Ollie Dabbous, number 2
Years after opening, Dabbous (the restaurant) is still impossible to get into. Just this morning I see a tweet from the restaurant proclaiming that there is a seat free for lunch – for one. Yes, thank you, let me spend my 30 minute lunch break getting as close as I can to those hallowed halls, before I turn back for the return journey. Alone. The creator of said madness, Ollie Dabbous (the man), has recently opened up a spin-off restaurant of sorts – Barnyard.
Barnyard has not spun off very far from the mothership, located within queuing distance of Dabbous. And queue you will, at this no-reservations spot where peak times are enough to drive anyone to distraction, and often without the payout of being fed. Whether it is this policy or the food that has kept the punters away long enough to nab a table is anyone’s guess, as both leave much to be desired.
A Barnyard-branded milk bottle is filled with a frothy substance, described as a shake but nowhere near as robust. This watery matter is only very slightly flavoured with peanut butter. The rest of the drinks are carefully sidestepped while digits are crossed with hopes for better things ahead.
Maybe we should have touched those tightly twined fingers to wood, as our unspoken hopes are dashed with the first, middle and last of the food. Nothing is particularly awful, but there is a slapdash approach which does not inspire appetite. Roast beef is presented as warm slices on an excess of watercress and ciabatta, with a side of buttermilk whose temperature is purposefully set at left-out-of-the-fridge-too-long. The thin and faintly bitter liquid prompts eyebrow raising and then, that familiar sidestepping. I know this is a Barnyard, but is a line dancing routine really necessary?
The honestly named ‘Chicken in a Bun’ gives no illusion of heightened expectation, and by now the realization that this is not Ollie’s greatest work means we are no longer surprised at its striking similarity to Desmond from accountings packed lunch. Simplicity is one thing, but this is shear laziness, no two ways about it.
A dessert that would not be beyond the reach of Kipling’s and co is a cloudberry and apple crumble, in a dish so shallow that the ratio between fruit and biscuit is resolutely unlikable. The side of clotted cream has little place next to it, a hot jug of custard being far superior to properly wet the vast, dry expanse.
I could go on, but by now you get the picture. There isn’t anything to rave about here, all the food being fairly pedestrian in nature. Disappointment is catching, and at this moment the infatuation with Ollie Dabbous’ eponymous Dabbous has receded, so much so that the canteen gnocchi and snickers is not a half-bad substitute. Almost.
Tube: Goodge Street