Rabot 1745 is part of the Hotel Chocolat story, nestled within the confines of Borough Market, offering punters the chance to drink and dine at its cocoa themed bar, restaurant and roof terrace overlooking the market itself. I have to admit that on first glance I was slightly concerned that a chocolate themed restaurant in a foodie paradise as deeply entrenched in the London food psyche as borough market is, that I would be dining alongside endless tables of tourists and therefore would this make Rabot1745 the Borough Market equivalent of an Aberdeen steak house in Piccadilly circus.
Loving Borough Market
Luckily I need not have been so worried. As I approached the restaurant I was pleasantly surprised at how inviting it looked. You enter via the bar/café which spills onto the street, something I always love about Borough Market shops, and certainly as you walk through the bar area, bathed in a sea of dark reds and yellows, towards the restaurant, the chatty vibe and clear post-work London Bridge crowd were giving off some positive vibes for what I hoped would be a great meal in a great restaurant in a great location.
Once ushered upstairs we were given the option of dining inside or out on the roof terrace. We opted for the latter, and as I sat waiting, drinking our recommended cocktail and poring over the menu, I could not help but think that being here for a Saturday afternoon whilst the market is in full swing, must just add to a fantastic atmosphere. Although the market was closed at the time we were there, it was a great view nonetheless.
Everything cooked with cacao beans
So down to this whole chocolate concept thing. Chocolate in savoury food is a topic which will no doubt divide opinion and is something Rabot 1745 are most clearly aware of. Upon arrival the waitress spent a little time talking about the use of coca beans in cooking. Indeed sitting there in front of you is a small white bowl with freshly roasted cacao beans ready for you to taste. This is a really clever ploy as it means the concept of chocolate in food as a mixture of sweet with savoury is completely dismissed the moment one tastes the cacao beans. These beans are in fact bitter and while the Rabot 1745 menu is littered with cacao references in every dish, we the punter now understand that using cacao doesn’t necessarily mean eating a dairy milk with roast potatoes!
Certainly once the concept is understood, it is easier to grapple with the menu. Our waitress, who was helpful, attentive and very knowledgeable about the (limited) wine list, promptly returned with a fantastic wine recommendation; a Portuguese wine from Hotel Chocolat’s own cellar (Chateau Chocolat) and as such I was keen to ensure we chose a starter fitting of a wine that owes much to its pairing with dark and therefore bitter chocolate. We chose the cacao gazpacho and the Yorkshire pudding with cacao glazed pulled pork in a cacao jus. I eat a lot of gazpacho. I find it a good barometer for the standard of restaurant and indeed this was a favourite of the waitress. However I found it to be both too much and too chunky and because of the size of the portion, the cacao taste had been lost in the dish. The overwhelming flavour was still tomato and I just believe that the dish needed to be strained further, delivered in a smaller bowl and maybe had cacao as a sprinkled salt substitute. The same can also be said for the Yorkshire pudding dish. It was quite big and whilst cooked beautifully, with succulent pork and creamy mash, the flavours of pork and pastry were just too strong and overpowered the cacao jus. We both concluded that whilst the starters had been good, it was hard to see where the cacao had a bearing on the dishes.
9 Hour braised lamb shoulder with cacao balsamic glaze
Undeterred we moved onto the main course and there was a certain dish we were really looking forward to trying; the 9 hour braised lamb shoulder with cacao balsamic glaze. It arrived beautifully presented and upon the touch of the fork, the lamb simply gave way, a good start. However again whilst the dish was beautifully cooked, it lacked any bitter taste from the glaze. I get the impression that this is a signature dish for Rabot 1745 and quite rightly so. However we couldn’t help but think something had gone slightly wrong with the execution, despite the food being cooked beautifully. The Jus on the side did taste stunning but was a little watery. Our other dish was the cod served in a cacao sauce and unlike the lamb, the presentation left a little to be desired. It didn’t look great, and although cooked well, it was a little too bitter which while it complemented the vegetables extremely well, was a touch overpowering for the delicate nature of the cod. We also ordered an intriguing side dish of white chocolate mashed potato. I had seen this on the menu prior to our booking and was intrigued to taste it. My first impressions were great, the mash was beautifully cooked and a drizzle of white chocolate had been poured over the top. My only issue with this however, is that the drizzle wasn’t enough. I had not expected to like white chocolate and mash, but it goes, and boy does it go! After a couple mouthfuls, the white chocolate mash simply became mash.
The Rabot 1745 Mousse collection
We rounded the night off with dessert and coffee. Again I took the waitress’ recommendations for the dessert and went for their Rabot 1745 Mousse collection. It is a series of 3 mousse pots with 68% through to 90% chocolate. I personally found this dessert too much, both in terms of volume and of richness and flavour. Going back to the notion that cacao beans are bitter, and although I am a dark chocolate lover, I found that certainly the last two pots were overpoweringly bitter, and in combination with an espresso coffee, was probably the wrong dessert for me. Considering this is a signature dish for Rabot 1745 I cannot help but think that this will divide too many people. We both felt pre-dinner that the one course that Rabot 1745 would excel at is dessert, but I am not sure, certainly for my palate anyway, that this dish meets expectations.
Amazing roof terrace with stunning view across Borough Market
Rabot 1745 is an interesting restaurant in that it is obviously popular. It has a unique USP in that it offers an amazing roof terrace with stunning view across Borough Market, in conjunction with a Chocolate themed menu. There is obviously some talent in the kitchen as the standard of the food was high, and whoever trains the front of house staff obviously understands how to run a restaurant. However, is the chocolate concept enough to keep punters coming back? I cannot help but wonder whether Rabot 1745, as a restaurant (quite clearly the bar is a regular haunt), is a one-time visit, and whether or not that sits well with them? Its quirky enough to hold its head up within the gastronomic realms of Borough Market but I cannot help thinking that with such a divisive ingredient that sells the restaurant, whether its execution of the food on offer has been thoroughly thought through? Certainly as a night out with a twist and a price point of around 35-40 pounds a head, it’s a novel and unique venue that is worth a punt for the views and the service alone.
2-4 Bedale Street
020 7378 8226