next course.
A feast of pigeon
However, our friend who can’t eat nuts had a rather more exciting main course. Just look at that leg!! Again this was a no cutlery affair, just the skewer. Fun!
Artisanal cheese from the British Isles, baked apple and toasted sourdough
There is a supplement for cheese but we were having a grand old time so it was an easy decision, I did however get frowned upon by my friends for starting at the strong end!!
Fresh milk curds infused with fig leaves; fig and pistachio
I love figs and, as I knew that a chocolate desert was coming up, I was delighted with this. Great textures and delicate smooth flavours. Desert wine was a must!
Chocolate soaked brioche, barley malt ice cream, azuki beans and pecans
Just take a look at that and tell me you don’t want to dive in face first. Oh Chocolate how I love thee! This really was a corker of a pudding. My second favourite dish on the menu. It was oozy, gooey and rich – everything you want from a chocolate pud.
We finished off with a coffee and some petit fours and then argued between ourselves about who was going to ask the waiter if we could have another bottle of wine before we left. The gentleman in the group took the gauntlet and suceeded in securing one last bottle, which may or may not have been a good idea but it certainly seemed it at the time!
All in all I had a fabulous time at Dabbous. A marvellous meal with great service and fab company. 9/10 from me.
Is it worth the wait? Probably not. Is it worth going? Absolutely! So my recommendation would be not to focus on the waiting, just put your name down for a table, forget all about it (which might not be too difficult given that, as at today, the next available Saturday lunch is in November 2013!!) and then all that is left to do is to be delighted when you suddenly find it has arrived.