Two Minutes with Ollie Dabbous


Updated on 22 November 2016 • Written By Neil Simpson

Two Minutes with Ollie Dabbous
Last week, Experimental Group announced it was opening The Henrietta Hotel in Covent Garden, with none other than Ollie Dabbous looking after the restaurant. Since winning our Restaurant of the Year award in 2012 for Dabbous, Ollie has only undertaken one other project, Barnyard in Fitzrovia with business partner Oskar Kinberg. Ollie clearly picks his projects carefully, so we had a quick coffee with him to find out why Henrietta, as well as what to expect when the restaurant opens in March. 

Neil Simpson

Henrietta at The Henrietta Hotel Covent Garden Ollie Dabbous London Chef Squaremeal Square Meal

How did this new project come about?

We’ve been looking at Central London sites for a while, a couple in Soho for example, but several times we reached the final stages only for the landlord to go for the big money at the last minute. When this offer came along, the timing was just right.

Ollie Dabbous and Henrietta restaurant team London

Why did you decide to team up with Experimental Group?

I have been approached a few times to enter partnerships but it didn't feel right. Restaurants in far-flung countries, for example. Oskar [Kinberg, Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous] already knew Xavier Padovani [above, far right] and I like Experimental Group's places [Compagnie des Vins SurnaturelsExperimental Cocktail Club and Joyeux Bordel]. They're driven by product, not profit, so we got on straightaway.

What can we expect from Henrietta?

It'll be buzzy like Dean Street Townhouse or Chiltern Firehouse, while the food will be more accessible and less esoteric than Dabbous. The quality will be high though, with the same attention to detail as Dabbous. I'm working on the menus at the moment and testing dishes, so I can't be definitive but it will be a seasonal British menu with global influences, whether that be Italy, France or, say, the Middle East.
I want to have a bit of fun with Henrietta – opening Dabbous was all such a rush, so this time I'm enjoying developing the menus.

Will you be involved day-to-day at Henrietta?

I will be working services during the opening for a set amount of time and some Dabbous staff will come with me, then it's over to head chef Robyn [Tecwyn, currently head chef at Dabbous]. I'm in a position where I have a great team – we receive at least two CVs every day – and I know that I can rely on them to keep up the standard.

Oskar Kinsberg bartender London Squaremeal Square Meal

You went into partnership with Oskar on both Dabbous and Barnyard – why didn't you team up this time?

Henrietta is a great opportunity and of course Experimental can take care of the drinks offering there. I talked to Oskar [above] and he's fine with it; he's pretty busy himself. We have mutual goals and fears. Henrietta is a window for the cooking side of what we do, but I'm looking to incorporate more aspects of Dabbous into future projects.

Anzu London restaurant restaurant

What do you make of the London restaurant scene at the moment?

I'm looking forward to going to Anzu (above) at St James’s Market soon; Emma [Reynolds, co-founder of Anzu and the Tonkotsu chain] is a good friend of mine. I also made it to Som Saa recently and while I’m not too good at handling those spices, the beef-cheek curry was delicious. 

UMU 10

Is there a restaurant that you wish you had opened?

McDonalds! Seriously, I think Mayfair’s Umu (pictured) is beautiful and has nailed it across the board. Obviously the prices are heart-attack expensive, but it’s worth it.

What advice do you have for prospective restaurateurs?

It'll cost more than you think! Surround yourself with good people and then incentivise them: encourage profit-sharing, for example, so you can orientate their goals with your own and the result is a team who care as much as you do.

Find out more about Henrietta at The Henrietta Hotel here

This article was published 23 November 2016