Ducasse - Three Stars?
So... I am lucky enough to have eaten in the three three star restaurants in the country, albeit for lunch, prior to this year and thought it best I 'tick off' the newest addition to the prestigious list.
Six of us arrived at the Dorchester with varying degrees of hope based on the mixed reviews the restaurant had received; but our mind was open and our hunger helped by some rather good coffees at Tapped and Packed (Rathbone Place) before arrival.
First thoughts: it was difficult to get past the money that this place has, a Murcielago and a 595 parked outside set the scene, and the half term oriented Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea in the central dining room!
Having straightened my tie and asked the mad hatter to kindly let me pass we made our way into the Ducasse eating area. The room is spacious and allowed us plenty of room to enjoy our oncoming lunch.
It all started with a tall tower of good, but not great gouje, could have been a little warmer and cheesier for my liking, but not a bad way to start and a very nice Riesling (£45).
Choosing to continue our theme of three star eating we ate off the set lunch, with it offering wine, water and coffee as part of its deal (a la Gavroche).
The amuse bouche of broccoli mousse with raw veg was nice but a little lacking, good veg flavour but missing a dimension, accompanying bread was good, but a little cooler than I personally like my restaurant bread to be served, butter was good mind.
Starter of quail egg and brandade was nice, others of crab and coral were also pleasant however lacked any zing.
A main of chicken with foie gras was tasty but feel i have tasted better chiken at home and although the breast was moist the skin was soft and a 'flappy', accompanying potatoes still had skin on and were not better for it, the jus however was excellent. Others mains of fish with a nut crust was tasty and left me a little jealous I didn't go down that route.
Desserts were chosen and prior to their arrival the petits fours delivered, something I found a little strange, I would rather they accompanied my coffee post dessert. That aside desserts were again nice but nothing special, the petits fours however were excellent, very good salt caramel and nougat, servings were generous to a tee.
The wine was good, the bourgogne particularly nice, however the not remembering of who was drinking what and the failure to deliver our water until the mains were almost finished was a little vexing.
All in all the meal was solid, probably a 7/10 based on GFG scoring system, however the lack of real 'wow' in any course and the relatively lacking service did make me wonder the starring sytem in this country.
Bargains aside this was by no means a three star feed, two at a push and certainly left us all a little underwhelmed.
It's an interesting report - from the sounds of the Alice in Wonderland fayre we were probably there at around the same time.
I ate the quail's eggs and the chicken and my girlfriend had the crab and then the plaice. I have to say I thought my meal was excellent, particularly the chicken dish which was perfectly cooked for me. The crab starter was superb too and the plaice looked very good. The quail's eggs were fine but nothing stellar (other than the presentation). My dessert of rice pudding and mango sorbet was a clever combination but poorly executed I thought.
There are two main elements that made it a very special experience for us. Firstly the service was absolutely top class in my view and it surprises me you felt so differently. My girlfriend got a free birthday cake which was beautiful and we weren't charged for our champagne, even when I pointed out that it wasn't on the bill which I thought was a classy touch. The sommelier was superb and very interesting and I just felt it struck that perfect balance between class and informality.
We did also come away reeling at just how good value the whole experience would have been.
I wouldn't really presume to say I can judge between two and three star restaurants, personally I couldn't really tell you why the Royal Hospital Road has three stars but Marcus Wareing only two.
I do think though that if you have a menu that costs less than £40 for two courses, water, wine, coffee and petit fours in a 3* restaurant you know you won't be getting the very best ingredients they have. I wouldn't presume to judge Ducasse against similar restaurants until I'd tried the tasting menu.
Manin makes a good point. Is it possible/sensible to truly evaluate a 3* when you are eating their entry level product?
On one hand I think that, if it is a three star, then every element every time should be a three star experience. On the other I quite like the opportunity to eat well and relatively cheaply in a lovely restaurant. I would say on balance I like having the choice, I understand that the "bargain" lunch menu isn't totally representative of their A-league menu so I modify me expectations.
Thus to be fair to top restaurants you need to test the ALC against ALC (unless it is the FD which is only degustation). And if you go for the bargain lunch maybe it is only fare to compare against other meals at a similar price point i.e. who else is delivering the same quality 3 course meal for £45 including wine and water in a superb room?
PS - warm bread...! I suspect the world is divided into the warm and the cold breaders. I prefer mine stone cold as I think the texture is better and it works better with good quality butter. I know others prefer it warm so butter melts. Clearly no right or wrong but tricky for a restaurant to get it right.
You're not the only one Stan. A LOT of people are left wondering how this restaurant managed 3 stars in an unprecidented 2 years. It's not that the food is that bad, it's just suspicious when considered next to other restaurants of lesser rating who offer a similar experience.
The room is incredible though - God only knows how much it cost!