Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester
Two walls are covered in clusters of thousands of green silk buttons that echo the trees and shrubbery just beyond the large windows, which look out over Park Lane and Hyde Park. Far-apart tables (there are a maximum of 80 diners) are set with napery, cutlery, and china that whisper luxury. There’s a sculptural fiber-optic curtain of light where the diminutive dance floor used to be. And if you can get to see the kitchen…it’s a thing of beauty. Still, the food, presided over by Jocelyn Herland, who has come from Ducasse’s Paris restaurant at the Plaza Athénée, manages to take precedence over the surroundings. Ducasse’s self-confident menu does offer the elaborate freebies we’ve come to expect, but I especially liked the I-want-to-eat-it-all bread and small plate of crunchy baby crudités with a runny riff on anchovy paste. What follows is blissfully restrained, contemporary French cuisine, with a relish for good British ingredients. Among the beneficiaries of this approach are the squid bonbons with crisp green vegetables—thumb-size portions of pearly squid encompassing a deeply satisfying stuffing that includes its tiny tentacles; a perfectly poached breast of Landes chicken in spectacular sauce Albufera, which gets its smoky note from the incorporation of foie gras; and his famous dessert star of fresh raspberries, edible silver, and chocolate. Ducasse is serious money, a minimum $150 for three courses—but there is a $70 prix fixe lunch, and if he happens to be in the kitchen himself (a rare occurrence—after all, the man’s got 14 Michelin stars to look after), you might think it worth taking out that second mortgage to pay for your dinner.