Sometimes hype can be good. More often than not, the hype of a restaurant never lives up to the actual experience. For example, there’s always a queue at Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote, but when I finally managed to go, I found the steak and chips to be average at best, and definitely not worth the wait. My experience at Palomar was completely different than Yee Gan’s as we were shoved into a crowded restaurant, with five people seated at a table for three so one person was sitting with her legs across her boyfriend’s lap. We ended up walking out. What a nightmare. Patty and Bun? Not impressed. Breakfast Club? Only if you like rubbery, overcooked breakfast food and forced queues when there is plenty of seating inside. For some reason the hype of these places keeps them going, and I personally don’t understand why.
The hype at Dabbous made it completely difficult to book it for awhile. My friend Nava wanted to try it out, and we didn’t manage to go the year she was living here, then she went back to the states for a year, and finally about six months after she moved back, we got our booking and went in to dine. We were excited! We had heard so many good things and given how long it took to actually get a booking a go, it must be good right?
My partner and I got there a bit early, so we decided to hit up the bar. Now as a lead in, I prefer my cocktails savory and bitter. I’m not a sweet cocktail fan, but a lot of cocktails in London seem to go that way. I always ask which drinks on the menu are less sweet. My partner is the same. So when I’m told I’ll like the Dillusion (kind of like a dill martini), it sounded intriguing, so I go for it. My partner got the Chumbawumba because it was made with a peaty whisky and we’re huge fans of them. It also said it had honey, so he was a bit worried.
Unfortunately, the drinks were pretty terrible. The Dillusion was sweet and barely tasted of dill. We saw the bartender add a ridiculous amount of honey to the Chumbawumba, and that was basically all you could taste. Disappointment number one. Our friends arrived, and we were shown to our seats upstairs.
We had the tasting menu, and since one of our friends has a nut aversion, they substituted one of his courses that revolved around pistachios to something else. That was nice. My partner and I decided to do the wine pairings with the courses as well. First they brought out some olives and bread. The regular bread has nuts, so they brought out some non-nut bread for our nut averse friend.
Honestly, I wish I remembered more about the courses. I remember that I found them interesting, but the food was definitely designed to test your palate instead of creating harmonious dishes that you wanted to eat. The first course was fennel. I like fennel, but most everyone at the table didn’t like the course. The second dish of pistachio was good, but again, most people weren’t a fan. And the course our friend got was much better than the pistachio. Even more of a disappointment.
One of the biggest disappointments was the next course. Tomato on toast. I was expecting a really ripe, amazing tomato and some interesting toast. Nope, it was just your average tasting tomato on a dry piece of toast? How is this a course at a fine dining restaurant? It’s just lazy. I’m sorry.
I don’t even really remember the next two courses. Some sort of something in a broth and some meat. Sadly, the courses were no way memorable for us to remember. And that is also a disappointment. The most memorable thing about the night was seeing a Great British Bake-Off contestant having dinner with his family. Oh and a word about the wine pairings: The Sommelier didn’t really explain much about the wines. It was just “This is the wine, good bye!” My partner is really into wine, so he likes to hear something interesting. Not this time. He was just annoyed with it. I also remember that my idea of the food was fairly positive where the other three people at the table just found something not to like about all of the courses.
Next came the cheese and dessert. The cheese was one of the better courses, as we asked where they got their cheese. Plus they had the Lancashire Bomb which is an amazing. But when the cheese course is the best course, there’s an overall problem with the restaurant. The pre-dessert was a sorbet made out of some sort of green. I liked it, but everyone else hated it. Dessert was some sort of grain dessert. I don’t understand the new trend of breakfast for dessert, but I don’t like it. I’m down with grains for dessert if they make it sweet enough and interesting enough, but this wasn’t. It was sad and yet another disappointment. Finally, they brought out some chocolates which were a good way to end the meal.
But after dining here, I’m not quite sure why everyone rates it so highly. When four people come to a restaurant (and we eat at nice restaurants often enough), and three of them find something not to like about every course, there’s clearly a problem. I think Dabbous has become complacent in their hype, and feel like they can just put anything out and it’s okay. It’s not. I don’t want to be challenged at every step. I want to go to a nice restaurant and eat good food. Challenge is good as long as it also TASTES good. And I really don’t want a slice of average tomato on toast. There was nothing to like about that course. Dabbous definitely doesn’t live up to the hype, and there are plenty of other restaurants in London that deserve the hype that Dabbous gets. But as I stated above, hype seems to be reserved for places that don’t deserve it.
39 Whitfield Street, W1T 2SF