Lipsmacking: in the first in a series about outstanding restaurant dishes, Isabel Lloyd relishes what Ollie Dabbous achieves with an egg
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, January/February 2013
This is probably the most talked-about egg in London. Its story began when a then-unknown chef, Ollie Dabbous—short, soft brown eyes, tight-wound—set up shop in a studenty corner of the West End. He was immediately slathered in five-star reviews. Had six stars been available, the egg would have got them—though it’s not typical of Dabbous’ menu, which is mainly light, clean and ascetic. Instead, the egg is a contrapuntal hymn to lipids.
It arrives sitting in a circular nest of hay, the strands alternating green, yellow, green; someone in the kitchen must be hay colour-co-ordinator. Nest and egg are tucked inside an olive-glazed stoneware container, half cup, half vase. On a folded napkin next to the vase is a tiny, shiny spoon. The effect is comforting, but rigorously so. Nursery food, prepped by Laura Ashley, wearing jackboots.
At the top, the egg has been sliced off as if by laser, and a rich, curdled-looking yolk-and-butter gloop fills it to the brim. Dark, razored discs of button mushroom are visible, folded in like gills between flecks of emerald chives. There’s a smell of earthy forest floor, warm meadow, sweet burnt toast.
The miniature spoon forces you to eat not in mouthfuls, but sips: a cream-of-mushroom, soupy silkiness, interspersed with fleshy morsels. These are the mushrooms—the menu says “woodland”, the chef says “button, wild, whatever’s available—but always cooked and cooked to a frazzle, an essence”. It’s like being punched by fungi while sitting next to a smoky fire. And the finishing touch? Whipped cream, which slows everything in your mouth to a standstill. Dabbous has just earnt its first Michelin star, and is booked for a year. You can see why. Half an hour later, I could still taste it all.
Coddled egg with mushrooms and smoked butter, £8 at Dabbous, London W1; dabbous.co.uk
Isabel Lloyd is deputy editor of Intelligent Life
Illustration Holly Exley