Despite what the garish scaffolding outside would have you believe, Dobson and Parnell, situated on Queen Street right next to the quayside, struck me with an atmosphere of simple sophistication in both its food and its aesthetic during my evening sampling their a la carte graduation menu to report back to the Courier.
Opened in December 2016, the restaurant serves a British and European menu within a Victorian Grade II listed building and is named after the architects who designed the original building back in 1863. With stripped back walls and hanging light bulbs, the restaurant’s décor maintains its rustic yet ornate feel. The atmosphere was very classy, but also notably un-intimidating. I didn’t feel out of my bounds trying to figure out which cutlery to use or which wine to order, which in general, for me makes for a more relaxing and enjoyable dining experience.
After being sat very politely at our table and greeted with a complimentary glass of prosecco we were left to examine the menu, and we decided on the cured Scottish salmon with horseradish crème fraiche and beetroot, and the ham hock terrine with pickled veg and pumpernickel bread to get the (dinner) party started.
The salmon dish was particularly light and fresh; the intricate mix of garnish alongside the smooth crème fresh creating a medley of complex textures and tastes. My boyfriend, having never tasted terrine in his life, and slightly dubious about the concept, came away from the dish feeling both enlightened and content with his choice to push the boat out and try something new. Having a mix between familiar and more original dishes on the menu really lends itself to a meal like graduation where you may want to keep traditional tasters happy alongside trying something different.
For the main however, we decided to stick with what we knew and simultaneously ordered the charred rump steak with beef fat chips and pepper sauce. While this dish comes with a £4 supplement to the set menu, It’s a small price to pay for the quality you receive in return. The beef fat chips were mouth-wateringly crispy, even pipping my grandma’s famous homemade deep fried chips to the post, (sorry grandma). Every single ounce of the steak was edible, not a sliver of fat to be seen. And although the portion size didn’t seem huge, I wasn’t left wanting by the end of the dish, but in fact very content with the serving.
Speaking of which, the service itself was almost effortless and particularly human in its nature, the staff made inquisitive yet un-awkward small talk between courses and during that strange silence where someone expects you to taste the wine as if you know what you’re doing. We were even provided with some small sub-meal courses, such as a cod emulsion and a vegan chocolate mousse with gooseberries, both of which were very similar in texture but thankfully severely different in taste.
For desert we were treated to a chocolate delice with caramel popcorn and a Yorkshire strawberry and elderflower Eton mess. While the chocolate delice was particularly difficult to eat, it’s solid bottom making a mockery of my round edged spoon, once I did eventually get to taste it I was pleasantly surprised. The taste wasn’t so rich it wasn't particularly heavy and the popcorn offered once again that sense of elevated familiarity that makes their food comfortably satisfying. Sadly I didn’t get to taste the Eton mess, after the 5 seconds it took my boyfriend to finish said mess, he assured me it was good.
One bottle of red wine and a few hours later, I found myself reflecting on the meal in the taxi back home and back to the reality of my generally unimpressive student diet. Overall my experience of Dobson and Parnell was one of relaxing luxury, and definitely a restaurant to which I felt my rather large graduation party would significantly enjoy, so much so, that I decided to book in a table for 10 to celebrate my graduation later this month, and if that in itself is not a rave review, I don’t know what is.