It’s a strange feeling, walking around London on the day that the House of Commons votes on whether to send our planes and bomb Syria. There’s almost an expectant air of impending trouble, no matter what the vote. Bombing or not bombing isn’t going to make the slightest difference to how safe we are in the short term, the Da’esh regime destabilising Syria and Iraq recognising no boundaries and respecting no beliefs but their own. London in the build up to Christmas, lights on across the streets and music everywhere – small groups of singers and players out busking, not for money but to enhance the atmosphere and, by and large, successfully.
So it felt quite surreal to be arriving at the Dorchester in Park Lane to eat at Alain Ducasse’s 3 Michelin Star restaurant, a scene of calm opulence whilst the wide political world held its breath. Still, there were no furrowed brows here, no biting of fingernails, no threats or pointing fingers; no malicious tweets or protest marches. Just seamless, smiling and utterly attentive service.
Of the three restaurants in the UK to hold 3 Michelin stars, this was the last we’ve visited and the most formal and opulent. Gordon Ramsay’s Royal Hospital Road is in a discreet room off the street, Alain Roux’s Waterside Inn a flamboyant, riverside party designed for fun. Here at the Dorchester all was calm and ordered, gleaming Rolls Royces parked outside under the watchful eyes of the very traditionally liveried door people. Realistically, it’s probably the last place we’d choose to go – a good pub being the first choice – but, in the interests of research then off we go.
We glide to our table – there are enough staff to help us find the way they could have just carried us. A plate of freshly baked light gougères started the evening off – do try these at home – very easy to make, followed by a choice of four or five [very delicious] breads. The Amuse Bouche was almost too good – a hard act to follow – tender lobster in a lemongrass foam and creamy (but not too creamy) sauce. Heaven.
We opted for the three course à la carte, without the extra cheese course. Very nearly the perfect meal. Very, very nearly. In fact so nearly that we can’t imagine eating a better one – until the next time of course, wherever that might be.
A starter of Scottish langoustines so fresh and soft you’d think they’d leapt straight out of the sea on to the plate, shrugging off their shells in the process. Venison, soft and red, a couple of slivers of celeriac and a deep sauce that just had to cleared from the plate with a finger. Chocolate and chocolate sorbet. And to keep you going between main and pud, macaroons in lemon, mint and chocolate. And, just before you head off home, some little bags of nougat and chocolate lest you faint with hunger in the taxi, or in bed…oh, and a couple of small babas for the ladies.
Others in the party had a magnificent starter of raw and cooked vegetables, with wild mushrooms, a stunning beef Rossini and a towering hazelnut souflée.
So, a perfect meal. Maybe the perfect meal. Very good Sonoma Zinfandel and some very acceptable pudding wines. The perfect meal…until next time. The only downside is the opulence. These hotels suit many, many people but are not really us.
Restaurant Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester
Incidentally, for those of you who thought there were four Michelin 3 Star restaurants, the Fat Duck at Bray has closed for a refurb, and then reopened. So technically, it doesn’t hold a star at the moment. We’re absolutely sure it will shoot back up into pole position but, since they apparently Google their guests to tailor the meal to them, have a very long waiting list and make you pay in advance, it won’t be featured in this blog! So, for us, three 3* restaurants are all there are.