It’s ten years since Ollie Dabbous arrived in London, in a flurry of gushing reviews and rapidly won Michelin stars, and four years since he opened the impressive Hide. Julian de Féral finds out how things are holding up – possibly literally – at Above at Hide.
Although having witnessed the delights and deft touch of Ollie Dabbous upon the opening of his eponymous restaurant in 2012 – and then Hide when it opened in 2018 – I had yet to plant myself on the top floor of the restaurant: the self-explanatory Above at Hide. Up the undulating staircase – itself a triumph of design over nature, with wood from a single tree coaxed into waves by steam rather than hewn – the mezzanine is dotted with trolleys laden with liquid treasures and globules of cheese protected by an assortment of glass cloches. The tables here are chiefly reserved for those looking to bide their time over a selection of tasting menus, with dishes taking diners on a journey through modern classics such as Dabbous’ multisensory Nest Egg, joined by more recent and seasonal experiments from the kitchen.
A curated insight into the creative minds of team Hide, the select few are treated to elevated dishes in a placid environ directly overlooking Green Park, above the chatter and bustle of the ground floor. The park – and nature itself – is a clear inspiration: with each dish celebrating seasonal and local ingredients, delicately garnished with carefully considered micro greenery such as crowns of fennel, sprigs of marigold leaf and vibrant star flowers punctuating the dishes whilst completing the symphony of flavours.
Despite the warm elegance of the decor and a location which happens to rub its shoulders with some of the finest dining spots in London, the flourishes feel natural and intuitive rather than trying to dazzle with style over substance. This modern approach to Michelin-starred cuisine, with the focus firmly set on the food and drinks that avoid the traditional pomp and circumstance, creates an accessible experience with heart, far from the cold detachment of some of Green Park’s surrounding restaurants.
Award-winning head sommelier Julien Sarrasin doesn’t need to ask my fellow diner and I twice if we would like to prelude his wine pairing with a couple of aperitifs devised by Dabbous’ old pal Oskar Kinberg, the cocktail visionary who heads up Hide and whom has worked in simpatico with the chef for over a decade and a half. As expected, we weren’t simply slung a couple of boring old Negronis, but two completely different drinks based on a central ingredient less common in pre-prandials: the tomato. Neither were these concoctions anything close to a Bloody Mary, with Oscar creating a clarified red tomato drink with a light hint of salinity from a dehydrated caperberry powder, and an almost tropical-tasting yellow tomato and passion fruit highball enhanced by the dark spicey notes of the purple shiso leaf garnish.
Our interest piqued and our minds well and truly opened to the idea that this meal will be a departure from tried and tested flavour pairings, we further cleanse our palates with a small cup of earthy mushroom broth and hunks of gem lettuce chilled on a bed of ice.
A deceptively traditional-looking Moscatel-cured fois gras, warm brioche and quince and wood sage honey chutney side-steps a predictable wine pairing, with a frisky and structured biodynamic perry made in Normandy from 14 varieties of pears grown on 300 year old trees. Accompanied by the brioche you’d be forgiven for mistaking this flinty and tropical effervescent for a vintage Champagne.
Next Julien explains his arduous journey to settle on a pairing for the aforementioned Nest Egg: the enchanting dish that has become such a signature dish for the chef over the years that it informs Hide’s logo. At once rustic and modern, a perfect blend of emulsified eggs and mushrooms are ‘re-shelled’, surrounded with apple-wood smoked hay before being sealed in a cauldron-like cocotte. Once opened at the table, the billow of smoke prepares the diner for a hint of smoked butter folded into the scramble whilst complimenting the evocatively rustic Autumn-floor notes of the mushroom.
Not content with what could’ve been a simple pairing, the head sommelier has turned to the oldest vineyards in the world. On its own the Georgian amber wine from the small artisan winery from acclaimed winemaker Gogi Dakishvili was pleasant enough – with notes of stone fruit, anise, and a big mineral hit – but paired with the egg dish the transformative effect worked both ways. The minerality cuts through the pitch-perfect viscosity of the egg, somehow enhancing the smokiness and a herbal hint, whilst the other way the wine became more textural, developing a fruity intensity.
With Hide being owned by the dynamic luxury wine supplier Hedonism Wines, and guests to the restaurant being able to choose from their full range of over 7000 wines from around the globe, it is little wonder that Julien and his team are clearly having fun, relishing the opportunity to pair such a wide range of unusual dishes and flavours with unheralded styles and grape varieties.
Seasonal venison served with charcoal baked flatbread, pickles, mustard and molasses, paired with an intense organic red from Uruguay; roasted Orkney scallop with buckwheat, swede and black truffle is paired with a category of wine my guest (a seasoned wine writer) and I had never heard of before: a unique cuvée inspired by 1960’s Spanish wine production that ages its white Rioja blend on its lees with a touch of Manzanilla sherry, offering an unusual, lengthy saline note.
Not only are these pairings sublime, but generous. Just a peripheral but genuine interest in the wines being poured exposes Julien’s boundless passion, and soon enough he was dipping into his own stash of Château d’Yquem and giving us samples from his bottle of Denarius 2015: a controversial Bordeaux blend from Liber Pater, a one-man-one-mule operation that produces mind-bogglingly small allocations of wines inspired by ancient 19th Century viniculture techniques that Julien happens to be an ambassador for, and which are notoriously reaching five figures soon after release.
That said, a visit to Above at Hide isn’t and shouldn’t be about splashing cash on rarities, nor posing in the floor-to-ceiling windows for the passers-by on Piccadilly. It is best experienced with an open mind and a healthy curiosity, allowing oneself to be immersed in the convivial hospitality of those that likely know better than you, and have the means to back it up.
The seven-course menu at Above at Hide is £160 per head, not including supplements for the scallop and Wagu beef dishes. The wine pairings vary from £105 per head for a ‘Classic’ experience, all the way up to an exuberant £1995 per head for the ‘Hedonistic’ flight, tasting some of the rarest wines in the world. Alternatively, there is a five-course menu priced at £120 per head.