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Barnyard: a “distressed farm setting”

Dabbous says it was important that Barnyard was exactly the sort of place he’d like to go to “on a day off with my mates” and conveyed “a sense of nostalgia, a sense of wholesomeness”. “The quality of the ingredients is better than it probably should be,” he says. “We use the same suppliers as Dabbous. We just wanted to set up a ‘no frills’ place. Any business I do is not a case of filling a hole in the restaurant landscape, it’s more a sense of setting somewhere up I would like to go. It’s the only way you’re going to be passionate about what you do.”

Barnyard, with its “distressed farm” interior, initially struck many as a very deliberate change of gear for Dabbous. “People look at Dabbous and look at Barnyard and probably scratch their heads because they’re looking at me as a chef, not as a 33-year- old bachelor that lives in the middle of town and doesn’t want to cook on his days off,” says Dabbous. “The flip side is setting up another restaurant like Dabbous that wouldn’t receive the same critical acclaim as the original. What’s the point in that? It’s quite myopic of people to be surprised, when actually they should be surprised if we’d have done a replica or something similar. Doing the same thing over and over again doesn’t appeal, it’s like never changing your menu.”

Dabbous and Kinberg see themselves “very much in a kind of big brother role” at Barnyard. “It’s a nice thing to be able to open up places with young talent,” says Dabbous. Head chef Joseph Woodland previously worked at Dabbous and was the sous-chef at Launceston Place. Dabbous describes him as having “a disciplined professional background, but with a desire to cook something simpler”.

bored in the summer holidays. I liked the fact it was a completely different life for me, it felt quite escapist,” he says. “I’d always enjoyed cooking, but I think that helped reinforce that desire to do it professionally. The ingredients were incredible, it was the first time I’d been exposed to that level of quality of produce and the fact that this marvellous produce was simply treated. They were a really friendly bunch in the kitchen, too. I’m going back there next year, hopefully.” The experience of cooking with Rowley Leigh at Kensington Place and Guy Savoy in Paris, served to harden his resolve and prepare him for striking out on his own. The first lesson he learned in both places was that “you don’t know as much as you think you do,” he says. “Kensington Place was a completely different style of cooking to the trattoria in Italy, but had a similar sense of simplicity and respect for the ingredients. It was a good place to learn. Guy Savoy was the first sort of Michelin experience I had. I was 17. It was a slap in the face being exposed to that – the number of chefs, the level of fastidiousness. It was definitely an eye-opener.” Working under Raymond Blanc at the two Michelin star Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire was where Dabbous felt he essentially learned how

to cook. “I hadn’t gone to catering college. I dipped my toe in the water in the previous work experiences, but Le Manoir was full-on, getting thrown in at the deep-end. I felt out of my depth from day one, but that’s the best way to learn, to raise your game to the required level and hope no one notices in the meantime.” Two years of being the head chef at

Texture on Portman Street taught Dabbous to get to know “all the suppliers in London” as well as to get used to the lack of space synonymous with London kitchens. Perfect training, then, for opening his own restaurant, which he and Kinberg developed from a derelict shell site. But why Fitzrovia?

“It was pretty much the only place we could afford that ticked the boxes, it was that simple,” says Dabbous. “We knew we wanted to be in central London. I like the area. I like being in the mix but having a less overt presence, it kind of fits with how we run the place. The site was set over two floors, so you got the restaurant and the bar. There’s a nice corner frontage, so aesthetically it appealed. And size-wise it was very suitable.” For Dabbous one of the most important things success has brought him in the last two and a half years has been the fact that finally he has been able to get all his chefs “on a rota so they’re not


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