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Image 1: When Alain Ducasse decided to make his mark on the London fine dining scene in 2007, everyone knew such an idealistic chef wouldn't settle for anywhere less famous and distinguished than the Dorchester.
Image 2: After passing through the lobby, then the Promenade, where families enjoy their late afternoon tea…
Image 3: ...you arrive at the grand entrance to one of the most prestigious restaurants in London.
Image 4: It's another world inside - quiet, calm, formal. The table arrangement here is fixed, as each table lies in a pool of light from a spotlight in the ceiling.
... and savoury bacon brioche. We think the savoury bacon brioche at Le Champignon Sauvage trumps this by miles though.
Image 8: More tables, by large windows overlooking Hyde Park. This area can be closed off for private events.
Image 9: Chef Herland invited us to take a tour of the kitchen before dinner was served. Here, we had a long chat about his cuisine and culinary philosophy.
Image 10: They look like tulip bulbs, but they’re really little twirls of butter!
Image 11: And finally…what might be the most extravagant table in London! Surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling fibre-optic optic curtain like a suddenly-frozen waterfall…
Image 12: And finally…what might be the most extravagant table in London! Surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling fibre-optic optic curtain like a suddenly-frozen waterfall…
Image 13: ...is the exclusive Table Lumière…
Image 14: ... where an exquisite set of Hermès china and Saint-Louis crystal glassware, changed with the seasons, is specially reserved for a few lucky diners on the exclusive table!
OK…enough about the dining room. Let's eat!
A simple basket of warm, cheesy and buttery gougères to accompany our champagne.
Warm bread and butter.
Our amuse bouche was served in this stylish eggshell bowl.
To start our tasting menu, a delicate light soup of coral jus, covered in paprika-dusted foam, and…
…a generous portion of Scottish crab meat underneath.
Image 21: Unlike traditional French cuisine, which is quite heavy, Ducasse has a noticeably light style. This thin confit of duck foie gras was coated with a creative pepper jelly. It had a velvet feel that produced a slight tickling sensation on the tongue! Excellent!
Image 22: And we mustn’t forget these pickled vegetables – they added a perfectly-judged element of acidity to the dish. Great meal so far!
Image 23: And now, the best Ducasse course I’ve ever had - Sautéed lobster, paired with truffled chicken quenelle. We were told later that this had been one of Ducasse's signature dishes since 1996, when Chef Herland was in Paris, and it has slowly evolved to this form.
Image 24: The lobster was perfectly timed; the texture of the al-dente pasta was spot-on, while the soft quenelles exuded a rich truffle aroma, perfectly complemented by an intense cognac sauce. I was shocked at how well a powerful sauce like this could work for seafood. I would come back just for this course any day!
Image 25: More seafood…this time a seared jumbo sea scallop with peas and asparagus, finished off with a vegetable jus. The course demonstrated the chef's skill – it’s can’t be easy to give such a thick scallop a moist and warm centre. Together with fresh greens, it not only looked like Spring, it tasted like Spring too!
Image 26: Continuing with the main course – a saddle of milk-fed lamb, accompanied by potato, turnip and carrot. An extremely tender piece of meat with a subtle flavour - but I found myself wishing that it had had something slightly more assertive to make it complete.
Image 27: Some crackers to prepare us for cheese. There’s just one cheese supplier in the world that can satisfy Ducasse --Bernard Antony!
Served with salad.
Image 29: An elaborate cheese tasting, each paired with a condiment. From the left, we have: goat’s cheese from the Loire Valley, with red pepper purée; Camembert from Normandy with apple marmalade; Comté from northeast France, brilliantly paired with mushroom quenelle; and finally, the king of blue cheese, Roquefort, paired with poached pear.
Image 30: This pairing truly highlighted the unique character of each cheese - I was amazed that Comté and mushroom would make such a delightful marriage!
Image 31: By this time, the dining room was getting dark and the glowing fibre-optic curtain from Table Lumière dominated the scene. More like a frozen waterfall than ever!
Image 32: And now, on to the sweets – we were served a variety of desserts. First, this – a mango and passion fruit sorbet, decorated with coconut meringue, coconut and pineapple crisp, then…
Image 33: …finished with a few spoons of fresh fruit salsa.
Image 34: Whoa! Hold on! Both the sorbet and the sauce were way, way too acidic – to the extent that the mixture burned our throats! I guess Chef Herland wanted to make sure we weren’t falling asleep with his food!
Image 35: Wild strawberry tart with "clotted cream our way". The cream was superb, but the tart was pretty unspectacular. Rather ordinary, in fact.
And finally, a well-executed airy hazelnut soufflé!
Image 37: Grapefruit sorbet was served on the side, as a contrast to the hot soufflé!
Image 38: After such a long meal, it’s time for tea. From the fresh leaf trolley: lemon thyme, thyme, rosemary, mint, and peppermint.
The perfect cup for fresh infusion!
Image 40: Last but not least - a petits-fours trolley filled with canelé cake, puff, chocolate tart, apple tart, marshmallows, shortcake and more.
We were absolutely full - but we just had to pick a few, to sample them. How could we not?
A unique petits-fours spoon. Or fork. I suppose, on balance, it’s more spoon than fork!
A great mid-morning snack for the next day.
Image 46: Final thoughts… after a frankly very average meal during their opening week a few years ago, we weren’t sure what to expect. But we needn't have worried. Since that time, Chef Herland has worked hard to grace this Ducasse signature restaurant with the accolade of Michelin 3-star status. We were more than satisfied with our meal this time. Recommended!