Oskar's Bar at Dabbous
39 Whitfield Street, London W1T 2SF
Reviewed by Michael M Sandwick
Dabbous is known for its Michelin-starred food and laid back atmosphere. We descended into its even more laid back downstairs lounge, a cacophony of Christmas revelry mixed with modern jazz and Brazilian music. With nothing but concrete and exposed brick, sound was bouncing everywhere. Two long sharing tables with benches were packed, as was the bar. We were seated in two very low lounge chairs from which I feared I would never rise. The lighting improved my looks, but I couldn't read the menu. All this was a bit trying for a gentleman of a certain age. It seemed that, for the full Michelin bar-food experience, I would have to dig deep and find my inner party animal. OK, we're talking major excavation! Open-minded, I began to shovel.
Oskar Kinberg introduced himself. He was as friendly and down to earth as his bar. We talked about booze and discovered a shared taste for Martin Miller's gin. I ordered a barrel-aged Negroni with said gin, Cocchi de Torino Vermouth and Campari, rested in American oak and served with orange peel (£11). It was the best Negroni ever. I no longer cared if I could get up out of my chair and I found myself doing rib isolations to a sax solo. My guest enjoyed a Basil Fawlty (£9.50). Tanqueray, basil, meadowsweet, apple and lemon. Very refreshing. Apple juice has made a surprisingly successful appearance on the cocktail scene.
When 2 stools became available, we moved to the bar for dinner. The full Dabbous menu is available but I was intrigued by the bar menu. We settled on Crispy chicken wings with garlic and thyme (£6), Salmon tartare with sorrel (£5), grilled langoustines with fennel pollen and virgin rapeseed oil mayo (£27), and barbecued short rib of beef with dill pickle, mustard and molasses in a soft brioche bun (£14). If you had each dish twice, you still wouldn't be guilty of the sin of gluttony. You might however, find yourself believing in heaven on earth. Every morsel was an absolute joy. Boneless chicken wings were like no other. Crisp outside, succulent inside and perfectly seasoned. Salmon tartare, like butter, wrapped in exquisitely fresh sorrel leaves and held together by miniature clothes pins were little works of culinary art. The 2 langoustines on skewers were cooked to perfection and served with a truly inspired mayonnaise. The short rib was a 5-star take on an ordinary slider. A Rully, 2013 (£8.50) and a Malbec, 2013 (£6.75) were both excellent wines.
For dessert, pink grapefruit with black sugar and kinome, a Japanese herb, (£6) had a gorgeous balance between the bittersweet acid of the fruit and the dark syrup. Chocolate soaked brioche with pecans, azuki beans and barley malt ice cream is the comfort food of paradise. The ice cream made me positively giddy.
As I left, I danced a samba up the stairs. Party animal unearthed!