My second visit to Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester and was very good to get back in. Jean Phillip Blondet is now at the healm and steering the iconic hotel’s flag ship restaurant.
There is no doubt that you are in immaculate hands here and the young, new team in charge showed world class proffesionalism and levels of service at the very top it can be with the added importance of beinggenuinely warm – a difficult one to pull off at the same time. It was also interesting to learn that should you go for the bespoke and semi-private ‘Table Lumière’ dining area, everyone will get the choice of which crockery they would like their food served on. Memories of Basil Fawlty asking Mr Leeman, “Mahogany, Teak Rosewood…?” came straight in to mind here as, at this restaurant you do actually have the choice of what you would like your food served on(!).
The amuse bouche of (new) crisp ravioli pieces and familiar gruyere cheese puffs were welcome as they always are and in general, there were aspects of the meal that appeared to be quite similar to my last visit 6 years ago. Although this was the case visually, the formage frei dip was less subtle than last time (better) and combined with the salted butter on the bacon bread was pleasant. The langoustine was beautifully sweet and the duck utterly juicy and pleasant. Although I had no particular firework moments during the meal, the care and attention to detail was undeniable with exceedingly refined ingredients. The classic rum baba was far better than I recall and I forgot how gorgeous this is in presentation and squidgy, spongey loveliness with the addition of perfectly whipped and light vanilla cream.
I thought the wine selection from the sommelier on this occasion was superb and a new addition was seeing Alain Ducasse’s own champagne (have not seen this before in a restaurant). Also of note was the Montrachet having a fabulous creamyness yet freshness at the same time. One last aspect that was a clear change from the first visit was the addition of a trolley of herbs wheeled to the table for tea selection. I chose peppermint and pine and these were cut and brewed at the table and then served when prepared. This was actually the stand out moment of the meal in my memory and although some others out there might do this I thought this was a genius stroke which I have not experienced before – a brilliant touch.
When comparing the photos of the food on this occasion and of 6 years ago there is not a huge deal of difference visually but I had a couple of better moments on my recent visit. Although it does not affect the overall / specific food grade, the hospitality on this occasion was faultless throughout as was the highest levels I think it possibly can be with truly graceful service. The food here is 100% elegance and Knightsbridge on a plate, but the award of 3 Michelin stars remaining a very generous grade when I compare to the others I have been to.
The cream was far too subtle for my taste, to the effect that both of us present had to have another scoop in a desperate attempt to get more flavour, forgetting this would have absolutely no effect. The dishes were well cooked naturally and the presentation had finesse, but the only course that seemed to have a wonderful moment was the truffle macaroni with lobster and that was the macaroni giving most of the impact.
The beef was done perfectly but the total absence of any sauce, less a drizzle of spiced oil on the large accompanying leaf with foie gras slice, made me actually saddened. Although I have an insatiable urge for fine sauces with my dishes, fillet steak is frankly one such dish I refuse to believe should not have anything with it unless it is wagyu or kobe beef where the marbelling will happily do all the talking. It was the first time in my life I nearly asked the waiter if the kitchen could bring something, anything, to deal with the issue but the better angel on my shoulder prevented me from doing so which would have practically been an insult to Jocelyn, the Head Chef. As final thoughts to balance, the consommé was ultra clear and the true skill of this was easy to see and taste as was the turbot which was expertly prepared and presented.
The main after thoughts of this visit was that as it was the signature tasting menu I was, a little disappointed. A lovely occasion and a privilege of course, however in terms of a comparison of the food, I was unable to see how it differed from most of the 2 and in some cases even some 1 Michelin starred eateries I have visited. It will need to be done again to give a second opinion as maybe things have evolved but there is work to be done on this one to make me more enthused about the food.