Alain Ducasse

53 Park Lane, London, England, W1A 2HJ, United Kingdom

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Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester had a troubled start (I was here on the opening night) but it has gradually settled down and steadily improved in standard. Head chef Jocelyn Herland was not here at the meal today, but the kitchen brigade is well drilled. The extensive, well-appointed dining room looks out over Park Lane, and the large tables are well spaced. In these days of wooden floors and loud piped music in London restaurants, it is a pleasure to sit in a quiet carpeted room where you can have a conversation without straining. 

There were several menu options: a tasting menu at £120, three courses £85 or four courses at £100. This is itself does not seem to be excessive, but the extras quickly add up. The wine list is breathtaking in scope and price. There are over 700 wine choices, with a range of fine growers from around the world. The cheapest wine on the list at the time of writing was £25, the costliest £9,900, with a median price of £175. Mark-ups average above four times the retail price, which makes it one of the the costliest I have encountered in London. Even dusty corners of the wine list that usually give some relief for those seeking value will not help you. Gracher Himmelreich Kabinett 2008 Joh Jos Prüm was £75 for a wine that you can find in a shop for £15, 2004 Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile was £140 compared to a retail price of £34, and Prélude 2008 Leeuwin Estate was £80 for a wine you can find in the high street for £19. On most wine lists, the costly wines are marked up less in relative terms, but good luck finding such relative value on this list: Château Petit Village 2000 from Pomerol was £320 for a wine you can buy for £46 in a shop, Latour 1996 was £3,200 for a wine that cost £596 and Chateau d’Yquem 1997 was £1,200 for a wine with an average retail price of £196 (the 1980 Yquem was £2,740 compared to a retail average of £337). If ever there was a wine list designed to help you give up drinking wine in restauramts, this is it. Though with mineral water at £6 a bottle, there is little relief here either. 

As you sit down a generous plate of gougeres, in this case made with Emmental cheese, appears. I like my gougeres to be bursting with cheese flavour, ideally fresh from the oven, but these were neither: prepared earlier and having subdued flavour, though nice texture (16/20). Much better were the Barbajuans, little ravioli of spinach, ricotta cheese and Swiss chard, a Monegasque speciality served at sister restaurant Louis XV. These were piping hot and had lovely flavour, and much better than the version I had on a previous visit (easily 18/20). 

The first course of the surprise menu was a Scottish langoustine, served cold with black truffle mayonnaise, brunoise of vegetables and black truffle vinaigrette. The langoustine was lovely, perfectly cooked through, the diced vegetables and truffle an excellent complement to the dish (between 18/20 and 19/20). Asparagus from the Luberon was just in season, here served in a hotpot with morels and an asparagus veloute. The asparagus was superb, beautifully cooked, and the morels were also excellent (19/20). 

Lobster was served with chicken quenelles laced with truffle, alongside home-made pasta. The lobster was good, though one piece that I had was a little overcooked (to be fair, the claw was fine), while the quenelles and the sauce were nice. However the pasta, made from semolina, was cooked al dente and was supposedly intended to be a firm texture as a contrast to the soft quenelles. It was certainly firm; my pasta seemed undercooked and simply hard (15/20).

Halibut was baked and served with celeriac, shellfish and squid: the fish was cooked very carefully, the sauce subtle and appealing (18/20). I preferred this to wild sea bass, served with baby artichokes and olives from Taggiasca. The sea bass was pleasant but not of especially high quality, the artichokes were fine but the main issue was that the olive flavour dominated the dish (16/20). Loin of veal from Limousin was very good, served with crisp sweetbreads; this had good flavour and careful cooking (17/20). Anjou pigeon was even better, with excellent potatoes and a “choron” condiment (essentially a béarnaise sauce with added tomato) whose little vinegar was a nice balance to the richness of the pigeon (18/20).

We tried several desserts, which always seem to be a strength of Ducasse kitchens. Raspberry and almond dessert had high quality raspberries and lovely almond flavour (18/20). Chocolate and hazelnut biscuit with hazelnut ice cream is a variant on the croustillant served at Louix XV, and was rich and appealing, the hazelnut flavour excellent (18/20). Rum baba was superb, beautifully moist and with terrific Chantilly cream (easily 19/20). Best of all for me was a dish of exotic fruits, a mango jam with mango and passion fruit sorbet, as well as lemon and vanilla sorbet, finished with coconut and pineapple meringue: the balance of this dish was superb, refreshing and with lovely ripe mango (20/20). 

The bill today came to £243 a head, which is a lot of money by any standards. The restaurant does its best to try and recreate the food of Louis XV, but is hampered by the lower quality of ingredients that can be found in the UK. The desserts here are lovely, and sauces are carefully made: these are all about precision and technique, and do not depend on ultra-fresh Mediterranean ingredients, but as soon as you move into the savoury courses the standard of the dishes is more variable. This is very good cooking, and the service is top class, but for me it is not true three star level food other than the desserts. 


Further reviews: 16th Feb 2019 | 25th Nov 2016 | 11th Feb 2014 | 02nd Mar 2010 | 01st Feb 2009 | 01st Nov 2007

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User comments

  • Eugene Chiu

    Had the 7 course tasting menu and the only thing which caught my attention and gave me surprises were the desserts surprisingly. The appetisers and main course were good but they just lack the extra punch to be a 3-star dish. Full review at my blog here.

  • Ranko

    I went over to AD couple of weeks ago together with my friend for a lunch. A whole setting is rather impressive (if you are into that kind of interior) but memories of our lunch are vanished. My main disappointment goes to selection of cheeses which ended up on only four!?! I mean this is a three star Michelin French restaurant in London.

  • Naomi

    I went for the lunch menu and didn't quite have your luck with the desserts! I thoroughly enjoyed my main though. I wrote about my experience here:

  • Alan spedding

    Tried the truffle menu at Ducasse last week Andy, full report with pics on my blog. Was enjoyable.

  • Mark Skene

    I have to say I was very disappointed by my experience at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. Firstly the canapés of gougeres were decent enough but not the best I’ve had by a distance and a little lacking in imagination and variety for a canapé. The amuse bouche of royale of tomato with tomato foam barley tasted of tomato. Worse was to come with my wife’s starter of foie gras with cherries. She found a cherry stone, by biting down on it, which wasn't pleasant for her. Surely a 3 star kitchen should be finding all the cherry stones before they go into a sauce, it's not like they are hard to find. The dish itself was the standout of the meal but when we mentioned the stone to the waiter he simply stared blankly at us, said nothing and picked up the plate. I wasn't looking for anything other than an acknowledgement that it shouldn't have been there but that was too much to ask it seemed. On to the main course, both me and my wife ordered the duck a l'orange. We each got two duck breasts one of which on each plate had fat which had not been rendered sufficiently. This is a fairly basic technical error I would not expect of any kitchen at this level. The service seemed erratic and slipped again when our petit fours were brought out approximately 30 seconds before our desserts arrived. We hadn't even ordered coffee at that point. The macaroons were the worst I’ve had in any Michelin starred restaurant let alone a 3 star. They were soggy like they’d been left out for a couple of days. Most of the food we had was very good notwithstanding the error with the duck and the woeful macaroons but even over looking that I don't feel it packed enough flavour or showed enough skill to be 3 star level. From my experience of them all I’d put it firmly fourth out of the four UK 3 star restaurants and also some way behind The Square where we dined the following evening as well as the only other UK 2 star restaurant I’ve visited, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles.

  • Tom C

    I went here last night and although the meal was of a very high standard, I just didn't feel it reached 3 star standards and paled in comparison to Gordon Ramsays Royal Hospital Road - which I went to for the 2nd time the Friday before - in terms of the standard of food and service. I would still rate The Square and The Berkeley above The Dorchester. They may be small things, but we were repeatedly asked if we wanted any more bread by a variety of waiters every 5 minutes, served the wrong drinks and I just felt at nearly every stage I needed someone to help with the menu, which although they were more than helpful, I'd like not to feel completely stupid when going out to eat.

  • Graeme Donalson

    The evening started off well with a bowl of black pepper and Gruyere gougeres, very tasty. Good selection of bread followed which was of reasonable taste, butter and a mild cream cheese foam option (different I liked that). A royale of foie gras and pumpkin, Lapsang Souchong emulsion served in a half egg bowl was good, being able to taste all components. Next the best dish of the evening (for me anyway), Scottish langoustine, leek and potato, truffled "parmentier" jus, the langoustines cooked to perfection with superb flavour. Then the wheels came off with the next two courses first up Artichoke ravioli, calamari, shellfish and parsley jus, the ravioli hard round the edges and too thick and the chefs nightmare, calamari, absolutely rubbery (not the Benny Hill type), the excellent jus couldn’t save the dish. Next Braised halibut, citrus and swiss chards, eggplant condiment, this was a similar dish that Dr. Kinnaird produced for Mr. Ducasse on Masterchef, he didn’t quite get it and neither did they, the halibut slightly overcooked with an orange flavour that Sunny Delight would be proud of, killing off any hope of tasting anything else. Roasted farm house veal loin from Limousin, "blanquette" vegetables brought proceedings back on track, the veal and vegetables perfectly cooked with the sauce perfectly balanced. A selection of four cheeses followed, this is a bugbear of mine, how I long for the theatre (and choice) of the affineurs chariot, in any establishment of this calibre this should be a given right. The dessert was a huge disappointment, Coco Carmel Delight, the shape resembling a Rowntree’s Cabanna bar (if you can remember them) accompanied with ice-cream (so sharp I can’t recall the flavour) and a sharp citrus painted rectangle of some sort, the dish somehow devoid of sweetness and imagination. Coffee and the ubiquitous macaroons to finish off. Service excellent and friendly, Salon Prive enjoyable (a little dark maybe). UK 3 star – quarter finalist.

  • steve fischer

    I ate on 17/11/09,got to say i was very disappointed; as a party of 6 we ordered the tasting menu for the evening. For me the meal was average, a little harsh maybe but when your paying those prices and the restaurant has two stars it needs to wow you; I like most of my guests were,left feeling disappointed, uninspired and slightly cheated. I wont be going back for quite sometime!!!

  • gen.u.ine.ness

    Andy, perhaps a bit mean on your review and your first experience still fresh in your mind? I recently visited Ducasse as well and I do think that their pastry chef is an absolute star. The savoury dishes itself are variable indeed - a very good crayfish and sauce nantua (no resemblance to your crayfish salad) the highlight of an otherwise very boring meal (duck pithivier, lamb cutlet and sea bass which were very gastro pubsy) Still I think perhaps a 6/10 is a tad harsh :)

  • Alex Chambers

    Nothing I ate aside from my dessert was even close to 2* standard, let alone three. I definitely fared worse than anyone else on the table, but not many dishes were significantly better than my own. Given that one could have two to three meals at Texture or Pied a Terre for the same money, this is an absolute rip off. I really hope it improves but I won't be back unless I hear so from a very reliable source. Probably the biggest restaurant disappointment of the year, with the bill leaving a remarkably unpleasant taste in the mouth- rather like the pigeon for that matter.