Praise has been heaped on new London restaurant Dabbous, most notably by critic Fay Maschler who gave it a rare five stars – a rating, she says, that “is reserved for when a place comes along that changes the game”. However, the food has threatened to overshadow some rather interesting things going on in the restaurant’s basement where the owners have created a bar serving up cocktails in a raw industrial setting.
Dabbous in Fitzrovia was created by 31-year-old chef Ollie Dabbous, most recently of Michelin-starred Texture, with his friend Oskar Kinberg, aged 27, formerly bar manager of London’s Cuckoo Club. The pair met four years ago when Ollie briefly worked at the Cuckoo Club before starting at Texture, and they have been plotting this venture together since then. “I always wanted to have a restaurant with a basement bar, and it made sense to do it with someone you respected professionally,” Ollie explains.
Like the restaurant on the ground floor, the bar has an industrial feel, with exposed brickwork and duct piping, combined with the natural wood of the beams and tables. Oskar, who was born and lived in Sweden until seven years ago, says this adds a Scandinavian feel to the interior which is both a space for diners to enjoy drinks as well as a destination in itself.
The interior, which was formerly the UK’s first-ever internet café, was designed by Karen Byford, Kevin Brennan and Anja Haerter of Brinkworth, a leading design company that has worked on bars such as The Loft in Clapham, south London. Inspiration for the design came from the minimal and natural presentation of Ollie’s food, leading them to create a raw industrial space using materials such as steel, reeded glass and concrete.
On the ground floor, the passage to the stairs down to the bar is separated from the restaurant by a metal mesh screen. The bar, with walls lined in burnt timber, is furnished with timber and steel benches, large tables, leather armchairs and a banquette, all designed by Brinkworth. Lighting includes hand-blown glass pieces from Rothschild & Bickers. The venue’s branding and menus – made of a timber clipboard with grey paper – were also created by Brinkworth.
Like the restaurant, Dabbous’ bar is open from midday to 11.30pm Tuesdays to Saturdays. It has a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, where bartenders can chat to their customers, says Oskar who was also part of the launch team at London club Movida. He has put together a good selection of premium spirits, including some less common brands such as AE Dor cognacs and Casa Dragones tequila, plus a concise but varied list of wines, with many available by the glass. Sparkling options include wines from Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex, while champagnes range from Moët & Chandon to Dom Pérignon and Armand de Brignac.
Oskar has created a list of classic and original cocktails, mostly priced at £8.50, using good-quality spirits and home-made ingredients including sloe gin, grenadine, jams and syrups including a cigar syrup. “Ollie and I work very well together and, if I come up with an idea for an ingredient, he comes up with a recipe for it,” Oskar says. “If he comes up with a new syrup, I will make a good drink with it.”
The cigar syrup features in the Mellow Yellow cocktail along with Cazadores blanco tequila, Cointreau and lime juice, which are mellowed by the addition of yellow pepper and served in a Martini glass rinsed with Ardbeg whisky. Popular cocktails include the Dillusion, made with Hayman’s London Dry Gin, lemon juice, elderflower cordial, cucumber and gomme syrup. Other original recipes include the Thriller in Perilla made with Bloom Gin, crème de violette, lemon juice, caster sugar, grapefruit bitters and leaves of the mint-like Asian herb, perilla.
As with the dishes in the restaurant, the cocktails change seasonally, Oskar adds. “I try to make drinks for the consumer rather than just other bartenders so they are quite approachable,” he says. “Ollie and I wanted a bar that wasn’t stuffy but had a lot of attention to detail. We want people to feel it is welcoming and friendly as soon as they come in through the door.”
39 Whitfield Street, London W1T 2SF Tel: 020 7323 1544 www.dabbous.co.uk