Taking photos of food is often discussed amongst food bloggers and journalists; some despise it, others love it. I’m firmly in the camp of the photographers but only if the photo does the food justice. I don’t see the point, (at least not any more!) of putting up crappy iPhone photos or ones where it was so dark that it was impossible to see. But whenever I go to a restaurant that is too dark to take photos I usually end up not writing about it just because I don’t have any photos to put up. It probably means my writing isn’t good enough to stand alone but for whatever reason those restaurants never get written about.
Well this time I’m going to break the trend and write about two restaurants I’ve been to recently that I would have liked to have photos for but due to tricky light conditions I was unable to. It’s a shame as the first restaurant in particular had some of the most wonderfully presented food I’ve had in a while. But fear not dear reader, help is at hand in the form of this blog post that amply demonstrates the beauty of the plating at Dabbous.
I suppose the other reason I have decided to write about Dabbous is that it’s the hottest ticket in town right now, and, for once, I managed to get their before the hoards descended. Apparently it’s booked up till May now, and Giles and Jay haven’t even had their reviews printed yet. I’d heard a bit of a buzz about Ollie Dabbous’ new venture thanks to my mild addiction to twitter and early reports were effusive in their praise. While some people hate the idea of Valentine’s day, for me its just another excuse to eat, so I booked us up for Tuesday the 14th.
Amazingly the place was half empty when we got there, and the bar was even emptier as we sipped on our expensive but delicious cocktails. This was quite nice, we were so ahead of the curve that there weren’t hundreds of tables for two and it could have been any night of the week really, although you couldn’t get a real read on what the atmosphere would be like when it was buzzing.
You don’t need a crowded restaurant to get a read of the food though, and all I can say is that the hype is real people. We weren’t in the mood for the full blown tasting but decided to do a bit of a mix and matching from the a la carte and just share everything. Highlights from the starters were the salad of fennel with lemon balm, which quite literally blew my mind with the dressing that was just amazingly pure and clear, and the beef tartar with cigar oil, which tasted new and familiar all at the same time. To be honest the you can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu at Dabbous but these were some of the best.
Mains were awesome too; roast goose with sweet clover kuzu and quince was such a startling array of textures it took a minute to work out if you actually liked it but then became incredibly addictive, braised veal cheek was more homely but equally seductive and the spelt that came with it was a revelation.
We only went for one pudding but the barley flour soaked in red tea almost stole the show, rich and light, all at the same time it was a sublime end to an amazingly impressive meal. Ollie’s time at Texture has obviously influenced him heavily, every dish isn’t just thought about in terms of taste but just as importantly the way it tastes. It was easily the best meal I’ve had this year and I’ll be back when the queues die down.
I wish the same could be same for my first visit to Ceviche. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to love this place and how long I’ve been waiting for it to open. Ceviche was my life in Buenos Aires, I had it at least twice a week and I never get bored of that sharp, salty flavour from the leche de tigre. It is one of my favourite foods in the world and I’d been pining for someone to set up a shop in London. I suppose this enthusiasm and expectation was unrealistic and I’m afraid Ceviche just didn’t live up to the weight of expectation.
And what frustrates me is that ceviche is so damn easy. The website states “not all ceviche is created equal” and I suppose I should have taken this as a warning. What I expected was something that looks like this:
What I got was about a tenth of this. Sure, the flavours reminded me of Buenos Aires but there should just be more of everything; more red onion, more fish, more leche de tigre, more chilli. We got a little tasting plate and ceviche should be something you can order a massive bowl of and just dig in. Just writing about it gets me angry. We tried a range of the different ceviches; the Don was the stand out and the one that most reminded me of Buenos Aires but the salmon lacked any real flavour, it needed more ginger, the sea bass was ok I suppose and the fish of the day was as well. But there just wasn’t enough of it.
It’s early days and these problems are quite fixable really, get rid of all these small plates and get some real portions in with some proper kick and you’re on to a winner. If Martin, (who seems like a lovely guy btw), ends up reading this then he should have a look at the plates at Solo Pescados or Chan Chan to set him on the right track. Then I can come back. Till then I’ll just make it myself.