Hotel restaurants are often maligned for being devoid of atmosphere or even slightly stuffy, but The Grill at The Dorchester, relaunched back in October 2019 under the auspices of twinkly-eyed twenty-something Tom Booton is most definitely not. The youngest London hotel chef of all time serves up a feast of the senses in super-stylish surroundings befitting a romantic soirée.
It was a joy to be back out fine dining once again after nearly two years of being in the grips of a global pandemic and its ensuing lockdowns – indeed it was my wife Rachel’s first venture back into town since it all began, which gave this date night added significance.
One of the prerequisites before Booton accepted residence was to relax the dress code and dispense with the starched linen in favour of a more relaxed, approachable vibe.The re-imagined restaurant, a strikingly glamorous makeover of this corner of the legendary hotel, within eyeshot of its iconic Kentia palm-fringed Promenade, fuses The Dorchester’s iconic elegance with a contemporary tone brimming with creative flourishes. Gone are the tartan interiors and colossal murals of historic Scottish characters of its former incarnation. In its place designer Bruno Moinard has gone all out gilt and black gloss, showcasing magical pivoting wall panels which automatically swivel as day turns into night, with a show-stopping hand-blown Murano glass chandelier as its centrepiece. Cleverly placed inward-facing buttery-leather banquettes on each corner of the restaurant ensure you miss none of the action: it’s worth noting that the acoustics are exemplary, creating a vibrant ambiance buzzy enough to still make yourself heard above the cacophony, but not feel as though you’re in a library.
Not before our glasses are charged with Veuve Clicquot Brut aperitifs, my wife and I are introduced to course after course of culinary artistry: the dinner commences with each of us choosing a starter from the selection of lighter bites: an exquisitely presented Cumbrian Beef tartare topped by a geometrically arranged multitude of overlapping radish roundels and an egg yolk; Red pepper soup, mackerel green olive tapenade rouille, and one each from the secondary slightly more substantial starters: Roasted scallop, coco beans, parmesan and crispy caviar and a sublime Crispy onion mushroom risotto with delectable onion butter sauce. Each heavenly dish is a journey through texture and flavour conjuring up surprises with every mouthful. As the mains arrive, Cornish Turbot with potato, taramasalata hollandaise and capers and Huntsman Farm suckling pig, the accompanying bottle of sumptuous Rioja Blanco, crafted from the indiginous Viura grape variety, continues to impress. Sides of potato boulangère and seasonal greens cooked to perfection complete the picture.
Service is exemplary throughout with attentive, but never overbearing staff, catering to our every need and making us feel very much at home. A very well oiled knowledgeable brigade of all under-30s impart advice about everything from traceability to their very own recommendations if they sense any indecision.
As if the night could not have got any better, we’re invited to take our seats at The Pudding Bar, where our desserts are prepared before our very eyes – adding a unique touch of theatre as you physically have to get up from your seat and are encouraged to interact with the pastry chefs while your fellow diners watch on. Much like a pullman bar with individual lamps accompanying each place setting, it’s set against an ephemeral backdrop of tropical plants cascading out of copper pans and cute coloured flowers in complementary tones. First up is a guess the ingredients game based on a mini-dessert – we fared pretty well by identifying a lime cheesecake which was so unbelievably light it was like chomping on thin air. For the main dessert we decided upon the Rhubarb and custard soft serve – dispensed from a Mr Whippy style ice cream machine before being garnished with tarragon and drizzled with rhubarb fruit. Two crispy McDonald’s-style warm rhubarb pies provide added crunch.
Booton himself even comes out to greet us and we talk about, amongst other things, our Essex roots and compliment him on how he’s managed to create such an approachable yet intimate space – no mean feat when you’re housed in a renowned institute with a clientele that reveres old school glamour but at the same time expects the very finest contemporary cuisine.
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