After having tried a few dishes at Ducasses’s restaurant at the Dorchester in October, I decided to go back to celebrate my birthday. Just a few days before my visit I came across the new Michelin rating: Jocelyn Herland (chef de cuisine) was awarded two stars and marked as a rising three star! Amongst the foodie world a hefty discussion broke out immediately. Most have visited the restaurant directly after the opening 14 months ago. Back then Herland told me, the dishes they sent were not at all what he expected and the constant improvement is clear today. But let us not rush things…
The most friendly staff welcome you very warmly and champagne is offered to accompany those extraordinary Barbajuans, little fried ravioli from Monaco, and Gougeres. The Barbajuans are just as good as at the Louis XV, the legendary 3-star in Monte-Carlo. The Gougeres are also very pleasan, if a little mildly spiced for my taste.
Next up, we were offered bread, all three types were excellent accompanied by very good butter and Fontainebleau. The latter didn’t really excite me, but my companion enjoyed it.
When we finished our champagne the first part of our menu arrived: Delicate royale de foie gras et potiron, emulsion fumee. A wonderfully rich royale of foie gras which interacted beautifully with the diced pumpkin and the smoked tea emulsion. A great way to start a meal.
The first « real » course of the menu were the grosses langoustines d’Ecosse en salade tiede, jus coraille. Lovely, crunchy langoustines with (considering that it was January) fully flavoured tomatoes, chicken strips, a anchovy/parmesan mayonnaise and a langoustine jus. A very pleasing, refreshing dish, that portrays the kitchen’s understatement perfectly: These chicken strips are in fact the legs, which are cooked, boned, de-veined, pressed and then covered with the skin. This little package is then pan-fried until crisp. This immense amount of work behind the different components doesn’t show, unless you know it, or have some knowledge of the cuisine here.
To continue, we were served a stunning adaption of a classic from ADPA: Noix de Saint-Jacques dorees, pommes et coings en beaux morceaux rotis au beurre demi-sel. The scallops replaced the lobster here, and the dish was simply one of the best scallop dishes I had in a very long time. Perfect quality of the products, extremely precise cooking and great combination with the sauce and the garniture. Along with the Barbajuans the best dish so far.
After such a strong dish, the following one had a big problem: I had tasted the « original » version of it in Paris in September. At ADPA it was probably the best dish of my life, but here the dish was slightly less complex. Also the turbot wasn’t of the outrageously good quality as the one I had in Paris. However, it was still very good, with a lovely sauce and delicious gnocchi. Would I have not had the original, I would have loved this dish right away.
As you probably noticed, the lighting suddenly became much darker. It seems to be trendy in London to make restaurants so dark that you barely see what you have in front of you.
The meat for me was another star of the night: Filet de chevreuil roti, potiron et chataigne, sauce Grand Veneur. Perfect venison in another great sauce. The only slight fault here was the mildly seasoned punpkin, but that is an affaire de gout. Excellent, nothing that will change your life, just comforting enjoyable food on the highest level.
After the four (plated) cheese, which in general were fine. We came to the best part of the meal, that is the sweet stuff.
I had the Barre coco-caramel, sorbet citron-vanille. Ducasse restaurants are sure to deliver some of the best desserts around, if you go to the trendy Spoon, the not quite so brilliant Abbaye de la Celle or any haute cuisine restaurant, you can be sure that the desserts will be better than many you’ll get in some 2 or 3-star places. Here this doesn’t really change. Perfect execution, very well thought out tastes, all you need.
My companion was served the dessert I had at my last visit: Carre gourmand framboise et rose. This is an outstanding dessert. If there is one dish to be tried here it is this one. It is really on the level of the best restaurants in the world, that should be enough.
The petit-fours are on the same very high level. Macarons are simply irresistible and only Pierre Herme makes better ones.
What can one say overall?
The evening was a real pleasure. This is partially due to my friend, but the food certainly played a role too. It was perfect throughout: excellent quality products, extraordinarily execution, mature, well constructed dishes and reassuring combinations. It is clear that you won’t find the most inventive, crazy cuisine here, but that should not be what you expect of Ducasse (or in this case Herland). It might not be able to deliver one oustanding dish after the other, but there are more than enough excellent ones (desserts, scallops, foie gras, barbajuans). What you get here is simple cooking somewhat between the simplicity and strong flavours of the Louis XV and the refined neo-baroque of ADPA. Herland’s brigade is running like a watch by now and really deserves the two stars. Overall this was much better than Ramsay for instance, or any restaurant in London I’ve tried.