Before service really kicked off we were taken around their calm and austere kitchen. Cheesy gougeres kept us going and they were as addictive as crack. Or as I'd imagine crack to be. We were seated at a table in the restaurant shielded by a fibre optic curtain, which later lit up prettily.
Sourdough bread was served with not only butter but also a whippy light mousse-like cream cheese. Bacon and onion fougasse though was actively disgusting. After my first mouthful I tried it again to make sure but it tasted of old stale pork fat. I'm not the type to shy away from pork fat but I rejected this.
The menu stared off with scallops topped with Kristal caviar. The scallop slices were silky smooth, the creamy citrus-tinged sauce beneath bringing out the flavour of the shellfish. Salty bursts from the caviar seasoned each mouthful. The matching wine was a 2009 Saint-Joseph; deliciously honeyed, working well with the dish.
Next up, a hearty slab of foie gras was caramelised on the outside and silky smooth within. The essence of autumn on a plate, the ceps were earthy, and pillowy light gnocchi soaked up the sauce nicely.
Roasted Scottish lobster with apple and quince was a bit of an odd one. The chunks of quince were overly tart while the heavily reduced sauce drowned out any delicate flavour of the lobster so that the flesh was just a texture on the plate. It was quite disappointing.
In another case of over-saucing, the cream sauce on the turbot dish had a strong flavour of wine, and I could have done with about half the amount. Otherwise, the attention to detail was impressive as the mushrooms were cut prettily. The turbot was cooked expertly.
At this point, we were given the option of having a beef or grouse. I've only tried grouse once and I disliked it, so I ordered it again in the hope it could change my mind. Thankfully it did - not too gamey but cooked till pink and juicy inside, it had the whiff of moorland about it. Around the table, my fellow diners struggled to finish another massive slab of foie gras that their beef fillet was served with.
A slice of truffled brie was gorgeously creamy, the tangle of leaves well dressed. Smeared on hazelnut bread, this was an ample portion.
We were given the dessert menu to peruse and as there were five of us and six choices, we decided to order them all except the lime souffle. They sent us one anyway, and I'm pretty glad too as it was the best on the table. Served with Sichuan pepper ice cream, the souffle rose beautifully and was devoured in minutes. The kitchen obviously have a sterling pastry chef; macarons were spot on, and little chocolate truffles were decadent and lovely. However, a pear dessert was served in a martini glass and was covered in some sort of foam of which there was too much of it and it reminded me of spit. Finishing off with a chocolate mint tea snipped from the branches of a living plant wheeled to our table was a perfect way to end the meal. Refreshing and reviving, I woke up the next day craving one.
The private dining Table Lumiere was very impressive. The problem sometimes with private dining is that you can feel too cut off from the rest of the restaurant, but with the fibre optic curtain you still get your privacy with the atmosphere. I was suprised about the food though; with the kind of reputation it has as a 3 Michelin starred place, there were too many misses to justify the £180 price tag for the seasonal menu. When I thought back on the meal, I struggled to remember many courses - no, it wasn't the booze, but nothing stunned me enough. I reckon their £45 lunch menu (3 courses and half a bottle of wine) is a better bet.
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
London W1K 1QA
Tel: 020 7629 8866