Dabbous is the first hotly tipped opening of 2012. Located on Whitfield Street, it will be the first solo venture for Ollie Dabbous, of Michelin-starred Texture
. All in London caught up with the busy chef to find out more.
How has it all been going?
Lots to think about! The building work is all going to schedule, all the staff are lined up, and I’m looking forward to the cooking side of it. It’s been a long process but we’re getting close now.
Despite being only 28 you’ve got quite an impressive CV (Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, The Fat Duck, The Loft Project). Did you realise at a very young age that you wanted to be a chef?
Yeah, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed which has come quite naturally to me. There are a lot of things I’m rubbish at but this is something I’ve always been comfortable with! I’ve always known what I wanted to do, you can get to where you want to be a bit quicker if you make your mind up early.
Did you grow up in a very foodie environment?
Not at all, my mum’s a pretty mediocre cook at best! I’ve just always really enjoyed food and I think that’s one of the best reasons to become a chef.
What has been your most valuable experience as a chef?
The best decision I made was not going to college and going straight into Manoir. Also switching around [restaurants] quite a bit, so once you’ve got good basic training, seeing different styles of cooking.
When did you feel ready to open your own restaurant?
About four years ago! Getting the money together and finding the site has been a long process, and it was tricky because I wasn’t a known head chef. It was harder to get money than if I’d been a bit more in the public eye, but I never really chased that sort of PR or recognition thing, I was always happy in the kitchen. Stylistically I’ve been cooking the same food for the last few years, so I’ve got a fairly assured idea of what I want to cook. It was great working at Texture from a business point of view because it was my first job in London, also being the head chef on someone else’s budget is good because it’s good to have a trial run before your own, so hopefully this time round I will avoid a few of the pitfalls.
What other challenges have you faced other than getting the money together?
Finding a site. It’s hard to find a site if you don’t have the money, and you can’t get the money if you don’t have a site. Also, it sounds like a humble ambition having your own restaurant, and having it in London, but it becomes such big business. Big chains and companies can bully you out of the property, but luckily for us the landlord liked our business plan and went with us. We did it the hard way, as we had to get the alcohol licence, the designs done, and building control.
There’s a lot to think about aside from the food…
Oh yes, the food is the easy bit! I’ve had 10 years to get ready for it in that respect. The recipes are done and I know exactly what I’m doing, I’m very organised in that respect which has helped me to concentrate on the business side of things. Also the team I’ve got give me great confidence, and it’s very simple cooking, it’s very restrained and very clean.
Can you talk us through some of the dishes?
The most typical examples of what we are going to do are the salads with fennel and pickled rose petals, very fresh-tasting, and Iberico pork which is beautifully marbled, a bit like the wagyu of pork. That’s done with an acorn praline and apple vinegar to cut through the fattiness. We have a grill specially made for us, which is coal and wood-burning so you get a much smokier flavour and less of the synthetic flavour you get with the gas and briquette ones used in a lot of London restaurants. Our typical dishes will have meat and some garnish, with three elements on the plate. There will still be attention to detail but the highlight is the quality of the ingredients. It should always be that way round, never technique-driven.
The bar will be run by Oskar Kinberg of the Cuckoo Club, is the aim for this to be a destination in its own right?
It’s great for before and after dinner but our licence does allow us to have people coming in just for drinks. The reason I chose Oskar was because they are the best drinks I’ve had. Often cocktails will be a bit too sweet or sour or boozy, but his go down pretty easily and then you get up and your legs are like jelly.
Have you been involved in the design of the restaurant?
Yes, it’s been one of the more enjoyable processes. It’s going to have a really stripped-down look, to go with the style of food, restrained and simplistic. We were looking for a design that isn’t going to date and is quite durable, so it’s industrial but organic because of the raw metal, bricks and concrete. We wanted to avoid the Prohibition and Manhattan feel a lot of places are going for at the moment.
is set to open on January 16th.
39 Whitfield Street
Added on December 26, 2011