If this isn't the epitome of fine dining, I don't know what is.
It's not everyday that you get to enjoy a 3 hour lunch at a 3 Michelin starred restaurant where you are treated like royalty, fed the most exquisite food, all enjoyed in the setting of one of London's most renowned and iconic hotels. So E and I suited up and made an occasion out of it.
The great thing about these high-end restaurants that make you weep a little at the sight of their a la carte prices, is that many of them offer fixed menus that suit varying budgets and interests. Bookatable has a whole page of "Star Deals" that lists these menus, and there are many restaurants in that list at which you'd ordinarily have to splash some serious cash. I think that these deals are an ideal way to tick off a few restaurants off of your wishlist (foodies will know what I'm talking about) without breaking the bank.
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is just one of the many tempting options, and we were lucky enough to try out their Lunch Hour menu, booked through Bookatable. For £60, you get a 3 course lunch, 2 glasses of wine, half a bottle of water and coffee, but you'll see it's even more than that.
Ducasse is one of E's most revered culinary heroes, so you can just imagine how excited he was. He claims that the Louis XV in Monaco is the best restaurant he has ever been to in his life, but this one at The Dorchester is not so far behind.
Firstly, the lunch menu tells you that it will be a 3 course meal, but quite honestly, it's more like 5. With the many little extras that come with dining at such an establishment - including the gougères, amuse bouche, never-ending supply of fresh bread, and the mignardises - you will take your time, and you will definitely not leave hungry. Oh, and it includes two glasses of excellent wine, which is a big bonus as well.
We started with a mountain of gorgeous gougères, which were light as air, and a mix of stilton, pepper and paprika. To say that they gave us a generous amount is an understatement - I could easily have made a meal out of this huge plate!
Then came the amuse bouche. It was emulsified stilton with pak choi, and quite the appetite whetter. We also chose a couple of different breads - I went for the brioche and the lardon focaccia, which were both divine. Again, I would have been happy with the bread alone for my lunch, but I had to pace myself.
E and I decided to order different starters and mains and share each dish, which worked out well as every single one was beautiful.
The "soft-boiled quail's egg with courgettes and chicken jus" was Spring on a plate - impeccably plated, with flavourful poached chicken to top it off. The "skate wing terrine, confit potatoes and pimiento del piquillo" was incredibly fresh and as light as it was rich, if that even makes sense. I don't think I'd ever tried skate before, and now I know I'm a fan! For the starters, we had the same wine - 2013 Anjou, which we loved.
For the main course, we went with the "roasted lamb rump, roasted orange and yellow carrots" and the "fillet of lemon sole, green peas and spring onions". They were both, simply, perfect. The lamb was cooked just right, and accompanied by the most basic of vegetables, yet it makes you think that carrots are the best things in the world! The lemon sole was also superb, and of course, stunningly presented. As for wine, I was given the 2012 Maranges and E had the 2013 Mâcon-Loché - my red was sublime and E enjoyed his too. (For the wines, you can just ask them to recommend what they think will go best with your order - best to trust those sommeliers in my opinion!)
What we both loved so much about all of these dishes, is the simplicity of them. There is no fanciness or style for the sake of theatre, and the food is left to shine by themselves - the beauty of it is that it really makes you fall in love with the most humble of ingredients. That, in my opinion, is what the real joy of dining is all about.
But let's not stop the superlatives there! We still had dessert waiting for us.
Oh, and a sneaky extra course, too...
Although there is no cheese course in the lunch menu, we threw caution to the wind and decided to treat ourselves. And there were no regrets when a platter of French cheeses (with their accompanying condiments) and a big plate of stilton (that the waiter scoops right out of the barrel!) appeared. If you are a cheese fan, I think that trying one of these is absolutely worth it for the extra cost, but you could easily skip it and still leave more than satisfied.
And then came dessert number one, which are the mignardises. The bundle of joy included mint, orange and chocolate macarons, chocolate truffles, and various different caramels and nougat. Of course, at this point I was getting pretty full and had to hold off from trying too many of these, but luckily our lovely waitress gave the rest to us in a take-away bag so that was a good move!
For the actual dessert, I chose the "contemporary vacherin", which is a modern, deconstructed take on a meringue dessert. It had coconut and vanilla ice cream and mango sorbet, both of which I adore anyway but made at this level? To die for.
E decided to go a la carte for the dessert for a few extra pounds, as he knew that there was a dessert he wanted that he had tried at the Louis XV. Their "baba" is one of a kind - a sponge-cake-type dessert, soaked in a rum of your choosing (they actually bring a selection to your table to sniff and choose from!), paired with the smoothest vanilla cream. It's heavenly.
As you can tell, I could not speak more highly of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, and their Lunch Menu is incredibly good value for money. The service at a 3 Michelin starred restaurant is like no other - I'm not exaggerating when I say that you feel like royalty - they are always attentive without being intrusive, polite but not stuffy and very approachable, and the whole experience is just wonderfully special.
We both definitely hope to return for lunch again, and I'd suggest you put this one on your list for a deliciously luxurious lunch that you won't get over for a while.
disclaimer: I was invited by Bookatable to try their Lunch Menu, and to give an honest review. All opinions are my own.
NB: the cheese course and the "baba" are not part of the lunch menu.