Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London

What do Arnold Schwarzenegger, Prince Philip, Marlène Dietrich, Meg Ryan, Tom Cruise and General Eisenhower have in common? The Dorchester Hotel in London, of course! Located between Piccadilly Circus and Kensington, in the heart of Mayfair and in an ideal position opposite Hyde Park and Green Park, this veritable palace revels in a combination of high-class traditionalism and modern chic. Ever looking to surpass itself, today it is home to chef extraordinaire, the world renowned Alain Ducasse, who has just opened his new restaurant, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, within its walls.
Palatial ambiance

There are very few establishments like the Dorchester, which has understood how to retain a palatial feel with changing times. The Dorchester opened its doors in 1931, and since then it has elegantly withstood the test of time, metamorphosing into its current style which distills the glamour of the 1950s, and delights the personalities who frequent it. It is a thousand leagues from the minimalist modern lines with which we are so familiar in the 21st Century.
Plush and luxurious are words that springs to mind when experiencing the four-poster beds, the thick carpet underfoot, the decor with its fine marble, oak furniture and the faultless, top-notch service.
Breakfast in The Promenade, a dining room in the rococo and baroque style, surrounded by staff dressed in black and white, reminiscent of magpies. In this theatrical setting, the space reflects the luxurious spirit of the hotel, with its coloured silk wall hangings, and opulent fabrics of the cushions adorning the well-stuffed 21st Century chesterfields, arranged in circular formation, next to marble columns. Nothing is left to chance with the decor. Likewise, high tea is similarly well thought out, and a special moment, encompassing true Victorian traditions.
Meals can be eaten in The Grill Room, but THE place to have dinner these days is in the new restaurant, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester: fine dining at its best

Decidedly contemporary in his approach to the decor, Alain Ducasse wished to make a break with the profoundly classic spirit of the Dorchester Hotel.
The restaurant is a veritable beige and ivory cocoon, which uses noble materials such as leather, wood and cotton in its intimate dining rooms where the walls have been dressed in green fabric evoking nearby Hyde Park. In the centre of the main room, designer Patrick Jouin has created « the table of light », a table for six guests, screened by a curtain of fibre optics and organza, and giving the diners the impression of being alone in the world. Perhaps this is going too far?!

Here the ambience is intimate and convivial, and makes one feel quite at home. The ballet of the waiting staff (who, for the most part, have worked with Ducasse already), is a lesson in discretion, politeness and professionalism, a far cry from the stuffy service of the majority of the world's finest restaurants. The director, Christian Laval, formerly of Le Spoon in Paris, leads his staff with elegance and simplicity, and even if the restaurant's name might confuse, for Alain Ducasse there is no mistaking his goal. Part way between the Plaza Athénée and Le Spoon, this is fine dining without affectation. The proof, the lunch menu starts at £55 for two courses per person.

Creative and contemporary menu

Chef Jocelyn Herland (chef adjoint of the Plaza) has created a contemporary menu, adapted for the context of this English palace, incorporating some of Alain Ducasse's specialties, such as the suprême de volaille. This dish has a sophisticated combination of flavours in the sauce, which explode in the mouth without altering the true nature of the dish. Or try the "velouté de châtaignes avec royale de foie gras". There is a balance and originality in this blend, which is both light and mouth-watering. Under Gérard Margeon and Hugue Lepin's guidance, the wine list is thoroughly French, with superb bottles such as Château d'Yquem at £3,700 but also an excellent Clos Canarelli from Corsica at £55, which goes wonderfully well with a flavourful "Baba comme à Monte Carlo, accompagné d'une crème fouettée à la vanille".
At the end of the day, the menu reflects the ongoing creativity of a chef who never stops surprising us.

Avril 2008
My Opinion 

The Dorchester Hotel is a palace such one does not see any more. Perhaps the profusion of gilding and drapery may not be to everyone's taste, however the service is incontestably excellent.
As for Alain Ducasse's restaurant, the setting is delightful and intimate. One is at ease here, with remarkable service and excellent food to boot. Do not expect the sort of service you would experience at Le Relais of the Plaza Athenée in Paris.
Overall the ambience is convivial and relaxed.

The Dorchester
Park Lane
London W1A2HJ
Tel +44 (0) 20 76 29 88 88
www. thedorchester

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester
Reservations + 44 (0) 20 7629 88 66
Dinner menu from £75 for 3 courses, £95 for 4 courses
Taster menu available at £115