So what can you tell us about Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester?
Well the key thing is that it's one of only four restaurants in the UK to merit three stars from Michelin, which puts it in a pretty rarefied group. But unlike Gordon's Royal Hospital Road gaff or the two in Bray it could be said to be the least well known of the group to non-foodies. Ducasse has 23 restaurants around the world - six of which bear his name. His London outpost opened in 2007 and has Jocelyn Herland running the kitchen.
Where is it?
Take a wild guess. Yes it's in the Dorchester, half way down the Promenade on the left in a ground floor room overlooking Park Lane.
Who's it suitable for?
Everyone from restaurant collectors to people celebrating special occasions - Ducasse at the Dorchester is definitely a dress-up place (an unofficial dress code suggests jackets - and certainly on the weekday evening we visited, everyone was either in suits or LBDs). When we asked Maitre D' Maxime Ejoff who it's popular with he told us diners were more likely to be Londoners than hotel guests. It's also a favoured dining spot for Arsenal footballers apparently and for Parisians - as the set menu here is notably cheaper than comparable restaurants in Paris.
Where should we meet for a drink first?
We'd like to say the bar at The Dorchester, but to be honest it's just not in the same league as other hotels bars at, say, Claridges or the Connaught. If you don't mind hiking up to the top of the Hilton Park Lane, the bar at Galvin at Windows is great or on ground level there's always Corrigan's round the corner or Wolfgang Puck's Cut across the road.
Is bread included?
But of course. There was a large selection - but once our waiter had mentioned the words 'bacon bread' and 'scottish rolls with pork fat' we weren't listening anymore. Spreads were salted butter or whipped cream cheese. There was also a large mound of savoury paprika or black pepper choux buns and a few tiny hot parcels of what looked like ravioli but contained baba ghanoush.
Where should I sit?
Larger groups can choose either the adjoining dining alcove or - if there's seven or less or you - La Table Lumiere - certain the dining room's centrepiece, a fabulous table encircled by a curtain of shimmery light filaments, separating you by light from the rest of the dining room. Tables out by the window seemed popular, but we rather liked our table for two just as you enter the room on the left which lets you look out over the dining room (and allows the waiters to serve you using a cunning pincer movement as they pass behind the partition that blocks the doorway).
So the food - what should I choose?
You've three key choices to start with - the a-la-carte, tasting or seasonal tasting (or the set lunch). We went for the tasting menu to get an idea of the full range of the kitchen and to make sure we tried some of the signature dishes. We began with warm dorset crab served all frothy and light in what looked like a pottery easter egg. This was followed by a crockpot of green asparagus with morels and grated Comte - which was tasty, but pretty tricky to eat given how it was served.
Our next dish was one of the dishes that's always on the menu - sauteed slivers of lobster served up with truffled chicken quenelles - a lovely dish and very Michelin in its presentation. Next up was probably our favorite course - one created to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ducasse's first restaurant at the Louis XV in Monaco. This was a fillet of wild sea bass with a teeny garlic croquette, baby artichoke and olives - earthy and gutsy and tasting of a gussied-up Provence. We followed that with a rare loin of Limousin milk-fed veal served with crunchy nuggets of sweetbreads which was great, but suffered by comparison to that fabulous sea bass.
The cheese course consisted of four slices of cheese ranging from Brie to Roquefort served up with matching chutneys and condiments. By dessert, we were flagging, so while the raspberry and almond composition was lovely - it got short shrift by being served up after a bowl of lovely passionfruit and strawberry macaroons which were frankly fabulous and devoured in an instant.
And the wine?
The wine-pairing chosen by sommelier Vincent Pastorello was, for us, one of the best we've ever had - presented with charm, enthusiasm and a great deal of thought. Our favourites were the 2009 Sancerre Cuvee Jadis which went with the asparagus and morels - complex and interesting and totally unlike any Sancerre we'd ever had before - and a 2010 Gruner Veltliner from Schloss Fobelsburg with the lobster and truffled chicken quenelles which we liked so much we came home, looked it up on the internet and bought a half case of it. The pairing we had is usually £95 for seven glasses although apparently Vincent squeezed one or two wines from their Prestige wine pairing for us to try which is probably why we loved it so much.
So how much is it going to cost me?
It's a three Michelin-starred restaurant on Park Lane - these things don't come cheap - so expect to pay £120 for the standard 7 course tasting menu or £180 for the seasonal tasting menu. That said, the seasonal menu is 380 euros at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée in Paris, so London is a relative bargain.
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester surprised us - on a Tuesday evening we were expecting the dining room to be pretty quiet and for the meal (and service) to be rather starchy and formal. That wasn't what we got. The room was packed - and had been for lunch as well - and the service was uniformly great. Staff were friendly and helpful and although it was marginally irritating having to work out the description of what we were being served because of a particularly strong French accent or two, well then that's definitely a first world problem. The food was fun - and although refined, wasn't overtly prissy. All in all, it's a great place for a special occasion.
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester. Park Lane, London W1K 1QA. Find out more
Hot Dinners were invited to eat at Alain Ducasse. Prices were correct at time of writing.