We send our reporter Douglas Blyde to meet chef Ollie Dabbous to learn more about his eponymous restaurant in Fitzrovia....
Describe Dabbous’s design
To transform this former internet café, I shared my vision with the interior designers, Brinkworth, who are probably best known for their work on the All Saints clothing shops. Some features echo those from my flat near Ladbroke Grove. I like the resulting look of industrial-meets-rustic, where, beside exposed bricks, concrete floors and sheet metal, wooden table are singed with blow torches then lacquered. Less visible, but more practical, details to enhance the dining experience include the foam strips inserted between beams for effective sound insulation.
It sounds expensive...
Although restaurants have become a big, big business, the ambition to open one was still relatively humble, as we didn’t have a penny in the bank to begin with. But my team of five chefs and I have been immensely proud of the positive reviews, given our tight budget. Of course, as soon as money started coming in, we could buy more knives and forks and add more to our initial collection of four teapots!
Your name’s above the door – does that make you egotistical?
With evening reservations booked up until October, some people say I’ve achieved ‘fame’. But fame’s too strong a word. ‘Recognition’ could be closer to the mark. I’m the antithesis of the sort of chef who enters gala cooking events...which are the same as Crufts! I prefer to stay hidden–away in the kitchen and making food which is nourishing and satisfying. When a diner asks me to autograph their menu and write a few words, I struggle!
I love lovage, incidentally, an ancient English ingredient which British people see as exotic, but probably grows at the end of their gardens.
What if a diner decides they’d prefer Caesar salad?
Although it’s not on our menu, if we have the ingredients and time, we’ll make it.
Surely there’s been calamities too?
At 11am on opening day, the builders working on the offices above cut straight through our phone lines. So there we were, with no PDQ, no internet and no phone.
Who are your clientele?
Everyone and anyone, from foodies to fashionistas, and Oskar has his own following. Together, we aim to create a complete night out experience.
What do you love about your present situation?
It’s nice to cook the way I want to cook in a head chef role for the first time. It’s taken five years to learn to appreciate how to pare a dish down. And I can’t imagine opening with a different team - their average age is 26. We’ve become very close. Although I appreciate it takes patience to get a booking, the very best thing though is seeing people coming back.