The eponymously named restaurant of chef Ollie Dabbous in Whitfield Street has had its late night opening plans scuppered after Camden Council refused him planning permission.
The decision came as little surprise to local residents as a government planning inspector had previously imposed a condition that no customers should be allowed on the premises after 11.30pm Monday to Saturday and after 10.30pm on Sunday. It was always unlikely that Camden Council would overturn a planning inspector’s decision.
Dabbous restaurant is located at what used to be Cyberia which was the UK’s first internet cafe which opened in September 1994. When Cyberia closed it became Be The Reds an internet gaming cafe run by a Korean organisation. The cafe took its name from the South Korean world cup football team slogan. The building is surrounded by homes, media industry and offices.
Then in 2010 a planning application for change of use from an internet cafe to restaurant was refused but was overturned on appeal. However, the planning inspector who dealt with the appeal recognised the large amount of neighbouring residents in Whitfield Street and Scala Street and imposed strict conditions on the opening hours and the operation of air-conditioning units and other plant.
Despite the restricted opening hours Dabbous chose to go ahead and opened in early 2012 and the chef quickly established himself as the darling of the restaurant reviewers. He went from the chef no-one had ever heard of to hotter than a scotch bonnet. His ascendency was given a boost mainly because local resident and Evening Standard food critic Fay Maschler described one dish as the best thing I’ve eaten in a long time. Maschler gave the restaurant a score of 5/5. She even went back for more the next day. Others were equally gushing in their praise.
A few weeks later you couldn’t get a seat there unless you were prepared to book more than six months in advance. While an increasing number of London’s population was queuing at food banks because of George Osborne’s austerity measures, consumers of excellent food were literally begging to get a table at Dabbous. There was a noticeable increase in expensive cars, chauffeur-driven vehicles and high end mini-cabs scrambling for parking spaces during the evenings in the streets around the restaurant, and people standing outside smoking in between shouting into their mobile phones. There was quite “a scene” developing at the downstairs bar, I’m told.
In February Dabbous announced he was going to open a second restaurant. In the same month Dabbous Enterprises Limited also applied to Camden Council to extend the opening hours of the existing restaurant to open until 1.30am seven days a week. Which is where his plans went cold. A Camden planning officer refused him permission.
The government’s planning inspector in 2010 had stated quite clearly that the restriction in opening hours and use of ventilation and fume extraction equipment was necessary to safeguard the living conditions of adjoining occupiers and to protect the character and appearance of the Charlotte Street Conservation Area. And so a Camden planning officer was unlikely to disagree.