Archive | May, 2011

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

28 May

On my 22nd birthday my friend Frances took me to lunch at the Dorchester. We had a great time, we ate lots of food and we drank many cocktails and a glass of diet coke which cost £4.50. When I went to work the next day three different people informed me that Alain Ducasse was responsible for my meal. I wasn’t convinced, but as I knew I definitely hadn’t eaten at the Grill apparently there was no other option. A few months later Alain won his third Michelin star, and although I had a brilliant time I was most definitely surprised. After a quick visit on the Dorchester website my suspicions were confirmed – I did not eat at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, I just had lunch in the Promenade bit. Ho hum.

However, by this point I was too embarrassed to reveal my discovery and every time Mark asked me about my Ducasse experience I just had to say that I was too drunk to remember (partially true). Mark and I have a mission to eat in every 3 Michelin star restaurant in England. We have already ticked The Fat Duck off our list and Mark has been to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay so I should really have been on a par with him. A couple of days before our reservation at Alain Ducasse I had to break the news to him, and what a relief! And I sort of was on a par with him anyway – me wrongly believing that I had been to Alain’s and his experience at Gordon Ramsay wasn’t that successful as he felt ill on the day and couldn’t eat anything. It is as if our 3 star journey together is meant to be.

We walked past the table Frances and I dined at and were taken through some glass doors to a dining room that screamed THREE STARS.  Our table was tucked away in a corner behind a private dining area which did block my view of the rest of the restaurant, which was a blow as I do enjoy judging my fellow diners. At least we had a moody Australian couple next to us for me to stare at.

I found the lunch menu an absolute delight to read. Lobster ravioli! When do you ever see that particular crustacean on a cheapy menu? I was quick to order that with the lamb to follow and Mark did the same. From that moment on there was never a time where our table didn’t have some food on it. First up was a bowl shaped as a cabbage leaf piled high with balls of cheesy chou pastry. They were hoovered up by our salivating mouths very quickly. The Australians, I noticed, only nibbled on a couple from their bowl, the fools. The bread basket was an absolute marvel with at least seven different types of bread complete with a choice of spreads – unsalted butter, salted butter and cream cheese blended with whipped cream. A couple of months on I am wondering if I dreamed the latter up but Mark confirms that it was true.

The steady flow of edible extras continued with an amuse-bouche. Butternut squash velouté with apple, goats cheese and chestnuts. The little lumps of goat cheese were incredibly soft and melted immediately in the mouth within the piping hot velouté. The apple gave a welcome freshness and the chestnuts provided a comforting chewy texture. The empty cups were removed from our sight and our cockney waiter appeared once more with his basket of bread. He immediately understood what we were all about – taking advantage of all the free food that we possibly could – and decided on his favourite types of bread before loading them up one, two, three on my side plate. The Australians, I noticed, only wanted one bit of bread each.

Finally onto the main event, our lobster ravioli with lemongrass consomme arrived looking beautiful. In an ideal world I would have preferred my lobster ravioli to be served with a beurre noisette or maybe something a bit creamy, but Asian style is what I got. The flavours were punchy and the lobster was fantastically fishy. I am not sure what the red things were but they were pickled, crunchy and delicious. The attractiveness of the dish is what I appreciated the most. Though my dodgy camera phone photo may suggest otherwise, it was a symphony of colour and shapes. Vegetables were carved into unrecognisable forms which was a challenge for my not particularly lively palate, but I think those little balls were carrot (they were orange). The freshness of my starter certainly whet my appetite and I can still clearly remember what it tasted like.

I finished off the cream cheese whipped cream during our quick break between courses. It’s silver container was deceptive in size as it looked as though there were up to five inches of creamy delight, when in reality the bottom of the bowl stopped just an inch below the top.

My main course appeared before I could get too upset. Lamb with baby gem, girolles and these little potato pancake things.

I think you’ll find me simple for saying this… but it really tasted of lamb. Like it really tasted of lamb. The lamb flavour was so intense I still cannot get my head around it. I liked this course a lot. I wasn’t so hot on the idea of baby gem as I thought it might be braised thus soggy, but to my surprise and delight it was grilled and fresh. The potato pancakes were excellent for soaking up the excess lamb sauce. As with the first dish and the amuse-bouche, the variety of textures were spot on.

The desserts were not particularly inspiring. I did have to google what a vacherin was a couple of days before in case I ordered it not knowing what it was and it arrived dripping in amaretto (vom). Turns out it is a bit like a pavlova, or it is a particular kind of cheese. I opted for the rice pudding to be on the safe side. It was nice, though extremely cold. Like all of the courses it looked stunning with tiny cubes of multi-coloured melon scattered on top. Mark went for the vacherin (not of the cheese variety), which was also nice but not particularly memorable.

No, the desserts were nothing special. But little did we know that our adventure in sweet was about to get so much better. Our earl grey teas arrived with a vast array of petit fours.

Working from the front to the back – a selection of chocolates, chocolate covered nuts, an assortment of wrapped toffee and nougat and a compilation of  macaroons.

We ate them all, down to the last chocolate covered nut. The Australians, I noticed, did not.

Many critics believe this restaurant is undeserving of it’s three stars. It wasn’t the greatest meal I have ever had, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I think I know where these Michelin inspectors are coming from. If it were my job to eat and judge, I think I would give a star for every extra bit of food that wasn’t included on the menu. Now if the Promenade had offered me that, I would still be none of the wiser that Alain Ducasse was not responsible for my food.

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Park Lane, London, W1K 1QA