The Dorchester Grill room has been running since 1931, when the hotel itself opened in Park Lane. In the same hotel are the restaurants Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester and China Tang, as well as a couple of more casual dining spots. The Grill was relaunched in November 2019 with 26-year-old head chef Tom Booton, who was formerly sous chef at Alyn Williams at The Westbury for three years. He trained initially at Le Talbooth in Colchester and later worked at l’Autre Pied for three years.
The dining room is to the right as you walk along the main corridor of the hotel entrance, almost opposite the Alain Ducasse restaurant. It has no natural light, and has been completely refurbished for the latest relaunch, with a bar along one wall and a dessert bar along another, with plenty of mirrors in evidence. Tables were large and well-spaced, covered in crisply ironed linen. Three courses were priced at £60 and four courses at £75, with side dishes charged extra at £7 apiece.
The short wine list had just 32 labels and started at £36, with a median price of £76 and an average markup of 3.7 times retail price, which is pretty grotesque even by the standards of Park Lane, the second priciest property on the Monopoly board. Sample references were Bacchus Baker Street 2018 at £46 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £18, E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage White 2017 at £69 compared to its retail price of £16, and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2018 at £81 for a wine that will set you back £25 in the high street. There were a few higher quality wines available by the glass, such as Torres Mas La Plana 2015 at £27 a glass, which works out at a true markup of 3.4 times its retail price. Mineral water was £5 for a 750 ml bottle. The excellent sommelier was formerly at The Square for many years.
The meal began with some canapes. Resting on a brik pastry base was mackerel with tomato chutney topped with Oscietra caviar and a garnish of dil. This was classy, the mackerel tasting very fresh and working well with the chutney, the pastry crisp and the caviar, from a supplier called Attilus in London, being good quality (17/20). Also enjoyable was a meatier variation on the same canape, this with the same Brik pastry base, but with chicken liver parfait and orange chutney instead, also topped with caviar. The parfait was smooth and had plenty of depth of flavour (16/20). A final nibble was less successful: raw Orkney scallop was diced fine, mixed with pickled shimeji mushrooms, apple and orange segments with orange snow and sea purslane, presented on a scallop shell. This had too many competing flavours, and the scallop was diced so fine that it was hard to really detect its sweetness, particularly with the orange flavour dominating the dish (12/20). One thing I notice a lot as I travel is how very experienced chefs are not afraid to present simple dishes that show off top ingredients, a fine example being Michel Guerard's Les Pres Eugenie, where a dish rarely has more than three elements. It is tempting to add an extra element or two to a dish to show off your skill as a chef, but really great chefs know when to leave things out.
Stout bread was made in the kitchen from scratch and had very good texture and just a hint of sweetness. The bread was reheated rather than baked fresh as the centre of the bread was a little cold. A starter of Cornish crab had a base of crab soup topped with white crab meat, pickled kohlrabi, Oscietra caviar, dill and a samphire crab crouton on the side. The crab itself was excellent, but again there seemed to be an awful lot of things going on in this dish. Although introducing the sourness from the pickling was a good idea to balance the natural sweetness of the crab, the sharpness was just a little too much in this case (13/20). I had a prettily presented beef tartare, made from a fillet of beef supplied by H.G. Walter in Barons Court. The tartare had oxtail jelly to add a deeper flavour, topped with a layer of radish slices and an egg yolk cooked in beef fat. This was very good, though for me the seasoning could have been bolder (15/20). Scotch egg was given a seafood twist by having prawn and cod instead of meat as a filling, made with quail egg and a style of tartare sauce that was actually based on a Hollandaise sauce. This had a crisp exterior and excellent, nicely seasoned filling (15/20).
The star dish of the meal was veal sweetbread wrapped in “pasta” of celeriac, with Puy lentils, hen of the wood mushroom and chicken sauce. The sweetbread was high quality and was beautifully cooked, the celeriac adding a contrasting texture and earthy flavour, the mushroom working well with the lentils. This was top notch (comfortably 17/20).
Brill from a 3.2 kg fish was grilled and served with broccoli, broccoli purée, deep fried Brazil nuts and a brown butter and lemon sauce. The fish from Cornwall had very good flavour and was precisely cooked, and the nuts provided an interesting contrast to the broccoli (16/20). I was less taken with a visually attractive lobster Thermidor tart. This was made with Cheddar cheese, caramelised maitake mushrooms (aka hen of the woods), with a Thermidor foam and the lobster tail served separately from the tart, the dish resting in a sauce of lobster bisque. On the side was lobster claw marinated with vinegar and truffle shavings and then deep fried. The lobster tail was tender but the deconstruction did make the lobster feel rather unconnected to the cheese and mushroom tart. The main problem for me though was the batter of the lobster claw, which I suspect was cooked at too low a temperature, was a little oily and definitely would not have passed muster in a tempura restaurant in Tokyo (14/20 overall, but less for the claw in isolation). I should mention that a side dish of chips was superb, crisp and evenly cooked and served with good Bearniase sauce. Also pleasant was some hispi cabbage.
For dessert, a pair of jam doughnuts came with rhubarb and custard soft serve ice cream. The ice cream was fine but the doughnuts themselves were disappointing, flavourless and rather soggy. These compared poorly even to pretty basic doughnuts such as the ones that you get at Cafe de Monde in New Orleans, never mind the classy versions that can be found at The Harwood Arms or Davies and Brook (11/20). Even Homer Simpson might turn his nose up at these. Fortunately a pineapple tarte tatin was altogether better, the pastry delicate and the pineapple nicely caramelised, its natural acidity in careful balance with the sugar (15/20). A chocolate tart based on the Cadbury “Double Decker” tart involved Rice Krispies that were coated in chocolate with malted milk ice cream. This was certainly enjoyable (14/20). Coffee was a selection from the premium Difference Coffee brand, with the excellent Brazilian Yellow Bourbon at £5.50 or the classy Blue Mountain at £12. Petit fours were an excellent orange blossom chocolate and a good rum canelé.
Service was excellent, with a Russian waiter whose English was so perfect that we assumed he was a native, and a charming Swiss lady who had previously served me at Angler. The bill came to £140 a head. If you ordered three courses and hunted down a bottle of modestly priced wine on the list then a typical cost per person might be around £115 with service. I enjoyed my meal at the newly revamped Grill. Although it was early days and there was some unevenness in the standard of dishes, there were also some real highlights, in particular the sweetbread dish.