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|Address:||The Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, London W1K 1QA|
|Tel:||020 3641 8324|
|Price: £97.00||Wine: £40.00||Champagne: £85.00|
|Opening Hours:||Tues-Fri 12N-1.30pm Tues-Sat 6.30-9.30pm|
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Oh My God [or, for the twittering classses: OMG ;-))))!!!]. Wow: this is seriously grown up food, served in a seriously grown up restaurant with SERIOUSLY grown up prices.
Yes, let's start with what everyone seems surprised at. The prices. Alain Ducasse is a famous French chef. His restaurant has three Michelin Stars. His restaurant also happens to be located in one of the most expensive hotels, in one of the most expensive areas of one of the most expensive cities in the world. Of course it is going to cost a lot. But maybe here a little perspective is called for: the tasting menu at Alain Ducasse is £115. Not cheap. Anne-Sophie Pic has a tasting menu at €320, with a starter on the a la carte at a mind alteringly €145. So the eponymously named Maison Pic has a starter that is more than a seven course meal at Alain Ducasse.
You might expect that Maison Pic would have to be in Paris, maybe in the 8th, maybe in the George V, for that would be a fair comparison. Maison Pic is in Valence. For those of you who don't know where that is, it is a industrial truck stop of a town, about an hour-and-a-half south of Lyon on the Autoroute du Soleil. It is nowhere. Blink and you miss it. It is an afterthought of a town on the race to the beaches of the Cote d'Azur. Yet it has a restaurant where a starter costs more than a seven course meal at one of the most expensive restaurants in London. Go figure.
So it is expensive. But is it worth it? Well the restaurant was packed. It was clear by the number of people getting deserts with candles in that there were a lot of birthdays being celebrated, and this maybe what M. Ducasse is going for: a destination restaurant. Somewhere you go once, for a seriously special occasion.
The restaurant is, as the name suggests, in the Dorchester hotel. It doesn't have its own entrance, so you come through the overly oppulent, overly ornate, Hello! magazine/footballers wives hotel lobby, to be ushered into a calm, understated, almost plain room. This is clearly not about the decor, this is about the food.
Oh and what food: excellently prepared, excellently presented and excellently executed, although not every dish hits the spot. The amuse bouce of a tomato reduction cleansed the palate properly (that is, after all, what an unordered dish to start off the meal should do). The chicken and lobster with pasta was gorgeous: small rectangles of crisp skinned chicken, juicy lobster and seriously al dente pasta. Alas, the other starter (soft boiled egg with crayfish and mushroom), whilst good, was a little over-indulgent on the ingredient front: adding more flavours is not always best, when here, the effect was to overpower the delicate crayfish. The fish course was fantastic: Halibut succulent and sweet, the sea bass with razor clam wonderful too, a serious tranche of fish with a stuffed razor clam shell balanced atop it. Then another duff: the beef with foie gras. The foie gras was gorgeous, the Périgueux sauce nicely rich in truffle, but the slab of beef was, well; bland. At these prices, how can that be? I almost asked for some mustard to pep it up.
Fortunately, it was then straight back to dazzling form: deserts are just fantastic (and no poncing around with a pre-desert). Lime souffle was light and limey, accompanied by a Sichuan pepper sorbet (I wouldn't actually have picked it as being Sichuan pepper, but it went beautifully) and the crispy chocolate came with a lovely pink grapefruit sorbet (no mistaking that). This last dish proved the only difficult one for our excellent sommelier: in the end, he suggested two half glasses, one to match the chocolate and one with the sorbet.
Ah yes; the wines. As you might expect, not cheap. Actually, worse than not cheap: really bloody expensive. We had a lovely Pur Sang from Didier Dagueneau's final vintage, which is around £40 retail; here, it was four times that! There are a few bottles below the ton mark, but the list is very serious and very seriously priced; four grand for a 1934 D'Yquem anyone? Well, apparently not: they have a single bottle (just for the list), and nobody has wanted to pay that for it (although interestingly our sommelier did say that somebody had tried to haggle over the price. Good luck!).
As with our sommelier, the rest of the service is polite and friendly; for a place of this price you often find that the waiting staff can be stuffy and stand-offish. Not here (maybe it is because there were no French waiters: ours all seemed to be Eastern European or antipodean?).
This is very traditional French cooking: no foams, no drizzels, but deep reductions to produce intense flavours. Is it as good as Maison Pic? No; Maison Pic is extraordinary and extraordinarily inventive in a way that Alain Ducasse isn't trying to be. Maybe he was twenty years ago when he got his (first) third Michelin Star, but at least here he seems to have settled in to a comfortable, high standard, high priced, destination restaurant.