London’s luxury hotels often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to dining. The city’s food scene is known for its energy – its fast-moving, cutting edge concepts and here today, gone tomorrow pop-ups. So how to keep pace when you’re an aged institution with a clientele that reveres your old world glamour but still expects the best modern cuisine?
Over at The Dorchester, the answer is, apparently, simply to offer a bit of everything – which, to be fair, with nearly 250 rooms under its roof, it has space for. Looking for old school fine dining? Alain Ducasse has got you covered. Fancy a Chinese? Step right this way to China Tang. In need of a morning pick-me-up? The Dorchester has its own coffee shop. There’s even a French patisserie in the spa should you be so inclined post-massage.
In fact so extensive is the hotel’s catering operation that it has seven kitchens in which a brigade of more than 100 chefs can be found churning out exquisite morsels around the clock. The newest of these is Tom Booton, the baby-faced head chef of The Grill at The Dorchester who, at 26, is the youngest head chef in a luxury London hotel ever. He was poached from Alyn Williams at The Westbury and took over from Alain Ducasse – who, one imagines rather nerve wrackingly, is still operating just down the hall – in late 2019.
And so to the restaurant. To call it a ‘grill’ in the surf and turf sense is about as big an understatement as calling Harrods a corner shop. Take one glance at the elegantly curated menu or one sweep around the opulently rich interiors, complete with plush leather banquettes, a globe-shaped Champagne trolley and the kind of carefully proportioned tables that work as well for business meetings as they do intimate dinners, and it’s clear you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Yes, there is steak and rack of lamb and a faultless prawn Scotch egg that will have you wondering why no-one thought of that earlier. But there’s also a summer-light salad of beetroot, ricotta and pecans and a glazed sweetbread lying atop a bed of lentils, maitake and celeriac that’s enough to change the mind of even the most ardent offal refusenik. There’s also a vegan menu offering actual choices across four courses (it’s rarer than you’d think).
An extensive wine list, of which almost every one is available by the glass, carafe or bottle, starts at £23 and climbs into the hundreds. We recommend putting yourself into the highly capable hands of The Grill’s sommelier, who was more than up to the challenge of finding the perfect tipple for my lamb-loving, red wine loathing companion.
Normally abstain from dessert? Don’t. It’s quite the event at The Grill thanks to the newly renovated Pudding Bar. Take a seat across from the open pastry kitchen and order directly from the chefs themselves. Challenge yourself to guess the secret ingredients in a pre-dessert of fresh berries and ‘snow’ – we won’t spoil the surprise but we were only the twelfth people to get it right – before tucking into Booton’s signature, intensely chocolatey ‘Double Decker’.
Hotel restaurants often get a bad (but largely justified) rap for their anonymity and lack of atmosphere. With its energetic new chef and opulent interior overhaul, The Grill at The Dorchester has become the kind of classic-but-modern fine dining restaurant that both tourists and Londoners will find easy to love.
Join the Gentleman’s Journal Clubhouse here.