I’ve had a handful of special meals under my belt this year. Some come with a price, some dead cheap. But as 2016 beckons new beginnings for 2017, I’m still thinking about the best meal experience I’ve had in London this year. With three Michelin stars under its name, there’s no surprise that the setting was at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-written this blog post since my visit early this year (I KNOW!). Words can be so limiting when it comes to describing the experience and I really wanted to give it justice. I figured instead of giving you a sit down on the restaurant’s history (which you can read here), I’ll just tell you about the amazing experience as I relive it in my head.
Basically, MD and I decided to go all out before I headed off to Morocco for a semi-“Eat, Pray, Love” trip. It was a celebration of all sorts so we ended up at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, excited to try meals from new head chef Jean-Phillipe Blondet’s kitchen.
Upon arrival, MD and I were greeted with warm service. We were sat near the Table Lumiere, the restaurant’s private dining area cocooned in a shimmering curtain of fibre optics. It was rather bedazzling.
Looking at the menu, we decided to go for the four course a la carte meal (£120) and a bottle of wine to share. Our sommelier was absolutely wonderful as he chose a delicious Chablis which paired well with everything we ordered.
A bouquet of bread was brought to the table and I had a hard time choosing which ones I wanted because everything looked like a baker’s dream!
However, it was the plate of gougeres that stole my heart. They were ridiculously moreish, with just enough Gruyere and a tease of nutmeg.
I had to stop myself from devouring those bad boys as I wanted to make sure I had enough space for the meal ahead.
An amuse bouche of salmon and vegetable consommé arrived. It had just the right punch and my appetite was definitely excited.
My starter of Scottish langoustines with broccoletti and confit lemon was a big highlight of the night. The portion was quite generous and both pieces of shellfish were cooked well. I can still remember how I savoured the sweetness of the langoustines in my mouth with each bite.
There was a bit of bisque for sauce and it was utterly gorgeous. It had great body and the flavour was everything you wanted a bisque to taste like.
MD’s Dorset crab starter was actually quite stunning, too. Served like maki, generous portions of crab meat were rolled in celeriac sheets and topped with caviar. The sweet-salty flavoured worked wonders, and fried little crab legs added a nice texture.
My second course was a fillet of halibut with beetroot and radish. Upon seeing the plate, I feared that the vibrant beetroot sauce would overpower the taste of the halibut. On first bite, I was deemed wrong. Not only was the fish melt-in-your mouth fresh and good, the sauce was thick but balanced, perfectly complementing the flavour of the fillet.
I was also given little slivers of toast with smoked halibut slices.
However, I’m not gonna lie. MD’s native lobster à la Parisienne was a scene stealer and I had major food envy. I prefer lobsters on the shell to keep flavours in tact, but surprisingly the meat was still super succulent and juicy. The bisque was synonymous to the one I had with langoustines but with thinner consistency. I loved it and held my breath as I enviously watched MD devour it like a devil.
I loved that they served us all the rest of the lobster meat as well. Meat from the claws and legs and head were perched on a bowl of peas and pea puree. Heavenly.
MD’s third course was another fine-dining classic: beef rossini with crunchy cos lettuce and Périgueux jus.
That fillet was perfectly rare and ultra-tender. The foie gras was delicately delicious and the combination was really spectacular. Possibly one of the best executed beef rossinis I’ve tried.
Spiral potato crisps were served with the beef and it made a nice, fun texture play for munching.
But I do love my own main course of pigeon with pepper-crusted potato tubes. I kid you not, folks. This pigeon was damn tasty.
There was great depth of flavour into the meat and the jus was just incredibly earthy. It was classic cooking at its best. A wild plate of comfort, if you must.
And look at how beautifully cooked that bird is. I wanted to cry my brains out at how beautiful the colour was and the texture of the pigeon was just so spot on. I’m not much of a game girl, but this totally was a game changer. Har har.
As like the lobster, a bowl of meat from the pigeon wings was also served in that ultra thick, rich, beautiful jus.
After a delicious meal, we had some palate cleansers in the form of passionfruit and lemon sorbet with blobs of merengue. Yum!
MD had a pistachio souffle which looked picture perfect. It was light as a feather and the flavour, good. Not too sweet, nor the nutty flavour overpowering.
But I had my heart set on one thing: Alain Ducasse’s famous Baba like in Monte Carlo, a baba au rhum like no other.
I was given three types of rum to go with my baba: the Clairin Sajous (extremely strong and not for the faint-hearted); the Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 (sweet and slightly spiced); and the Abuelo 12 (dry, smoky, fruity). I ended going for the second option as I thought it would go well with the baba.
Sponge cut, cream plunkered and flaming rum sorted, I dug into the baba. The bittersweetness of the Matusalem paired well with the sweetness of the sponge, and the cream tied it all quite nicely. MD didn’t like it but I really enjoyed it. I think this dessert may have an acquired taste; it’s not for the fainthearted but it really is quite spectacular.
We were absolutely stuffed at this point and needed some coffee to digest a bit better. And then the petit fours came rolling in.
Some macarons were served…
…plus some chocolate bites.
And then we were given more options to consider. Honestly, the canelle was absolutely amazing, and so was the pistachio millefeuile. I was on the verge of chomping on the choux pastry but I would’ve erupted if I did. Next time, definitely.
We were also given some doggy bags filled with nougat, biscuits, calisson and fudge and to take home. I though that was quite a nice touch.
We left with ridiculously full bellies and smiles on our faces. As we left the restaurant, each staff we passed by greeted us with warm a warm adieu. No, I thought. A tout a l’heure more like.
Verdict for Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is a special restaurant for special meals, no doubt. Food is definitely world class, particularly for classics that are executed perfectly. I don’t think it’ll be everyone’s cuppatea, if I’m being frank, but if you’re looking for a place of excellent hospitality, then this is it. Service was genuinely great, with a certain type of finesse worthy of a galaxy of Michelin stars. The whole experience is a London-gastrono-must.
Go with your loved ones, go with your most trusted friends, go when you feel like treating yourself because you deserve it.
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Have you been to any Alain Ducasse restaurants? What’s your best meal experience this year?