To speak of talented chef Ollie Dabbous is to mention his game-changing eponymous restaurant Dabbous. Its five-year tenure at the summit of London’s food scene began in 2012, back when we were yet to experience the full weight of the small plates revolution, before regional Thai cuisine or bao had flourished in the capital, and definitely prior to the rise of so-called ‘influencers’. But by the time it served its final course in July 2017, it had shepherded in a new era of casual fine dining.
Much has changed in the time since I first navigated the 12-month waiting list at Dabbous and drawing up a chair at the chef’s new restaurant Hide, but there’s one thing that remains – hype, and lots of it.
Hedonism Wines is the financial backer, collaborator and landlord of this mighty space (the iPad-app wine list is the giveaway), but its Russian billionaire owner Yevgeny Chichvarkin allowed Dabbous himself to be the architect of the restaurant’s vision.
Fish soup triggers flashbacks of holidaying in Provence
The result is three separate concepts to the chef’s liking: Below, a subterranean cocktail bar run by booze whiz Oskar Kinberg; all-day dining at Ground; and Above, a restaurant that intends to put itself head and shoulders in that direction over London’s other fine-dining prospects. Add to that the hefty £20m necessary to create what is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful restaurants anywhere in the UK and you have one heck of a bold statement of intent.
At our table in Above, we’re overlooking Green Park through the panoramic windows of the gleaming dining room. There’s picnic-like nibbles of pickled vegetables and chamomile aioli (crudite and salad cream taken up a few notches); an umami-laden mushroom broth; and, pork and goose charcuterie. We may as well be sitting on the grass opposite, swapping lashings of ginger ale for a healthy slug of Ambonnay Grand Cru champagne from grower Eric Rodez.
Starters proper come in the form of celeriac ribbons in a pine broth (a woodland-reminiscent palate cleanser – a phrase I never thought I’d utter) followed by marinated tuna wrapped in a caviar-topped shiso leaf.
We cross back from Scandinavia and Japan to central Europe: ‘Bouillabaisse’, surely a future signature dish, arrives as distant from its Marseille origins as one could imagine. There’s four slithers of plaice sashimi, slick with the salinity of seaweed dressing, before you lift the plate to reveal a bowl of squid waiting for the introduction of a heady saffron-infused fish soup. It triggers all sorts of flashbacks of holidaying in Provence.
Perfectly cooked turbot shimmers in its iridescence
You get the impression that Dabbous is leading you through a lifetime of influences and memories, yours and his, and we follow like complicit children turning the page for another bite of this culinary narrative.
Of course, all of this wouldn’t matter a jot if flavour and execution were lacking, but as we round the corner to the main part of the meal, there’s perfectly cooked turbot, shimmering in its iridescence, remarkable ruby red slices of goose and soft tranches of lamb. And desserts? They’re will-o-wisps of floral sweetness, like jasmine and coconut.
I’ll put it this way: Dabbous’ latest triumph is certainly not hiding in plain sight.
Hide, 85 Piccadilly, Mayfair, W1J 7NB; 020 3146 8666; hide.co.uk