Bob Baker – C&C Guest Review of the Month 

Gone are the days of the glamour, the refinement, the elegant clientele. The wealth remains, but the class has long since dissipated. The Coupe de Champagne struggled to justify itself against the backdrop of barking Australasians and a carpet littered with ghastly ‘wheelie bags’-the unnecessarily oversized briefcase of the modern era. ‘C’ and I had arrived a little early, a consequence of our giddy excitement for the opening night of the Dorchester’s new Grill room, and found ourselves grumbling over the drunken hoards like a pair of old farts, whilst labouring to enjoy the crisp mousse of a Laurent Perrier. From afar, we looked upon the Grill’s ornate entrance as the staff organised themselves with the nervous excitement of a West-End cast before opening night. With great eager, all attempted to busy themselves and look official, desperately trying to find themselves a role amongst the conservative over-staffing of a restaurant launch.

As we neared the desk, and were spotted by the staff, it was if a switch clicked, and in a moment they snapped into gear offering up to us all the welcoming niceties of a choreographed script. To our every whim, everyone was clamouring to attend, but it was the tall dark-featured Frenchman that pressed himself foremost and won the chance to show C and I to our table. Our early reservation had signalled kick-off. Our waiter would be the kind-faced Basque, watched over hawkishly by the Maître D’ with a look of uncompromising expectation. We had a nice table, I wasn’t sure if we would be assigned a dud given our lowly status, but all seemed well as Tom Aikens and his merry ensemble were seated adjacent.

After being welcomed by a beautiful salmon rillete, C & I opted for the lobster chowder and Lemon sole goujons to start. The chowder was fantastic, the goujons a little bland. To follow, we shared the entrecote given that we wanted a ‘grill’ rather than Michelin restaurant experience. The meat displayed the perfect amount of tenderising fat so synonymous with the Angus breed. The only murmur from our table was that the meat should have been allowed to rest for a moment longer as the blood seeped onto our plate, but given we ordered rare and didn’t want a cold slab of meat – it was understandable. Reminiscent of the Grill of yester year, our rib arrived, and was hence carved on a trolley – a well-received feature of continuity between the restaurants of new and old. For dessert, we both opted for a Soufflé – and although the chocolate lacked in flavour, the pistachio and caramel was superb. We might have found room for another.

As the curtains came down on the dinner, we reflected on what we had experienced. The plates were accomplished – the Chef here is certainly talented – of that there is no doubt. Indeed, Jocelyn Herland was overseeing the kitchen (Head Chef of Alain Ducasse’s namesake restaurant across the hall) so a poor dinner was near on impossible. However, the lingering consideration we left with was whether the Dorchester’s new Grill room is a Grill at all, or rather another permutation of a top level restaurant. The bill came to nigh on three hundred of the Queen’s finest pounds and we certainly hadn’t boozed copiously. The bill made us question whether we might as well have eaten amongst the glittering Michelin stars of the hotel’s main restaurant.  Although in the same room as the old Grill, it is completely reimagined. A question a diner must ask is whether this restaurant has found a separate identity from the Hotel’s other offering. The space endures, but what fills it is quite different.

The Grill at the Dorchester on Urbanspoon Square Meal