Alain Ducasse is the only chef to have held three Michelin stars at three different restaurants in three different cities. Now that’s quite something! With a list of accolades and awards as long as my arm, it seemed the obvious choice for my three star Michelin experiment. May as well end this experiment with the best of the best!
Located in the beautiful Dorchester Hotel on London’s Park Lane – a hotel that is synonymous with luxury and style, The Better Half (TBH) and I were warmly greeted by the smart doormen and led through the Promenade with it’s stunning floral arrangements and pianist tinkling away at the ivories. You really do feel like you’ve stepped into another much more elegant world. Restaurant Alain Ducasse is located off one of the many oak doors leading off here. Another greeting from the ladies at the restaurant reception and we’re taken through to our table in the centre of the restaurant. It’s a stunning room made even more beautiful by the Luminaire – a sort of private room encased by what looks to be millions of threads of glass beads. We were left to peruse the menu, but as this is part of my experiment, we already knew that we would have the set lunch. The notable difference to this menu was that it included 2 glasses of wine each. Result!
To kick things off, a plate of gougéres – black pepper, paprika and emmental. We had gougéres at Alyn Williams and both agreed that we preferred the ones we had there. These, in my opinion, didn’t taste freshly made (I’m sure they were). The flavours weren’t that pronounced either and I’m not sure we really needed a plate piled that high with what is just meant to be ‘a little taste’.
The second amuse bouche was a royalle. I didn’t know what this was, but was told that it’s basically a baked custard flavoured with different things. In this case celeriac, foie gras and crouton. Texturally, I didn’t enjoy this dish. I found it difficult to differentiate between the egg custard and foie gras and the croutons had softened by then, so they didn’t add the much needed crunch. It doesn’t help that I don’t like celeriac though – so that may have had some bearing on my enjoyment of this dish. TBH on the other hand, really enjoyed this dish. I wasn’t all that impressed by this point – early days though, I know.
I started with cookpot of crayfish, egg and girolles. The dish was intensely flavoured and the egg yolk added to the richness. The crayfish and girolles brought a lovely meatiness to the dish. All in all, it was a delicious and enjoyable start.
TBH chose lettuce velouté with frogs legs for his starter. He’s had frogs legs before in France and really enjoyed them – apparently just like chicken wings – but I’m not brave enough to find out for myself. This wasn’t the most photogenic of dishes, vibrant green in colour with big chunks of deboned frogs legs, he really enjoyed it.
For my main course, I chose potato gnocchi, sautéed squid and green peas. I have very fond memories of a childhood friend’s Italian mom making us gnocchi from scratch before heading out on a Friday night! I’ve loved it since but have never had gnocchi as good. Until this meal. Some of the gnocchi had been flavoured with squid ink, hence the black appearance. They were salty and fishy and perfectly balanced the sweetness of the peas. The plain potato gnocchi was creamy in the centre, as light as a feather and just utterly delicious. For me, the sautéed squid was almost unnecessary. Well cooked, but I would’ve been perfectly happy with a plate full of gnocchi!
TBH went for braised lamb shoulder, carrots and baby onions. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with crispy cubes of polenta that soaked up the rich and silky jus. The carrots bringing more texture and a little sweetness to the dish. An enjoyable main course for him.
I ordered contemporary Vacherin to end things off. I was shocked when it arrived because I was expecting cheese! Unknowingly to me there is also a dessert by the same name, which is meringue with ice cream or chantilly cream. It was a nice dessert, but I couldn’t help being slightly disappointed that it wasn’t the much longed for cheese.
TBH had the chocolate/strawberry composition for dessert, which was a chocolate ganache and strawberry cream with a stracciatella ice cream on the side. A beautiful looking dessert that tasted just as good.
Petit fours were chocolate ganache, chocolate coated almonds, nougat, salted caramels and macaroons. All were enjoyable and what we couldn’t finish was bagged up for us to take home. A nice touch.
Service was efficient and professional as you would expect of a restaurant of this calibre, but we both felt that it was all a little too rehearsed. It was like watching synchronised swimming and the flow of things didn’t feel very natural. The total bill came to £209.25, which included a few extra drinks and service.
All in all, although it was an enjoyable lunch in beautiful surroundings I just didn’t feel that warm glow afterwards. I’m just not convinced it was that much better than some of the other restaurants I’ve eaten in.
In my next post I will do a round up of my thoughts on this experiment. It’s been fun and I am so grateful to be able to have such fantastic foodie experiences!