Another level: Ollie Dabbous at Hide

by Tom Shingler12 April 2018

Spanning three floors with two custom-built kitchens, an in-house bakery and the biggest wine list in London, Ollie Dabbous’ latest venture Hide at 85 Piccadilly is set to become a culinary powerhouse of epic proportions. Tom Shingler visits the site to find out more.

Tom Shingler is the former editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler was the editor at Great British Chefs until 2021, having first joined Great British Chefs in 2015.

Tom Shingler is the former editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler was the editor at Great British Chefs until 2021, having first joined Great British Chefs in 2015.

‘I’m pretty sure that staircase cost more than the whole of my last restaurant,’ Ollie Dabbous tells me as we stand on the top floor of his huge new restaurant, admiring a beautifully hand-carved wooden banister, shaped like the roots of a tree. While it was still a building site when I visited – the builders were halfway through installing the front door – two things were clear: there is an incredible amount of money behind this place, and it is one of the most ambitious restaurant projects I’ve ever seen.

Hide (which opened in April 2018) is, in fact, two restaurants (totalling 184 covers) and a bar within one building across three floors. There’s ‘Above’, which will offer higher-end tasting menus and a set lunch; ‘Ground’, which serves an all-day à la carte menu (from breakfast and lunch to afternoon tea, dinner and late night snacks); and ‘Below’, which features a wine cellar and bar complete with snacks. It’s open seven days a week, from 7.30am to the early hours. Ollie is the executive chef and co-owner, alongside cocktail guru Oskar Kinberg and Yevgeny Chichvarkin, owner of Hedonism Wines (which will be sorting the vast wine and spirit list).

The sheer scale and budget of Hide makes it a completely different beast to Dabbous, the small Michelin-starred restaurant that Ollie opened on a shoestring to critical acclaim. When it closed back in 2017, no one was quite sure why. After seeing Hide, it makes perfect sense. ‘Once I got an idea of how big Hide was going to be, that’s when I decided to close Dabbous,’ says Ollie. ‘I had achieved more than I ever hoped I could there, and it just felt like the right time to move on and do something different. The last thing I would’ve wanted was to see Dabbous neglected in any way, and a place like this needs my full attention.’

That doesn’t mean Hide is a ‘Dabbous 2.0’, though. While Ollie says his cooking style hasn’t changed, the restaurant’s location has helped shape the menu. ‘I’ve tried to match the food to the setting,’ he says. ‘There’s a sort of tranquillity at Hide because it overlooks Green Park and there’s lots of natural light, which I think makes people more receptive to a more organic, natural style of cooking. If people liked what I was doing at Dabbous then they’ll like it here, but this is cooking on a whole other level.’

Indeed it is – seemingly everything at Hide is made in-house, from the jams and juices to the black pudding and charcuterie. There’s an in-house bakery on the ‘Ground’ floor with a dedicated team of bakers. Even the blend of coffee served changes throughout the day, and with Oskar covering the cocktails and Hedonism providing the wines (which means diners can pre-order from a list of 6,500 different bottles), it’s likely people will come for the drinks as much as they will for the food.

Ollie describes the dishes at Hide as ‘minimalist and pared back with pure flavours that nod to the classics’, and there’s certainly a strong theme of nature throughout the various menus. The ‘Above’ floor overlooks Green Park outside, offering a different take on the London skyline, and he hopes the food and décor of the restaurant will help to bring the outside in. It’s clear the top floor, with its own dedicated kitchen and tasting menus, is aiming for Michelin recognition, while ‘Ground’ and ‘Below’ will be able to cater for all meals, all occasions and at various price points. ‘When you hear the phrase ‘all-day dining’ it can make you think of lowest common denominator cooking,’ says Ollie, ‘but we wanted to make everything the best it can possibly be. Whether you want breakfast, a quick bite after work or are looking to celebrate a big birthday, we can cater for all of them, and the attention to detail is huge in every respect.’

Dish-wise, there’s a lot to choose from. There are chestnut parcels in a light duck broth, Ikejime turbot in a sauce made from the bones with crushed nasturtium, and a jasmine and wild pea flower religieuse served alongside cold-brew jasmine tea. When I was there the team was working through the afternoon tea menu, which in itself already looks set to become one of the best in London. Marble-glazed lemon cakes and neat little sandwiches come in pebble-like cloches next to eye-catching dishes like white asparagus cream with smoked egg yolk, truffle and croutons, served in eggshells on a bed of feathers. There’s even a candy floss machine in the kitchen dedicated to producing spun sugar flavoured with wild herbs.

While lunch and dinner will no doubt be the focus of most visitors to Hide, it’s the breakfast offering that seems to get Ollie particularly excited. ‘We didn’t want breakfast to be an afterthought, so we put an awful lot of work into it,’ he explains. ‘It’s a mix of classic dishes that you’d expect and want to see on a breakfast menu alongside more progressive things, like our fresh ricotta with toasted hazelnuts, lemon thyme, rapeseed oil, shaved apple and pickled sunflowers. We’re not trying to reinvent breakfast or anything like that – we just want to offer something a cut above.’

The bakery is a large part of why Hide’s breakfast is set to turn heads. Five different croissants will be baked fresh every morning – a classic (‘which we haven’t mucked about with’); a pain au chocolat; a custard brioche with homemade granola on top; an almond croissant complete with sugared almonds and then a more unusual one made with birch sap, smoked butter, fennel pollen and orange zest that’s rolled around a liquorice stick. ‘That last one is like a posh version of the maple and pecan slice you get in supermarkets!’ says Ollie. ‘It’s all about taking something people eat all the time and hopefully elevating it to something special.’

That idea of elevating the things we eat every day is apparent in the bread and butter at Hide, too. ‘It’s easy to overlook or outsource baked goods, but for me the bread and butter at Dabbous was always something quite important. If you can give someone something that they eat all the time and completely exceed their expectations, then I think that has more impact than relying on the bells and whistles of molecular cooking. At Hide we’re going to have four different breads – a classic baguette, a multiseed sourdough, a focaccia made with fig leaf oil, green olives and rosemary and then a Nordic-style rye bread with caraway, beer and dates. We’re also making crackers full of different herbs and flowers which is a little translucent and lighter in flavour.’

Of course, a restaurant of this size and ambition needs some seriously dedicated staff behind it, and Ollie has put together a fantastic team to make sure everything runs smoothly (although he says he’s still on the lookout for more to complete the line-up). With two Roux Scholars (Luke Selby, head chef of ‘Above’, and Martin Carabott, senior sous chef) in the brigade along with ex-Dabbous and ex-Le Manoir Josh Angus (head chef of ‘Ground’), ex-The Square Zacharie Poulot (executive pastry chef) and countless more chefs working across two state-of-the-art, custom-built kitchens, he’s managed to buck the trend of staff shortages crippling the industry. ‘Traditionally it’s hard to find the right people, but because the kitchen is such a joy to work in and we’ve got great facilities like a dedicated staff canteen we attract lots of very talented chefs,’ he says. ‘Once we’re more established we’re going to have staff working four days a week in rotation, too, so we’re setting ourselves up as sustainably as we can.’

As an alumnus of Le Manoir, Ollie knows how important organisation is in a large-scale, high-end restaurant, and he’s made the most of the time he’s had since Hide was first conceived in September 2016 to make sure everything is in place for its opening. ‘I certainly verge towards the OCD end of the spectrum, so I’ve measured, weighed and written out every recipe to exacting standards to make sure we’re as consistent as possible,’ he explains. ‘We have twelve different recipe folders for each of the sections full of lists, spreadsheets and instructions so everyone knows what to do. It’s a completely different beast to Dabbous, which was a bit more Basil Fawlty when trying to sort everything out. But the only way you can keep something like Hide manageable is by compartmentalising and having great staff.’

Hide is different to the majority of restaurant openings in London at the moment, which follow a more Dabbous-like journey – a talented chef scraping together all the investment he or she can to open a little place that will hopefully become a success. Instead, this is a behemoth of fine dining; a place that covers all bases with no expense spared, from the hand-carved staircase to the vast, gleaming kitchen. While certain aspects of the place will only ever be appreciated by the incredibly wealthy, Ollie doesn’t want Hide to become another gilded destination for Mayfair’s elite. While I’ll never be in a position to use the car lift which opens up directly into the private dining room (besides, I’m not sure my Peugeot 108 would have the same impact as a gold-plated Lambo), the fact that the high-end ‘Above’ tasting menu will be under £100 and people can pop into ‘Ground’ for a quick snack or simple lunch puts Hide on level pegging with many of London’s most popular restaurants. And after seeing the amount of time, energy and effort Ollie and his team have put into the incredible menu, I can’t wait to see the finished article. ‘I feel a bit like I’ve been in a recording studio for years and have recorded this great album which no one has heard yet,’ says Ollie. ‘I’m really excited.’ So am I.

Get in touch

Please or register to send a comment to Great British Chefs