Barnyard

Barnyard is Fitzrovia’s cool kid on the block.

It’s decked out in corrugated iron and Americana for a laid back, inviting atmosphere. Here they serve posh twists on British classics with a menu broken down by animal, egg, veg & pudding. The fact I just said posh twists made me cringe a little. What I mean to say, is a focus on quality ingredients and skilled execution for simple dishes that have long littered the English culinary repertoire.

By the way, did I mention this is the creation of Dabbous boys, Michelin starred Ollie & cocktail master Oskar?

But take off your Dabbous goggles, they’re like beer goggles impairing expectation for Michelin starred dining. Forget all the reviews you’ve read and ignore any hype you’ve heard, grab a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with and head to Fitzrovia for a good time with some good food.

Accompanied by the lovely Jaia, whom I found battling the end of a long day with fingers clasped around a coffee cup, we headed for the Barn…yard. Half expecting a line out the door or an hour long wait due to their no reservation policy, we were relieved to be greeted by friendly, welcoming lumberjack ushering us to our table. Seriously, everyone in here is a rugged, plaid shirted charmer seating guests, shaking cocktails and serving dishes.  A sweet, smoky smell of charcoal hangs in the air, enticing us past the bar, up to the small mezzanine. Our server, another charming, lumberjack figure, although albeit more hipster than mountain man, sweetly talked us through the menu and left us to debate the different sections.

We decided what to share, placed our orders and dove into conversation. The atmosphere is buzzing and there’s a feel good ambiance, lent in part by the lively groups sat in the booths behind us. It may have been due to our flowing conversation, but our food arrived in what seemed like mere minutes. However, we weren’t complaining and got stuck in.

Barnyard A beautiful chunk of barbecued, grain-fed short rib sat simply on the plate.

Barnyard

There was visible fat, which initially posed some concern as I’m not a fan of chewing through this texture. But, fear not, the meat melted away in tender bliss with a deep flavour of charcoal perfectly accompanied by the tang of a buttermilk sauce. The pickle I generously donated to Jaia.
I hate pickles. I know, I know. But, it’s my one thing. *shivers* 

Barnyard

Next up, a meaty looker of a sausage roll. This is definitely an English thing. They love their sausage rolls with all the adoring fondness of an American grasping the beautiful buns of a juicy burger. The dirty classic had been reworked into a thing of refinement with excellent quality meat snuggled inside flaky pastry. The accompanying piccalilli was deliciously sweet and sour, despite the lurking green offenders.

Barnyard

Our side of charred broccoli with vinaigrette was a delightful mystery. Although my dinner date wasn’t won over, the crunchy texture paired with the smoky charcoal flavouring and sour sauce was a pleasant surprise. It’s pretty genius to pleasantly surprise with broccoli, if you ask me. Or maybe I’m just easily amused.

Barnyard

Corn on the screw was cute presentation wise, with simple flavour and a glistening pool of melted butter.

Ready for more, but surprisingly full, we ordered the popcorn ice cream with smoked fudge sauce.

Barnyard

If you could like the screen, am I right? Barnyard

This was gourmet soft serve, laced with vanilla bean and an added crunch from the caramel popcorn. The smoked fudge sauce which I elegantly drizzled over the top, I dumped the entire thing on Jaia’s instruction, was rich and fudgey with a nice, smoky aftertaste. A sweet ending to a good meal.

Barnyard goes out of its way to be uncomplicated with its rustic touches and simple dishes. This is such a far cry from the pretty plates of challenging flavour combinations and skilful execution around the corner at Dabbous. But, strip away the implied reputation hanging like a cloud from the impressive track holder, and enjoy this simple, good food that you’ll struggle to find fault with. Because even if you do take issue with a dish, like my dining companion did with the broccoli, you easily forgive because it isn’t trying to be judged. It isn’t trying to impress you. It’s giving you some tasty food in a comforting atmosphere with friendly staff who happen to all be attractive lumberjacks in plaid shirts.

And so I will return to Barnyard, to happily crusade through the rest of the menu. In looser fitting jeans, I may add as this isn’t doing any favours to your bikini body. What’s that? 

If you do skip to the barn, tell me what you taste. Send me some foodporn via Twitter @Alessandra_LDN  

Dabbous

Michelin-starred Dabbous has been raved about and reviewed incessantly since opening its doors in the beginning of 2012. Following several stellar reviews, it soon became the restaurant booked until 2013, and now until 2014.

For those not able to wait a year for a dinner reservation, a lunch date can often be snatched up with a few weeks notice. Alternatively, the bottom half of the restaurant is home to Oskar’s Bar. Chef Dabbous’ business partner and friend Oskar stirs up wicked concoctions served alongside a sampling of reasonably priced bar snacks, featuring items from the menu upstairs.

I sent a request in for lunch for two, and then I waited.
And I waited.
At last, I received the email.
A reservation was available for lunch.
I smiled, did a little dance, and confirmed.

Dabbous

Another gloomy day in London had little effect on my excitement.
The prominent entrance seemed fit for a gatekeeper to guard, with a heavy, metal door and frosted windows. We eagerly entered into the world of Chef Dabbous to soon be surprised by one of the least intimidating Michelin-starred interiors I’ve ever seen.

Interior-Dabbous Its intentionally minimalist interior is reminiscent of New York and successfully accomplishes Chef Dabbous’ desire to be “deliberately rough around the edges.”

We were handed menus with the options of either the full tasting menu or the four course lunch menu, both reasonably priced considering the star. We went for the lunch option and settled in with excitement. You know that feeling of excitement that seeps in as your menus are whisked away, leaving the promising feeling that you’ll soon be tantalised by the simple words that enticed you only moments ago? The one similar to the feeling you get as the curtain is drawn before a performance, the butterflies flapping around hungrily before a feast.

Music further enhanced the relaxed atmosphere, with Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People, Winter Winds by Mumford & Sons and Breakdown by Jack Johnson playing overhead.

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First to arrive were two simple black dishes.
One was filled with pale, Nocellara Del Belice Green Olives and the other left empty for the pits. The olives were crisp and fresh with a subtlety that would be present throughout the meal. They demonstrated both the fresh quality of the ingredients served at Dabbous and the way flavours are paired to allow each note to be individually present.

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Next to arrive, a thin black slate topped with a generous dollop of home made, freshly churned butter. The deep yellow colouring was speckled with flakes of sea salt to bring out the sweetness in the creamy butter which could’ve happily been devoured with a spoon.
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Accompanying the butter, a paper bag mysteriously concealing home made sourdough was delivered to the table. Across the bag was Dabbous’ bold label stamped with the date to create a visual reminder of the freshness of its contents.

With such fiendish love for warm bread covered in melted butter, my heart did sink slightly to find the flavour of the sourdough was compromised by the addition of nuts and seeds. They did however provide continuity by adding an earthy, natural element. But I personally would’ve preferred the bread without them.DABBOUSDABBOUSDABBOUS

After several bites of warm bread and sweet butter, our starters arrived.

A large, white bowl held a scene of mixed alliums in a chilled pine infusion. The fragile presentation assured us that concentration had played a part in assembling such a beautiful dish.
DABBOUSThe onions were sweet with a delicate crunch and were enhanced by the peppery basil and hint of mustard garlic sauce. This all lay in the most intriguing pine broth, which although looked rather unassuming, had incredible flavour.

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The other starter was appropriately titled peas with mint.
A thick, creamy pea mouse lined the bowl, topped with a cold, mint granita, fresh mint, pea shoots, peas and pansies. The presentation was absolutely stunning, the flavours were interesting and all very much present, but the portion size was a bit overwhelming. I would have preferred this as a palate cleanser with a few small tastes rather than a bowl full.

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The following dish is one Dabbous has become well known for.
Coddled free range hen egg with smoked butter & mushrooms is in one word, divine.

A warm, creamy egg mixture filled with succulent pieces of mushroom takes on the flavour of smokey wood, which is reminiscent to that of bacon. It was rich, salty and decadent without being overpowering. The presentation of the dish used opposing elements with the delicacy of an egg shell containing a dense, heavy filling.

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My dining partner cheekily decided to make use of his home made sourdough bread and created his very own gourmet Egg & Soldiers.

As the main course arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see a substantial portion, whilst mainting the attention to detail for its presentation.

The first dish was poached cod with palourde clams, artichokes, basil & mustard. The cod was of excellent quality and perfectly cooked.

DABBOUS A mustard and lemon sauce was poured onto the dish table side, enveloping the fish, clam and artichoke. The sauce somehow consisted of two normally vibrant flavours which were instead surprisingly subtle, allowing the flavour of the fish and artichoke to still stand out. DABBOUS DABBOUS

Spring lamb with grilled runner beans & Slipcote.
This was, by far, the best piece of lamb I have ever had the pleasure of eating in my life.
Tender, savoury bites of meat perfectly cooked and sprinkled with salt lay on a bed of crisp runner beans, crunchy, sweet peanuts, and a dollop of fresh ewe’s milk cheese. The flavour combination was phenomenal and went perfectly with the meat. To my dismay, I only had two bites of this before the entire thing had disappeared.

DABBOUSLet me preface dessert by saying it was confusing.
I spent almost the entire consumption pondering, tasting and analysing. A bowl was presented to us each with a layer of white covering what can loosely be described as deconstructed carrot cake.

DABBOUSThe top, white layer was described as coconut milk curds.
It was thin with a hint of tang, similar to that of natural yogurt, but I couldn’t pick out any coconut.
Below this layer, a slice of poppy seed cake which had a soggy texture from the liquid below. The final, bottom layer consisted of half a cup of shredded carrots. The perplexing thing was that they didn’t have any resemblance flavour wise to a carrot. Instead, they had been pressure cooked and infused with orange blossom. This was a fascinating trick, reminiscent of Chef Blumenthal’s mushroom ketchup.

DABBOUSAs a final treat before the bill, we were served a dish of Japanese baby peaches.
These were absolutely delicious and I continued to talk about them for the rest of the day. Their texture was similar to both a kiwi and a peeled grape. They were sweet and tart with a pear and floral essence.

The waiter told us that the growers in Japan remove the largest peach fruits to make room for the baby peaches to grow on the branch. These are then boiled on site and shipped to Dabbous where they are infused with lemongrass.

DABBOUSOverall, Dabbous was exquisite.
The food is simple and unique with fantastic flavour, and the servers were all incredibly knowledgeable about the dishes.

Dabbous isn’t the sort of place you go for a hearty tasting menu of filling fats.
The courses may seem simple, but each is executed with such skill to bring out intense flavour definition, its worth savouring each bite.

The meal ended with us feeling completely content, rather than stuffed to brim. If you’d like to sample Ollie Dabbous’ food, you can find the contact details on their website.

I wish you luck getting a reservation, but don’t forget you can always pop down to Oskar’s Bar.