When you have a bad day at the office, it’s fairly reasonable to want to get as far away from your line of work as is humanly possible. Unfortunately, as a final year dental student, such an escape often involves a binge-eating session of desserts, chocolate, and anything else remotely antagonistic to both the dental profession, and the prospect of a long and healthy life. Luckily, “short and happy” suits me just fine – just as it does Steak, (given that she is, quite literally, “short and happy”). And so, when a bad day struck me last Friday, I had no qualms about drowning my sorrows at London’s newest celebrity bakery.
Housed in Victoria, the eponymous London outpost of world-renowned pastry chef, cronut inventor, and dessert daredevil – Dominique Ansel, needs little to no introduction. Indeed, when Mr. Ansel himself opened the doors at the end of September, he found that flocks of British sugar enthusiasts had congregated outside – (presumably for the excitement of joining an exceptionally long queue, rather than for any of the pastries themselves). In a few short hours, Instagram feeds and Twitter timelines became flooded with mouth-watering snaps of DAB’s iconic cronuts and intriguing frozen s’mores, leaving nothing but a trail of envy in their wake. Almost one and a half months late to the party, we were finally ready to feast our own eyes on DAB’s frightfully photogenic desserts.
Note: Please check the vegetarian/halal status of individual items prior to purchasing.
As I was greeted by the irony of DAB’s clinically-white setting, Steak and I made two rounds of reconnaissance, grabbed a table, and began a lengthy consultation regarding the selection of items that we should place inside our bulging bellies. First to make the final cut, was a double dose of the infamous cookie shot – a thick, firm chocolate chip cookie cup, complete with a chocolate lining, and a dash of vanilla-bean-infused milk. The cookie itself possessed a rich chocolate flavour and a surprisingly strong sweetness, whilst the cool and refreshing milk intermittently cleansed both our palates, and our chocolate-induced guilt. If the purpose of a “Friday night drink” is to help you forget about the week, have faith that the DAB cookie shot will do just that – by placing you into a diabetic coma.
With the cookie shots (literally) under our belts, we moved on to the frozen s’more – another signature DAB item. After biting into the soft and gooey exterior, we were soon greeted by the cold Tahitian ice-cream core and a number of crunchy chocolate wafer pieces. The core wasn’t particularly dense however, and we felt that the s’more didn’t offer anything particularly mesmerising in terms of flavour or texture. It did however, come with a big willow stick, which could possibly come in handy if your dining companion gets too close to your side of the cake.
Cookie Shots (£4 out / £4.80 in) and Frozen S’mores (£6 out / £7.20 in)
The Paris-London brest on the other hand, completely charmed our senses. The firm, yet flaky choux pastry was fantastically light, and completely enveloped the sweet blackberry ganache, the strong, tart lemon curd and the smooth earl grey mousse. Along with its rather dashing chocolate moustache, this Tom-Selleck-lookalike provided a heavenly combination of light and airy layers, which harmonised in a most graceful fashion. Dare I say it, this was my favourite item of the evening.
I moustache you a question. Paris or London? (£6.20 out / £7.40 in)
With our mouths full of sugar, we decided to refresh our tastebuds with the vibrant “Lime Me Up” tart, which consisted of a sticky lime mousse, a sharp lemon curd, and a firm, fragrant vanilla sable base. Though the tart – to our surprise, was just as rich and sweet as the other items we sampled, the accompanying mixture of sea salt, brown sugar, and lime juice provided a sharp, sour tang, which delivered a firm knockout punch to our tastebuds.
Lime Me Up Tart (£6.20 out /£7.40 in)
Unfortunately however, DAB’s coffee left very little to be desired. Although they borrow a blend from The Gentleman’s Baristas Union, it’s clear that the beans aren’t being utilised particularly well. Both my flat white, and Steak’s cappuccino were woefully diluted, and carried very little trace of the espressos that went into them.
Value For Money: 3/5
With so many aesthetic items under one glass roof, it would be exceptionally easy to visit DAB and eat a hole into your wallet instead. It’s also worth noting that if you plan to eat your items right there and then, you will be charged a higher price, (which is normally expected, but not made clear on any of the price labels). Of the items we sampled , the Paris-London Brest, Lime Me Up Tart and Frozen S’more (priced at £6.20 each), all came up as £7.40 on our receipt, (presumably because we had ordered them to eat in). The cookie shots meanwhile, amounted to £4.80, and our (rather terrible) coffees cost £3 each, amounting to a total bill of £37.60. Similar prices can be found across the rest of the menu, ranging from £3 to £10.
Whilst the fresh, handmade quality of each of DAB’s items is thoroughly appreciated, we do feel that the bakery charges rather excessive prices for many of their items, and frankly, their “elite” status just provides them with an excuse to do so. At the same time however, it must be said that DAB’s delectable desserts are well worth trying, and credit must be given for the creativity and intricacy that goes into each unique item.
With a relatively young and freshly-employed team, DAB’s service excels in hospitality and efficiency. Staff members are polite and welcoming, and make the effort to ensure that all is well for the handful of patrons who have managed to claw their way into the seating area.
With a wide range of fun, creative, and rather delicious items on display, Dominique Ansel’s latest venture is sure to reign in countless food enthusiasts and diabetic potentials for years to come. Granted, there is almost certainly an element of “celebrity hype” that inflates the status of DAB London (and its prices) beyond that which it would probably otherwise have, but there’s no denying that the calibre of Dominique Ansel’s creations extends far beyond their aesthetic exteriors. From texture and consistency to flavour and fragrance, it’s clear that each and every item has been crafted with precision and careful reasoning, making the process of choosing between them all that more excruciating. As such, we certainly wouldn’t recommend visiting Dominique Ansel London alone and unsupervised, lest you lose all sense of rationality, and end up in a hospital with a pumped-out stomach and a rather angry accountant. (Depending on what you order however, it may just be worth it).
Dominique Ansel Bakery London
Address: 17-21 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9RP
Telephone: 0207 324 7705