Dabbous is the acclaimed new Fitzrovia restaurant from young British talent Ollie Dabbous. He talks to Brummell about the challenge of opening your first restaurant aged just 28…
‘One of our most stylistically symbolic dishes is a salad of fennel, lemon balm and pickled rose petals,’ says Ollie Dabbous, chef-proprietor of Dabbous, London’s acclaimed new restaurant. ‘It sounds pretentious, but I was trying to give a flavour of cut grass and that slight floral smell you get when it’s rained overnight in summer.’
At 28, Dabbous is one of Britain’s brightest young culinary talents. After forging a career in the kitchens of Raymond Blanc’s Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Mugaritz in San Sebastian and as head chef at London’s Michelin-starred Texture, he, along with cocktail supremo and friend Oskar Kinberg, has opened his first restaurant in the heart of London.
‘The menu is very clean and product-driven and not “cheffy” in the least, and the food is organic and restrained,’ Dabbous says. An obsession with seasonal, quality ingredients, attention to detail and clarity in flavour and presentation is the secret to Dabbous’ success. ‘A lot of chefs with their first restaurant go all out trying to impress, whereas I’m more stripped down. If you can get a dish that makes you say, “Wow” but, at the same time, seems effortless, that’s the best combination. That’s what I’m chasing.’
Other menu highlights include grilled scallops with Jerusalem artichokes dressed like a potato salad and served with a rapeseed mayonnaise, sourdough bread and smoked butter. ‘It’s very simple and very English. It’s kind of A+B+C, but a modern take.’
Attention to detail extends beyond the menu to the look of the restaurant. ‘I’m a bit of a control freak, really,’ says Dabbous. ‘I’ve always wanted to have my own place – for the freedom of expression, to be able to cook your own dishes and to make sure the menus are interlinked with the surroundings.’ And interlinked they are, with a chic industrial design that is stripped back to its bare elements, including exposed brick walls and metal.
The chef’s own drawings are behind much of the restaurant’s design, including an ocakbasi-style grill at the heart of the kitchen, though Dabbous admits, ‘My mum is a clothes designer and my dad is an architect, but I can’t draw for toffee! I’d send the architect my sketches and they’d try to make them into something tangible.’
It’s evident that Dabbous is an extremely personal project – a true work of heart. ‘Throughout the whole process, Oskar and I developed an underdog mentality where you’re fighting to get the most out of every pound you spend because you don’t have that much,’ Dabbous says. The fight, it seems, has paid off.
Dabbous, 39 Whitfield Street, W1T 2SF, 02073231544, dabbous.co.uk. Meal for two with wine and service around £140.