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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|
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Walking into the Dorchester is always walking into a world of craziness… Even on a Wednesday lunchtime, there were paparazzi outside fighting over who got to be closest to the ridiculous and expensive looking cock extension that someone was emerging from. The Grand Dame of London's grand society hotels, it now has the propensity to resemble mutton dressed as lamb, like someone has taken an elderly but refined lady and dressed her as a high end Russian call girl. Anything that doesn't move has been plumped up, gilded or had a mirror attached to it.
There are multiple restaurants throughout the Dorchester, breathily calling their opulence out as you walk down the Promenade in the centre of the hotel. You can also ‘enjoy’ afternoon tea along this boardwalk though quite why anyone would choose to enjoy afternoon tea along this stretch, somewhere between Brighton Pier and an explosion in Harrods, I do not know. They have awards though (so I've been told) and there's a better chance of seeing who's just climbed out of the shiny mid-life crisis in the front. But there's the rub. The people here aren't having a mid-life crisis, or even spending their children's inheritance. They're here, from around the world, because spending £36 on a cup of tea and some cakes is perfectly normal, and dropping a ton on lunch for one (without wine) just isn't something that you think twice about. It certainly isn't worth some of the prices you'd get charged but the overall experience is perfection – and people will pay for perfection.
After the gold explosion of the lobby, the (relatively) understated calm of Alain Ducasse came as a blessed relief, I felt like my eyes could breath again. Aside from the floor to ceiling crystal shower curtain (a six person V VIP table separated by a crystal sheet and few quid on the bill), the tone is muted light wood and grey anonymous elegant. After the overblown opulence of the adjoining corridor this is definitely in it's favour.
The parade of inevitable extras started as we sat with herb parcels in filo pastry, in size and texture no different to warm Scampi Fries, deliciously salty and very more-ish though. These arrived along with a selection of perfectly seasoned choux pastry puffs. The black pepper variant was especially successful. An amuse of heirloom tomato mousse was less inspiring though a handy palate cleanser.
Oddly despite the prices, four items on the short menu came with hefty £10 supplements. My Scottish LANGOUSTINE salad with coral jus (their capitalisation, just in case the oligarchs don't get the main ingredients…) was one of these. Assuming a £20/£35 split on that £55 set price for two courses, that supplement brought the salad to a punchy £30. Don't get me wrong, langoustines that do well at school pray to end up on a plate like this. Some of the sweetest shellfish I've ever had, with an earthy jus served over strips of seasonal vegetable. The dish worked. But for £30, I don't know what else it could have offered, short of trained prawns that danced their way out of the pot and onto my plate. Will stop whinging about money now…
I followed this with the roasted rib, saddle and kidney of MILK FED LAMB, served with perfectly cooked, roasted purple artichokes and new potatoes and a scattering of soft garlic croquettes. These were a revelation. The size of jelly gums, they yielded a perfect soft garlic infused paste under their crisp shell. The meat was cooked medium and fell apart. Technically one of the finest takes on this dish I've had, with a wonderful clarity of flavour.
The Flying Manc had the roasted native LOBSTER, seasonal vegetables and macaroni served as a tiny raft of gratinated tubes. Again, simple perfection in ingredients and preparation. The showmanship ran through to the array of petits fours served with our coffee, macaroons, tiny dark walnut studded chocolate nibs and a variety of chocolates and sweets. One of my hosts ordered a lemon verbena tisane, the leaves cut from the plant in front of us, served with a sense of theatre.
The service throughout was flawless, in every sense of the word. The staff were attentive, knowledgable (the Pinot Noir selected as an accompaniment to my lamb isn't what I would have picked, but worked a treat) and unobtrusive. There is a discernible, hugely positive difference between here and many of the one star restaurants I've eaten at. Does the restaurant justify a third star? I couldn't say I was competent or experienced enough to judge that, but for all elements it was a meal striking in its perfection throughout, the clientele were certainly happy to pay for this perfection, and I was honoured to eat it (even if I won't necessarily be taking my own wallet back there..)