In six years, chef Ollie Dabbous has gone from being a relatively unknown quantity with a 34-cover, industrially distressed restaurant in Fitzrovia to the brink of opening what is arguably one of the biggest and most hotly-anticipated in years: Hide — a massive, three-storey, 200-staff Mayfair site overlooking Green Park, which is scheduled to open just after Easter. He has partnered with the owners of Hedonism Wines, Evgeny Chichvarkin and Tatiana Fokina, whose collection will ensure that the restaurant holds one of the biggest wine lists in the world.
His first restaurant — Dabbous — was among a crop of new restaurants which remodelled the very notion of fine dining in the capital. Dabbous, a proponent of a lighter style of cooking, and more informal style of dining, himself talked about his dish of hispi cabbage, designed to be eaten not with cutlery, as being “deliberately and explicitly the antithesis of fine dining.”
Here’s what the chef had to say about Hide, a restaurant which in so many ways could not be more different to the place that earned him his reputation. One, though, it must be said, he is ready for, and now, in October 2018, holds a Michelin star just five months after opening.
Do you feel it is unique to be working with such passionate and also comparatively ‘benevolent’ owners? And to what extent do you feel like the restaurant(s) is/are yours?
The more I have been involved in the project, the more it has crystallised my belief that this was the right decision for me. It has been fun being part of a collaboration, whilst also being given so much freedom. Simply put, it is a unique opportunity to create a unique restaurant. I genuinely enjoy my relationship with both Evgeny and Tatiana. We are very different in many ways, very similar in others; most importantly, we have a very clear idea of what we want to create.
With the increased capacity and upgraded facilities, do you feel in any way daunted? Sometimes chefs can be forced into creativity with limited means. Is there a sense that what you’ve now got could be overwhelming, particularly with what you have to assume will be a new set of expectations?
Not at all. I wouldn’t have taken on the project if I didn’t feel capable of delivery something I knew I would be proud of. The quality of the team, of the facilities and of our suppliers all give me confidence, and before running my own restaurant, I held senior positions in large-scale operations. Of course, the expectations will be greater than before, but I am comfortable with that. I have also been very self-critical and pushed myself to create a food offering that feels evolved from what I did previously, rather than just more of the same. I was always satisfied with what we produced at Dabbous, but I do think this is better still. Hopefully the customers will agree!
What do you hope to achieve that you didn’t at Dabbous?
Longevity! We want to create somewhere that will, for many years to come, be a popular and progressive destination. Also somewhere where all the staff will feel they have space to grow. The smaller the business, the quicker you might, as an individual, outgrow it.
Do you feel a different sort of pressure here? What does success look like (beyond a busy restaurant, of course)?
I don’t really feel the pressure these days. I am just excited and determined. We have cooked all the dishes many times. I believe we have a great offering, a great restaurant and a great team. We all know what we have to do and there is still a huge amount to do but I feel empowered and can’t wait to open our doors. Success is being in a position where I can concentrate on the kitchen because there are so many hard-working staff around me, which allows me to get on with my job without worrying about them not doing theirs. That said, right now, there are no accolades, let alone tables or chairs! We haven’t achieved anything, we haven’t won anything, we haven’t earned a penny of revenue but I embrace all challenges that lie ahead because I know what, as a team, we are capable of.
You seem ready. Who are the main chefs you’ve got in place and have you recruited the whole team already?
Josh Angus is head chef of Ground. Luke Selby is head chef of Above. Zak Poulot is head pastry chef. Slawomir Sosa is head baker. They are all incredibly talented and have done a great job so far. They are also intelligent, down-to-earth people who understand the culture I want to create in the kitchen, the organisation and composure required that facilitates consistency. Many of the team worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, which has produced some amazing chefs. I would love for Hide to do the same in that respect.
Hide key facts:
- Three restaurants in one: Below — a bar with a cocktail list by Oskar Kinberg, but dining (as well as drinking will be encouraged, if not stipulated); Ground — an all-day dining room, which Dabbous says will be at least at the same “level” as his former restaurant. Ground will offer breakfast and afternoon tea and have an in-built bakery; Above — the fine-dining tasting menu department of HIDE (the menu, which will not be too onerous, is expected to be priced below £100.)
- 200 members of staff, including 15 sommeliers.
- The wine list will feature over 6,000 choices (because it includes everything from Hedonism’s collection.) But in reality, and within reason and with enough time, a customer can have anything in the world, should they want it. Prices of wines that are not listed in the restaurant will be charged at retail value, with a £30 corkage fee.
- Every place setting will have a phone charger for customers to use.
- The position of all lighting has been designed so that no food photography will be obscured by shadow.
- There is a car lift into the building. Though this appears a lavish accessory for celebrities who wish not to be interrupted, the owners have not installed it themselves; there is a car park above the restaurant.