2-4 Bedale Street, Borough Market, London
Rabot 1745 is one of the two restaurants opened in 2013 by Hotel Chocolat, the other is Roast + Conch in Leeds. Marketed as a ‘gourmet chocolate restaurant’, it serves traditional dishes inspired by Caribbean cuisine (the name is taken from the cacao estate in St Lucia owned by the chain) and using cacao as a key ingredient.
The flavours throughout our three courses were fresh and strong, enhanced by the taste of cacao; the best use was in my boyfriend’s lamb casserole – cacao nibs worked well with the spices in the sauce and added to the hearty flavours. I started with a tune ceviche in coconut milk, served with sweet potato crisps. The crisps were delicious and the sweet potato tasted very pure. For my main course I had the cod fillet with pumpkin puree and cacao pesto (the pesto is available in Hotel Chocolat stores) with a side of house chips fried in cacao butter. The chips were, surprisingly, a highlight of the meal, crispy with a wonderful deep flavour. My banana bread dessert was served with a deliciously dark and bitter chocolate sauce and a small scoop of chocolate ice cream.
The overall experience was positive and I certainly enjoyed every course, as well as the cocktails which are also inspired by Caribbean flavours and use cacao as a main ingredient. My only gripes are that my mango bellini was served in a martini glass and the dishes in which our main courses were served were cold so our food cooled very quickly as a consequence. Yes, these are minor issues and I’m a pedant (!), but I do feel that if you are paying close to £100 for a meal (3 courses plus drinks and service) then everything needs to be perfect, particularly in the competitive fine dining London market. Having said that, there are some nice touches in the restaurant which complement the overall experience: the dessert menu offers an option of six specially crafted chocolates made by the on-site chocolatier and on the table to greet diners is a cacao bean with an invitation to break it up to feel, smell and taste the cacao nibs contained within. There’s no doubt that this is an essential dining experience for chocoholics, and, I found, an inspiring way to learn how cacao can be used as a savoury ingredient.