Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in Mayfair: “It treats its customers with the same reverence as its Michelin stars”
Legendary Monégasque chef Alain Ducasse has the highest number of Michelin stars to his name, holding a total of 18 across the world. His restaurant at The Dorchester is one of only seven establishments in the UK to boast three stars from the red guide, a status it has retained for over ten years. Behind these impressive numbers and coveted accolades, though, is something far more impressive: an executive chef who knows the difference between guarding a reputation and earning it everyday anew. Jean-Philippe Blondet masters this distinction with a menu that stays consistent in quality whilst changing continually with the seasons.
To get to the dining room itself is an exercise in self-restraint for lovers of luxury food: we must first pass Tom Booton’s acclaimed The Grill at the Dorchester and then take a stroll between the gilded pillars of The Promenade, the hotel’s lavishly carpeted and tunefully clinking tearoom. But the real sensory feast begins when you reach the recently reimagined restaurant space. The most impressive addition is undoubtedly the Table Lumière, which exclusively envelops guests within an Avatar-esque luminescent fibre-optic curtain. But while this feature asserts itself as the focal point, we are happy to be seated in another playfully designed space, which is inhabited by lush plants and a living wall that breathes organic energy into the room.
This nod to nature seems apt given that Blondet cares deeply about seasonal produce. However, the chef is proud to have harboured this passion before it became a trend; for him fresh produce is not fashionable, but fundamental. This is not to say his cooking isn’t remarkably stylish, too. From the amuse-bouches, which are served up in lobster claws atop a bed of glistening seaweed, he dresses quality ingredients with class. Even the bread – the work of pastry chef Thibault Hauchard and Mikael Jonsson’s Hedone Bakery – is given its own opening ceremony, sliced dramatically by the service and then left to the diner to slather with butter. This is the fattiest element to grace the table, though, as Blondet’s brand of French fine dining bypasses the classic heavy fare, resulting in light dishes served up with contemporary creativity.
We sample five options from the à la carte menu, starting with Dorset Crab, Celeriac and Caviar. This first plate impressively encapsulates a fresh sea breeze, while the marinated sea bass that follows is a refined and summery bowl, balanced with earthy pistachios, sweet green peas and salty nori. The Alsacian Riesling pairing is spot on: it’s dry and mineral yet aromatic, a great match for the cured fish.
The real highlight, though, is the roasted turbot, which is exquisitely cooked and full of flavour, complemented by an intensely smoky crapaudine beetroot and the truly genius addition of coffee, which enriches the whole ensemble. It’s the culinary equivalent of that one daring accessory that pulls your whole outfit to the next level. This is paired cleverly, if unconventionally, with a mildly tannic Marsannay pinot noir, a velvety glass with an enticing cherry aroma. Not all fish courses can handle a red, but here sommelier Vincenzo Arnese (who formerly worked at Dinner by Heston) takes an inspired risk.
The pigeon that follows is cooked masterfully, pink and moist but without a drop of blood in sight. The tender aubergine and lemon balm contrast well with the punchy edible sardine bones: this is a surf and turf with texture.
Our palate cleanser is a peach sorbet which sojourns in Southern France, a great refresher before British summer rolls in in the form of Raspberry, Shiso, Contemporary Vacherin: a spiral scoop of tart raspberry sorbet sitting atop crispy meringue and fresh fruit. We finish with a helping of petits fours, in which we are admittedly pleased to discover no weird experiments, just the pure, unadulterated joy that is the combination of good pastry work and fine chocolate – perfect for accompanying a final shot of espresso.
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester is a high-end restaurant that treats its customers with the same reverence as its Michelin stars. The service caters to both local and international guests, but though the hotel’s global clientele are currently limited for obvious reasons, tables are now being filled by new diners travelling from all over the UK. This is hardly surprising given that if there is any meal that can make up for a year of lost holidays in one evening, it’s probably this one. But the good news is that they also offer a more accessible lunch menu with two glasses of wine at £70 – so perhaps we don’t need to wait for a special excuse to be spoiled, after all.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane London W1K 1QA, call 020 7629 8866 or visit their website here.