09 September 2015
Like many others, it has taken a long, long time to bag a reservation at Dabbous. In the intervening years I have immensely enjoyed fabulous meals at Restaurant Story, The Ledbury, Pollen Street Social and numerous others that can claim a similar offering of 'modern European food'. So I was looking forward to finally figuring out what all the fuss was about and, I'm disappointed to say - not all that much.
As others have pointed out the room is 'industrial chic', which is a matter of taste. I don't necessarily need tablecloths and crystal from a Michelin-starred chef, but I do expect rigorously en pointe service and this was sadly not in evidence. Also, sufficient light to be able to actually read the menu (we had to use our mobile phone flashlights, and we were not the only ones) would not go amiss, nor interfere with the 'moody' atmosphere.
The biggest bugbear came right at the start, when we were offered drinks and I made the mistake of ordering a cocktail from their extensive and quite unusual list, while my partner opted for a glass of champagne. His came immediately, but mine, as is often the case with cocktails, took rather a long time. Which would have been fine, should the server have had the good sense not to try to serve us the first course before I had even received my pre-dinner drink. The restaurant was not full, and I did not get the impression that they needed to 'turn tables' so there was no excuse for the meal being rushed onto the table. Our server took the course back to the kitchen as requested (it was a cold starter anyway, so no harm done) but I did detect an expression of exasperation. Then, when my cocktail finally arrived, she immediately brought the food back to the table, before I had even had a sip! So we politely told her that we did not want to eat before we had finished our pre-dinner drinks, and back it went for a second time. To be fair, she did apologise for the mix up at the end of the meal, but frankly that is just poor training.
The food - well, it was nice, in a couple of cases very nice, but really nothing ground-breaking, at least not in 2015. The presentation was pretty, but not exceptional - at no point did I feel compelled to say 'wow' or silently contemplate the beauty of what was being offered. And - this is quite serious ,as the menus are both 'set', either a tasting menu or a dinner menu - there was no attempt by any of the (too numerous for a small restaurant in my opinion) servers to ascertain whether either of us had any allergies/food intolerances that would require a substitution of a dish. My partner, while not allergic, does not get on with nuts and it turns out they were present in every dish save the desert, and not identified on the menu in any of them bar the first course (or he would have said something). He soldiered on (and I ate the nuts he left on the plate) but it was unfortunate, at that price level, that this possibility was not even considered.
So...perhaps they were having an 'off' night, but it is not the summer holidays any longer and we were not tourists. I guess I can now say 'been there, done that' but while not a seriously unpleasant experience, it is certainly not a restaurant I would rush back to.