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May 28, 2009 04:09 AM

Hibiscus vs. Alain Ducasse @ The Dorchester

Hi all!

I have a bit of a conundrum. Weekend in London coming up, and we wanted to have dinner at Hibiscus. Nothing was available, so we booked a table at Alain Ducasse instead.

Now we've been offered a table at Hibiscus after all, but don't know if we should switch back.

What would you choose?

I'd appreciate any opinions if you've been to either of the restaurants, good and bad reviews!

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  1. here's the thing, they are 2 of the very best in london.

    Hibiscus is more modern, more innovative whilst ducasse is very classical.

    any differences in quality will be meaningless when weighed up in terms of style preference. that will be the decider.

    what appeals more? a perfect Rhum Baba or a savoury foie gras icecream with balsamic vinegar?

    Ducasse is also more of a formal, old school, occasion place; whereas Hibiscus is lighter and brighter.

    also I guess it depends on how comfortable you feel in such places.

    if it's about everything maybe ducasse, if just for the food I'd say hibiscus. though technically I think ducasse is slightly better food, the modern flourishes at Hibiscus will give you more to focus on.

    1 Reply
    1. re: batfink23

      I think batfink nails the difference. Both good restaurants. One modern one more classical.

      Recent reports would say that Ducasse is on the up, with lots of recent reports saying it was better than then mixed reviews on opening. Hibiscus may be the opposite, my meal there approx 6 months ago was OK but not as good as I had hoped and other recent reports indicate it is going through a patchy period. But this is good versus less good not bad.

      Bottom line is do you want classical or modern?

    2. I've never been to Ducasse but have been twice to Hibiscus - once when it was in Ludlow, once since it moved. Out of all the meals I have enjoyed in, say, the last five years, these are my top two.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        at least you can afford the wines at hibiscus

        1. re: tony h

          untrue. they are as highly marked up as Ducasse.

          there are fewer low end choices at Ducasse, but still some great ones - and arguably better ones.

          for example, they have some mature (99/00/01) Gramenon Sierra du Sud (pure syrah) for mid £40's.

          brilliant wine, great price, rare as hens teeth.

      2. Well, Ducasse is a bit soulless - the techniques are first-rate but one has the feeling that this is simply a division of a successful international empire. Instead, I would try The ledbury which is a rising Two Star with the most impressive young chef in London - Brett Graham. As it is partially owned by The Square it also has a hog-whimperingly wonderful wine list and is open lunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday. Superb high euro cuisine.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Coryate

          the Ledbury is still clearly the poor cousin of the square.
          I am a fan, but I think you over-state it quite a bit.

          don't think it is in the class of the other two.

          and the wine list is good, but it still employs a very healthy 65% or so GP.

          1. re: batfink23

            "but it still employs a very healthy 65% or so GP."

            What does this mean, please? Not understanding the terminology means I don't know if you are saying this is a good or bad thing.


            1. re: Harters

              GP = gross profit. Typically it is the difference between the cost of the ingredients in a dish and the cost of the dish on the menu. Obviously the true profit will be far lower as staff costs, rent, electricity etc need to be factored in. Chefs keep an eagle eye on the GP because it is good measure of kitchen efficiency i.e. getting the most out of ingredients, avoiding wastage etc. Obviously if they own the restaurant they need to keep an eye on both GP and true profit.

              If you remember a few weeks ago the red tops were astounded by the 70/80% GP made by Ramsay between his production kitchen and his pubs, a misleading piece of journalism as this is the GP restaurants need to operate at to survive.

              For wine I assume Batfink meant the difference between retail and restaurant price - I imagine the true GP will be far higher as they will generally buy at wholesale prices.

              So bottle of wine at £50 on the menu then retail price £17.50. Or £20 main course, ingredient cost £6.00 at a 70% GP.

              1. re: PhilD

                YUP. 65% means close to 3 times retail.

                the other stuff about the economics isn't quite true, because many if not most restaurants have skewed pricing policies where the food is sold at a loss, and the margin on booze subsidises.

                what's more the GP on food is based on the idea that there is value added to the raw ingredients, where you purchase something "whole" in that isn't quite the same thing. for example what do you do with a bottle of wine, other than compensate for a lack of business acumen in other areas of your restaurant?

                back on subject, the ledbury's wine list is fine. it has plenty of range, but nothing that cannot be purchased easily elsewhere at retail and high prices. the way some people talk about the ledbury, it might be the most overrated restaurant in london at the moment - and I think its very good.

                1. re: batfink23

                  I agree the food side of a business may lose money and booze/rooms may balance the books i.e. Net profit of food is negative.

                  However, I thought in the hospitality industry GP had quite a specific meaning (as in my previous post) and thus I would be astounded if the GP showed a loss, I don't think any restaurant would sell food below the costs of the ingredients.

                  Not really certain the term GP is usually applied to wine. "Mark-up" is more common i.e. in your example a 300% mark-up. As you say, it is a pass through product with little value add apart from storage, chilling and glassware.

                  Catersearch has a good (basic) guide to the subject:

                  Isn't The Ledbury highly rated because it is good value for what it does? Good food at a slightly lower price than many of its peers?

                2. re: PhilD

                  Ah. GP = Gross profit. Fully understood now.

                  Thanks, Phil.

                3. re: Harters

                  in short it means you're still being screwed.

            2. HI Hangry Girl,

              I went to both restaurants and I clearely preffered Alan Ducasse. Ducasse is a modern restaurant, look at the website. The cuisine is just the best in London, absolutely not heavy. I found it more romantic too. I paid the same price in both of them. It is up to you now.
              FYI: The chef of hibiscus used to be a chef de partie of Alan Ducasse in France. He is talented but still need to improve to reach the master.

              3 Replies
              1. re: nicolas grounin

                Thanks everyone for all the insightful comments! I really appreciate everyone's thoughts.

                I've decided on Alain Ducasse!


                1) While Hibiscus is somewhat less expensive, both restaurants are far from friendly on the wallet. This meal will be our one splurge, and as long as I stick with the (very!) low end of the Ducasse wine list, I don't think the prices differ that much.

                2) Looking at photos, the room at Alain Ducasse looks like it has an aesthetic that I prefer over Hibiscus'. Both places look really nice, but I think I prefer the look of Ducasse.

                3) While I tend to prefer "exciting & modern" dishes over "classical & traditional" (I preferred Sketch over Claridges), my significant other is celebrating his birthday and he prefers the more classical style (both in decor and in food).

                I will report back on what I think.

                As a side note, I'll put The Ledbury on a short list for next time I'm in London.

                1. re: nicolas grounin


                  I am not sure what you mean as there is nothing modern about alain ducasse's cuisine and the website is not really relevant.

                  I preferred ducasse slightly myself, but am mystified by your characterisation as a modern restaurant. the cuisine is very, very classical and the menu itself has been broadly replicated from his other 3* restaurants. But if ducasse is modern, Paul Bocuse is molecular! lol.

                  1. re: batfink23

                    Maybe Nicolas meant the decor?
                    Bosi's cooking is much more exciting and creative (and, in my opinion, tasty) than Herland's.
                    The cooking at ADAD appears to be improving continually and the restaurant is physically nicer and experience, more indulgent (...breads/butters/amuses/petit fours/sweet trolley/parting gift), but Hibiscus seemed to me the most exciting kitchen in London (although I have not heard much about it over the last few months).
                    I have only been to The Square (3x) and l'Anima of those four.
                    The Square is very good, but more sophisticated than cool. l'Anima was very enjoyable and, from what I have read, only seems to have gotten better since my visit (ages ago) when they first opened.
                    Maze is popular, but Hakkasan is probably trendier.
                    Nobu is 'cool', but I was not impressed by the food, except the signature black cod.
                    Umu is another posh & trendy place, but froom my visit (circa) two years ago, I am unable to recall a single dish...