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The Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane
020 7629 8866
The combination of a superstar name and three Michelin stars means that expectations are always sky-high at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester; in return, diners are treated to “an exercise in superlative service and presentation”, with hushed tones barely disturbing the reverential calm in the classic creamy-toned dining room – an “oasis of serenity” away from the bluster of Park Lane. Head chef Jean-Phillipe Blondet is his master’s voice, delivering a measured parade of profound and deeply flavoured dishes hinting at the “culinary genius” behind the scenes – just consider the “heavenly” sauté gourmand of lobster accompanied by homemade pasta and truffled chicken quenelles or the signature ‘contemporary’ vacherin with a coconut boule, pomegranate seeds and exotic fruits. In between, the ever-fabulous rib and saddle of venison with coffee sauce and a peanut-stuffed parsnip vies with fish classics such as fillet of turbot with beetroot and clams marinière or line-caught sea bass with braised chicory. Prices, as you’d expect of somewhere called Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, take no prisoners, and the platinum wine list promises a galaxy of French stars with hefty mark-ups – although fans still think that dining here is “time exceptionally well spent”.
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Best Haute Cuisine
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Best French Restaurants in London
Best in Mayfair
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SquareMeal 3 Stars
The Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane
020 7629 8866
Hyde Park Corner Tube Station 635m
Green Park Tube Station 693m
The Dorchester Hotel 23m
Curzon Mayfair Cinema 297m
Tues-Fri 12N-1.30pm Tues-Sat 6.30-9.30pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
As one of only two spots in London and four in the UK that hold three Michelin stars (the others being Gordon Ramsey, the Fat Duck and the Waterside Inn), expectations run pretty high prior to a visit to the Dorchester. Once you’ve fought your way past the throngs of wealthy tourists in the lobby, the restaurant itself feels like an oasis of calm, serene furnishings and a view onto the greenery of Hyde Park. Dining here was undoubtedly an experience, an exercise in superlative service, presentation and cooking. However, it wasn’t perfect and I have had better dining moments elsewhere in London. Anywhere where diners are expected to feel almost reverential about what they eat is somewhat off-putting and an atmosphere which is dominated by the hushed tones of business people in suits is not necessarily where I would choose to eat. The cooking throughout was exemplary, from the almost airy balls of bread with a cheese casing that were placed on the table to welcome us, through to the generous quantities of petit-fours with which we ended (and were allowed to take home the remainder). For lunch, my comrade and I both chose from the a la carte menu. To begin, a portion of Dorset crab with celeriac and caviar. It was very good, but not absolutely amazing (3-Michelin starred amazing) and I couldn’t help feeling that both the flavour combination and texture of the dish were somewhat muted, not necessarily bringing out the best of the underlying ingredients. The main was markedly better; a rib and saddle of venison cooked in a coffee flavoured sauce and accompanied by a peanut-studded whole parsnip. This was culinary genius, a deeply intense and profound dish. The wine match, of a 2014 Pinot Noir by Littorai from Sonoma, was also superb. It was hard to surpass this (or indeed my comrade’s scallops) and there was a slight anti-climax ahead of dessert, particularly since there was a surprisingly disappointing wait. Our 2 hours at the Dorchester were exceptionally well spent, but came at a price – a quite steep £100/head, and that’s just for the food. When I left, my belly was content, but my soul (as well as my comrade’s wallet) less so; and when forced to ask, was my experience considerably superior to that provided by, say, The Ledbury or The Square at its peak, then I would be forced to answer in the negative.
Food + drink: 3
It can be a rewarding experience, lunching at Alain Ducasse. Although relatively infrequent visitors, the history had been done and we were greeted like old friends, and the standard of the front of house staff, under the auspices of Damien Pepin was as high as ever. It was our first acquaintance with the new chef, and, naturally, we wanted to try his cuisine and determine whether it was a more traditional house style or perhaps something more in keeping with current trends, and in keeping with the high ranking of the restaurant. The eternal gougères were light as a feather but lacking in cheese, the barbajuans though were really first-class. Lovely Dorset crab started the dishes building up to the main course and it was matched by pickled celeriac lasagna in good crab sauce with a texture contrast in the form of a fried crab leg and a helping of caviar which augmented rather than overpowering the delicate white crab meat. Unfortunately I got some shell. The duck and foie gras terrine was beautifully put together and exhibited a wonderful deep taste but the pickled baby veg “condiment” didn’t really convince. Happily the “sauté gourmand” of lobster made up for it with its heavenly sauce and surprisingly good accompaniment of truffled chicken quenelles. This was followed by another shellfish dish, all of which were deliciously matched by a Californian roussanne recommended by the ever reliable sommelier Chris Bothwell. This time it was the turn of a scallop with cauliflower gratinée and purée and a fried egg yolk. Not bad but somehow lacking. The star of the show was some super saddle of venison, fairly locally sourced - North Wales, with a coffee sauce and black pepper sprinkle and a sweet parsnip coated in a peanut purée which with the venison was a match made in heaven. It was just a shame that there couldn’t have been a more generous serving. The standard cheese course was populated by four French favourites, crottin, brie de meaux, beaufort and roquefort, each with its own special sauce. A pre-dessert of passion fruit with its sauce and a lime meringue was followed by the signature dessert - the “contemporary” vacherin with more melt-in-the mouth meringue, a coconut boule, pomegranate seed and “exotic” summer fruit. Coffee and petits fours were, of course, top quality, with Alain Ducasse Paris-made chocolate. Finally, although this could possibly be put down to his perfectionist approach, we were very much aware of the chef’s presence in the kitchen, sounding rather like a French Ramsay, which had never been the case with Jocelyn Herland. Overall, then, a minor turn towards the less classic and as far as we are concerned judgement has to be reserved.
Food + drink: 5
Just fabulous! We are very close to finalising our long list of restaurants to return to, and so the raison d'être of our exploratory reviews is all but eliminated. The fact that most of the entries on our list are in London is a true reflection of the situation in the UK and not just because we have not tried places elsewhere in the country. Up there with the very best is Alain Ducasse, with the best "unknown" chef in Britain in the person of Jocelyn Herland, some of the best front of house staff you will find anywhere, an attention to detail reflected in the provision of a spoon with every course to ensure that every drop of the fine sauces can be enjoyed, and a perfect setting for a top-class meal. This was a skilful demonstration of the four Ts, taste, texture, temperature and technical mastery, and the big P, presentation on the plate, making each dish a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. This is what the Professional Masterchef competitors should be aspiring to... The seasonal tasting menu is a perfect example of how to achieve the right balance of dishes, never exaggerating individual elements to the detriment of others; likewise the accompanying wine flight. However, we decided to cut down on our vinous intake and so Chris, the excellent sommelier, recommended a surprisingly Puligny-like Australian chardonnay to accompany the fish-based dishes, plus, for me, a superb Prum Spätlese to go with the foie gras and a lovely Rioja with the venison. The scrumptious signature canapés of three kinds of gougères and then the very moreish barbajuans were followed by perfectly caramelised and unbelievably sweet hand-dived scallops with seared lettuce and a delicate creamy sauce and a superb addition of caviar, its amost almondy aftertaste blending in beautifully with the scallop. The duck foie gras was quite special with its mushroom and duck reduction, a lick of lapsang souchong and the freshness of wild parsley. The next course announced itself with that wonderful aroma you get with perfectly cooked lobster in a rich reduction, in this case made even more unctuous with a mash of creamy paimpol beans. Then came the king of fish, turbot, bathing in an amazing truffle and mushroom reduction with raw and cooked artichoke adding to the satisfying richness of the dish and provoking the desire to eat it all over again. We asked for a substitute on the main dish, venison instead of beef, and we think we made the right choice. The Grand-Veneur sauce accompanying the tender, almost sweet, saddle was properly rich and unctuous and cleverly set against the fresh bite of celeriac. We had enjoyed the aged Comté before and its crystalline texture matched with the classic mushroom and truffle mix and nut and fig bread was, in its way, the equal of all the other dishes. A brilliant palate cleanser of orange segments with dehydrated coffee and cumquat on a delicate biscuit base set us up well for the rum baba (rum from Panama!) and the terrific orange sorbet that brought our feast to an end. This was a genuinely top-class dining experience, and if there are those who are unsettled by the easy luxury of the Dorchester, that is a reflection on them not the fault of the Dorchester; if there are those who are not impressed by the professional expertise of the front of house staff, in particular the restaurant manager Damien and his able assistant Matteo, and their ability to interact with the diners, we wonder just what they would expect; and if there are those who report their dissatisfaction with the cuisine, we can only assume that they have their own particular agenda.
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