"Traditional food with perfect presentation"Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
It was some years ago (March 2009 to be precise) that I had sampled the delights of the Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester restaurant so I was keen to see what had been done to The Grill during its recent refurbishment.
I met my companion in the beautiful hotel foyer – and for an early Wednesday evening the place was surprisingly busy although still retaining that sophisticated calm that is indicative of London’s top establishments.
We were shown into the large square Grill. It’s breath-taking in its opulence – a sort of interesting blend of London’s finest traditional establishment meets the Arab world’s most luxurious indulgence. The walls are covered in vertical stripe gold mirrors and intricate patterns (apparently these pivot to provide a different atmosphere during the day), the ceiling has detailed gold-leaf square and other metallic designs and the room is dominated by a striking, hand-blown Murano glass chandelier that my companion described as “Brutti ma Buoni” (roughly translated this means 'ugly but good'). I had to agree. Cue me sharing my cherished memories of the time I spent in the glass-blowing workshops on the island.
To the left is a large bar where you could, conceivably, sit and enjoy a drink on the high stools. But the atmosphere here is rather formal. The other diners included hotel guests, business people, a fair few couples who were clearly on a romantic night out and I am fairly sure that I spotted some young celebrities as they looked rather familiar. One doesn’t stare here though.
The brown leather chairs and linen covered tables against the oak parquet flooring were comparatively plain and elegant by contrast. I liked the tea lights and the gold coloured water glasses. They were the only nod to informal.
We started with a glass of champagne (served in what looked like short Victorian glasses where the bubbles rose up through the stem – very pretty) and we were bought an amuse bouche of salmon rillettes which was smooth, ultra-light and creamy and surprisingly not very fishy. This was served in an interesting bias-cut glass and with water biscuits. We were offered cereal and country bread – both were delicious.
The staff were friendly and super-attentive, as you might expect, although there appeared to be some good natured rivalry between the Irish, the French and the Italians.
The choice of starters had me stumped – so many good things to choose from including gratinated razor clams (£16), lemon sole “goujonnettes and chips” (£27 – I spied this on a nearby table and the chips were wafer-thin stunningly crafted rectangles of potato with square cut-outs and the fish goujons were in a dish on a napkin shaped like a lotus flower) and grilled hand-dived scallops with autumn salad (£19).
We put ourselves in the hands of the incredibly approachable sommelier to select a glass of wine for us each for our starter and for our main course.
My companion chose the coddled egg, crayfish and herb fricassee (£19). This arrived in a glass pot and had a soup-like consistency into which he poured the contents of a separate container of herbs (one of which was dill) and ate with long curves of toast. He declared it far more sophisticated than he had expected. The wine choice was an oak-aged Chablis (£12) which was crisp and light. Meanwhile, I had chosen the signature blue lobster chowder with mushroom and chives (£17). Now this was a masterpiece – a creamy light froth on the plate containing chunks of firm lobster into which the waiter poured the rich, light brown sea-scented chowder. I don’t think I have ever tasted anything as wonderful before. You absolutely HAVE to try this. I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the creamy Veltliner Schloss Gobelsberg (£15) wine that was served with this although its strength was probably required.
The Sommelier had decided to serve us both with the same wine for our main courses – a 2011 Nuits-Saint-Georges (£17), which was a good choice. My companion declared that his duck foie gras escalope with raw and cooked beetroot (and beetroot leaves) (£28) perfectly cooked. I was amazed at the huge size of my veal chop with mushrooms and cream (£32) which was tender, moist and had a good flavour. Our sides (all £6) of potato puree, spinach and hand cut French fries were all presented in tiny saucepans of their own.
Whilst replete, we could not resist trying the highly-acclaimed souffle (£14). My companion’s chocolate Sao Tome 75% from Alain Ducasse in Paris was indeed splendid – especially the chocolate granita style confection it was served with. But, as with the starters, I had made the superior choice as the Sicilian pistachio which was a wonder to behold in its presentation and astonishing in its flavour. And the salted caramel ice cream that accompanied it was beyond words – incredibly good. Utterly sinful.
Coffee was served with a shiveringly refreshing lemon jelly to clear the palate.
We witnessed a number of the other guests enjoying the sharing dishes – particularly the peppered organic Aberdeen Angus prime rib (£34 per person) which was served at the table from impressive large, traditional domes which provided a theatrical flourish to proceedings.
It was expensive, and especially so as my companion kept pointing out that it was a restaurant in a hotel (I don’t share his disdain) which is why I’ve marked it an 8. Every other aspect of the experience – the incredible décor, the super-attentive service, the exquisite albeit traditional food and its perfect presentation – scores a 10.
KimT reviewed The Grill at The Dorchester on Tue 25 Nov 2014