Review: Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London

Four days, 10 Michelin stars – Part 1!

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is the most recent UK restaurant to be initiated into the three star club. Under the direction of the iconic Ducasse, expectations were high.

The restaurant is situated slap bang in the middle of the Dorchester hotel, and with this comes some drawbacks. Accessing the restaurant involves trekking nearly the full length of the grand corridor – whilst being glared at by eagle eyed tourists and their minders. This arduous trip must be made every time nature calls – the toilets are adjacent to the front door.

The dining room is beautifully appointed, with tables very generously spaced. However, it is impossible to shake the ‘hotel effect’. Everything feels rather clinical (service included) and you can’t help but feel on edge.

(Apologies for the poor photos. Light was low and frowns ensued whenever the flash went off!)

Amuse-bouche consisted of pumpkin soup served in what resembled a giant easter egg. Ok, if a little uninspiring.


A ‘signature’ dish of lobster, truffle chicken quenelles and pasta was chosen to begin. The homemade pasta was delicious and cooked perfectly. However, the quenelles contained little flavour of truffle and were hopelessly bland. The accompanying bisque overpowered the delicate lobster and was a tad cloying. It must be noted, however, that this was the most tender and well-cooked lobster we had eaten for some time.


Another ‘signature’ starter of raw and cooked vegetables, olives and tomato syrup was distinctly unsatisfying. The vegetables, both raw and cooked, were bland – many tasting terribly acidic. There was barely a whiff of the dubbed tomato in the tomato syrup. The accompanying crisp (which resembled a spiced poppadum), although beautiful, had little taste and was not quite crisp enough. If only this dish had tasted as beautiful as it looked.

Raw and Cooked Vegetables

Tournedos Rossini is definitely in my top 10 dishes – when done perfectly. There was nothing terribly wrong with the version served at Alain Ducasse; however, it failed to truly impress. The beef was cooked well and was tender, but lacked flavour. The slab of accompanying foie gras was too large for the size of steak and thus overpowered – it was also slightly overcooked. Unfortunately the charred lettuce washed away what little flavour there was. Altogether quite an unsatisfying dish.


Scallops with citrus and swiss chard was nice. Scallops were cooked and seasoned well, although the portion was too small for a main dish. The citrus element was overpowering and acidic (and I love citrus). The swiss chard was well cooked and retained some crunch. Perhaps ‘nice’ is an adjective which should not feature in cooking of this level.

Scallops, Citrus, Swiss Chard

Rib and belly of Denbighshire pork with black pudding and calvados jus failed to impress. The belly was undercooked and the rib was overcooked, dry and lacked flavour. The homemade black pudding was overly fatty and salty and the calvados jus too heavy. Veal with girolles and fresh almonds was palatable if unexciting.

The cheese course was a pre-chosen selection of french cheeses with accompaniments. The cheese was fine – the same cannot be said for the accompaniments, which at best were bizarre.


Raspberry soufflé had risen spectacularly and was perfectly cooked with a strong hit of raspberry, a great success. Unfortunately, this was not the case for composition of apples – the granny smith sorbet tasting too acidic and the apple tart purely of sugar.

Rum baba was a delightful way to finish a meal, if a little heavy. A choice of rum was offered which then drowned the perfectly cooked and satisfyingly sweet baba.


Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester promised so much, yet failed to truly deliver. Front of house were unnervingly efficacious – you felt that they would have been chastised if they so much as cracked a smile. The food was at best uninspiring and appeared to lack effort and finesse – certainly not what is to be expected of a 3 star restaurant. You cannot even begin to compare the restaurant with other 3 star establishments (and many 2 star). For a true 3 star experience visit Royal Hospital Road or The Waterside Inn and give the overhyped hotel food a miss.

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

Food (For Five): £453

Dress Code: Smart

Reservations: Essential

Recommend: No

Review: Baboo, Benalmádena, Spain

Sometimes the most satisfying experiences are the unexpected. After a quick 9 holes at Benalmádena Golf we thought it fitting that we pop in for lunch at the clubhouse restaurant – Baboo.

My experiences of clubhouse lunches have been mixed. Whilst some have proved remarkable (Sandy Lane, Barbados is standout), the vast majority are mediocre at best – trying to tempt you with outdated and overpriced menus. Although Baboo looked great (modern and airy with some asian embellishments), the ‘fusion’ menu sent shivers down my spine. For those of you who don’t know, I usually detest all forms of food dubbed ‘fusion’ – an overused term which usually describes a car-crash of ingredients.

Baboo proved me wrong. The food was stunningly, unexpectedly delicious.

A light, airy brick of frozen foie gras (akin to el bulli parmesan air) was paired with freeze-dried raspberries, caramel wafers and crunchy peanut butter. The result was fantastic, very light whilst maintaining an impressive depth of flavour – sweet without cloying.

Cod, Smoked Egg Yolk

Crunchy morsels of delicate, flaky cod were fried in potato and served atop a smoked egg yolk. Kept interesting by the smoked yolk, this was a refreshingly simple dish.

Bresaola Salad

Bresaola salad contained wonderfully mature bresaola, pickled chillies, hard cheese and a punchy wholegrain mustard dressing. The cheese was so expertly shaved it all but dissolved on the tongue.

Ibérico Pork Stirfry

A pork stirfry – elevating stirfry to new heights. The inclusion of crunchy potato sticks amongst the morsels of tender pork were a revelation. Remaining crunchy in the stirfry they gave glorious contrast of texture when paired with the soft noodles. The vegetables were kept crisp and all was helped along by a rich soy based sauce.

Baboo has made me think twice about criticising fusion cooking. Presentation and balance of flavour were superb. I certainly did not expect to stumble across this little gem when hacking my way around 9 holes. Modern, refreshing food in fine surroundings – I will be sure to make a return.

Restaurant Baboo

Dress Code: Casual

Reservations: Not Essential

Recommend: Yes

Review: Restaurante Calima, Marbella, Spain

I’m suffering from severe post-holiday blues following a week of some fantastic Andalusian food!

During a whistle-stop tour of Marbella I just had to visit Restaurante Calima. Opened by local poster boy Dani Garcia in 2005, Calima is one of seventeen two-star restaurants in Spain and the only in Andalusia.

Situated on the Marbella beachfront adjacent to the Gran Meliá Don Pepe hotel, the dining room offers beautiful views of the Mediterranean. Tables are very generously spaced and the modern dining room is flanked by an open finishing kitchen – separated from diners by floor to ceiling glass.

One of our party has Coeliac disease and an allergy to poultry – often resulting in incomplete or inedible dishes. Calima provided fresh gluten-free bread and substituted a variety of dishes, for this they must be applauded.

Dani Garcia has crafted a 21 course menu (the only on offer) entitled Oxímoron. Showcasing local produce the menu is predominately fish based and carefully crafts both unusual and contradicting flavours.

Memorable dishes follow.

‘Egg with no egg’ was a delicious hollowed egg-shell filled with a cold garlic and almond soup and lychee – both sweet and very savoury.

Roasted Nitro Tomato

Nitro Tomato looked incredible. Nitro tomato covered in a metallic jelly and paired with a salt cod emulsion. A great burst of tomato flavour, although the interior of my tomato was a little icy. The emulsion was strong without overpowering.

Rocky Seabed

Rocky Seabed was a real feast for the eyes. The sight of tentacles and heads usually fills me with dread, thankfully these were miniscule and delicious – fresh and tender. The addition of lemon peel gave the dish some much-needed acidity. The texture of the ‘crisp’ was sublime – created from obulato (a potato starch).

Cherries with Cream

Cherries with Cream was a star course. Meltingly smooth, cold foie gras mousse was encased with port jelly. Served with an acidic cheese foam (with a taste similar to unripe goats cheese).

Boquerones’s Stall

Boquerones’s Stall – Anchovies encased in a pliable meringue tasting of lemon. Past experience dictates that I avoid anchovies like the plague; however, these were a pleasant surprise. Very tender, salty and acidic.


An optional course, Spanish caviar was paired with dates and a lightly smoked foam. Another very memorable course, the balance of flavour was near perfect – sweet, salty and savoury.

Emulsified Béarnaise & Pigeon

A beautifully rich and tangy béarnaise sat atop diced pigeon. A heavy dish, the crunch of the potato ‘nest’ added great texture.

‘The Butterfly’

A previous dessert of ‘silkworm’ (cotton candy filled with cream cheese and raspberry) transformed into ‘The Butterfly’. Delicate mango tuiles for wings, a raspberry and chocolate body. A delicious combination of textured, the wings were overpowered by the strong chocolate.


Checkmate was served before petit fours, white and dark chocolate pieces containing peach mousse. The chocolate thin, the filling nicely tart.

Herb tea followed – a small selection of fresh herbs cut table side. Not quite as impressive as the flamboyant and exotic herb trolley at Steirereck, but still good.

The craftsmanship required to create dishes of this level must be applauded. However, we felt that the menu was a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst some were memorable and truly delicious (often the simplest) others failed to truly hit the mark. Around 11 of the 21 dishes were truly delicious. This is not to say that we did not enjoy all we ate, some just failed to reach the level of expectation a restaurant of this caliber dictates. It must be noted that all of the dishes we tasted were beautifully presented with painstaking attention to detail.

Calima was a pleasurable experience. The food certainly merits applause and whilst some was not entirely to my tastes, it was still very satisfying. Perhaps the quantity of food could be paired back a little (all four of us were monumentally stuffed) by making the dishes smaller, this would have allowed us to give later courses the full justice they deserved. Despite the ‘contradiction’ in the Menu Oxímoron being elusive, we all agreed that our trip to Calima was worthwhile.

If you ever find yourself near Marbella, you would be hard pushed to find a more indulgent experience.

Restaurante Calima Dani Garcia

Food (For Four): €600

Dress Code: Smart Casual

Reservations: Essential

Recommend: Yes

Review: Rhubarb Restaurant, Prestonfield Hotel, Edinburgh

If you are ever in Edinburgh and in need of a place to stay, please, please book a night at the Prestonfield Hotel. Close to the city centre, the Prestonfield is a grand baroque house set in beautiful gardens. It is by far the most opulent hotel I have ever had the privilege of staying in. The bedrooms and formal rooms are effortlessly elegant with a mismatch of beautiful antique furniture and tapestries.

I have stayed in the Prestonfield a few times over the years; however, it has been a while since I have had dinner in the hotel’s Rhubarb Restaurant (Prestonfield was the first estate in Scotland to cultivate rhubarb). It seemed fitting that we gave it another try when we were staying at the hotel. Rhubarb has 2 AA rosettes.

The restaurant is split over two near identical dining rooms where beautifully laid tables are lit by candlelight. Lacking atmosphere it most certainly is not. The service in the hotel and in the restaurant is truly first class. Attentive and friendly, it makes for a better dining experience than many Michelin starred establishments offer.

Rabbit & Foie Gras

Rabbit & Foie Gras ballotine was paired with pistachios and apricots. A great deal of work had clearly gone into the preparation of the ballotine – the foie gras was silky smooth and the rabbit remained moist. The accompanying apricot was a little overpowering but pistachio gave a good balance of texture. Brioche crumbs were scattered on top – I can’t help but feeling It would have been nicer to have had a big hunk of brioche on the side.


King scallops came perfectly cooked. Apple cubes provided good contrast for the silky cauliflower purée. Lemon and chorizo were the star of the show, lifting the dish and giving much-needed acidity. This was a very satisfying dish.

Starters of Cheddar with Beetroot and Prawns with Lobster were also well cooked and tasty. The only criticism being the inclusion of basil with the Cheddar and Beetroot which proved to be overpowering.


Loin of red deer was nicely cooked but over-seasoned which was disappointing as the accompanying mustard mash and red cabbage purée were delicious. On the side was a black pudding ‘crumble’, a brilliant idea. The texture of the topping was just right and the black pudding added richness to the dish. However, this too was over-seasoned leaving us stretching for the water glasses.

Black Pudding Crumble

Two of us shared a Chateaubriand with béarnaise sauce and Madeira jus. The beef was cooked to a perfect medium rare and the béarnaise was delicious – not too thick and with a nice vinegar kick. This was served with a vast array of side dishes; another sauce (cheese I think), broccoli (a tad undercooked), dauphinoise potatoes, tomatoes (very acidic) and potato croquette/dumpling. The dumpling was amazing, very light. I was left a little overwhelmed by the quantity of food. It may have been more effective (and no doubt easier for the kitchen) to serve maybe one potato dish, two vegetables and one sauce and forget the rest.

Chocolate & Cherries

Descriptions of the puddings were a little try-hard – with gels, mousses and pastes cropping up in numerous guises. Of the two deserts we tried only one is worthy of note – chocolate and cherries with star anise ice cream. Chocolate ‘teacake’ containing an acidic cherry compote was delicious as were the small tuiles surrounding the ice cream. The star anise ice cream was a little overpowering and icy – it would have been nicer if flavoured with cinnamon.

The food was of a high standard and more than worthy of its 2 rosette accreditation. Perhaps if some of the food was simplified a little it would allow for a purer and more effective flavour to shine through. However, dining in such exquisite surroundings with perfect service, you can’t help but be impressed.

Rhubarb Restaurant, Prestonfield Hotel

Food (For Four): £220

Dress Code: Smart Casual

Reservations: Recommended

Recommend: Yes

Review: Roxburghe Hotel Dining Room, Kelso, Scotland

The Roxburghe is famed for its championship golf course; however, the adjacent hotel is equally well favored and is arguably one of the best country house hotels in the South of Scotland. Set amongst the woodlands surrounding the River Tevoit, the estate is only a short jaunt from Kelso in the Scottish Borders – ideally located to take advantage of the area’s extensive fishing and shooting activities.

In recent times dining at the Roxburghe has lost its identity, an abundance of chefs have passed through the kitchen. However, all this promises to change – kitchen operations are now headed up by Neville Merrin, who has recently moved his team from the acclaimed Feversham Arms in Helmsley. Neville was sous chef in a brigade which earned 3 AA rosettes at Feversham, these aspirations are being brought to the Roxburghe by a team who are hungry for success.

Apéritifs are served in the beautifully appointed library (formerly a dining room) where you can peruse an impressive whiskey list whilst sinking into the relaxing armchairs. In addition to the À la carte menu a special Grouse menu was offered to mark the start of the season of this glorious game bird. After a quick chat with Neville, I just had to go for the Grouse – fresh off the estate, they promised to be delicious.

Now to the food. Amuse Bouche was a beautifully firm textured broccoli foam topped with a morsel of mature blue cheese – a perfect match, the intense flavour of broccoli standing up to the strong cheese. The biggest scallops I have ever seen were cooked to perfection and paired with girolles.

Sea Trout Gravlax preceded the Grouse – accompanied by a powerful horseradish cream which was softened by pickled girolles and apple dressing.

The main event – new season Grouse. I felt like a caveman when a whole, perfectly rare Grouse was presented to me to dissect. A rich game jus acted as lubricant and game chips soaked up unbelievably smooth bread sauce. Watercress from the estate garden added a peppery punch and stewed berries gave some acidity. This outshone a similar dish I had at The Kitchin, which failed to deliver the levels of richness Grouse requires.

New Season Grouse

Saddle of lamb with lentils and fillet of beef with béarnaise sauce were equally as delicious and it was evident all ingredients were treated with the utmost respect.

All of the dishes were beautifully presented, clean and elegant. But nothing quite compared to a dessert of chocolate parfait and cherries. Utterly beautiful, the parfait had the perfect texture – somewhere between ice cream and marshmallows.

Chocolate & Cherries

Strawberry Consommé had an impressive depth of flavour, if the accompanying cucumber had been a little smaller, it would make the perfect summer dessert.


The attention to detail is impressive, the kitchen team have even gone to the effort of having a custom wax stamp designed for the menus. This attention was slightly undermined by service which, although very friendly and attentive, fell short on a few details: red wine was poured into a glass containing a different red wine. However, this did not detract from the dining experience and was a forgivable mistake.

The kitchen team’s passion for provenance and integrity of ingredients is second to none, it is not often you meet a chef who is truly engrossed in what he is doing. There are restaurants in the Scottish Borders with 2 AA rosettes who do not even come close to producing the quality of food we tasted at the Roxburghe.

It will only be a matter of time before Neville and his team are overwhelmed with awards and accolades. They are certainly trying hard and this will not go unnoticed. The Roxburghe kitchen is now in safe hands and the food befitting of the surroundings.

The Roxburghe Hotel

Dress Code: Smart Casual

Reservations: Recommended

Recommend: Yes

Review: Restaurant Steirereck, Vienna





Vienna hosts some truly spectacular restaurants and we were spoilt for choice on our recent holiday. However, there was one place we just had to try – Steirereck. Widely applauded as being one of the finest restaurants in Central Europe, Steirereck holds two Michelin stars and was hailed as the 11th best restaurant in the world 2012 by Restaurant Magazine.

Trying to secure a booking at such short notice I did not hold much hope. Sure enough there were no dinner spaces available for the entire week at any time. However, we secured a table for midday on Wednesday. The restaurant is located in the beautiful Stadtpark, only a 15 minute walk from St Stephens Cathedral. The restaurant is surrounded by a tabled terrace, which unfortunately was not in use on the day we dined – it would have been nice to have sat outside on such a glorious day.

The dining room is subtly opulent. The ceiling is covered with plaster moulded foliage, giving the impression of an enchanted forest and the tables are very generously spaced. There is a big emphasis on provenance and quality of ingredients at Steirereck. Many of the vegetables and herbs used in the restaurants dishes are grown in their own gardens – they were recently awarded the Slow Food UK Award.

We were shown to our table and were presented with the first of a series of canapés – an assortment of small variations of beetroot (one with confit duck leg) and other preparations of garden vegetables. The next canapé could have perhaps been the simplest but one of the most delicious dishes I ate during my time in Vienna. The dish was entitled ‘clothesline’ and consisted of a strip of air-dried ham topped with dehydrated watermelon, strung up on a mini clothesline. Truly delicious, simple and refreshing.

The food at Steirereck is intriguing. Underused and different ingredients are well employed and are prominent in all the dishes we were served. There was barely a course arrived which did not contain something I had not previously tried. Some dishes are not wholly what you would expect; the wild lettuce for instance tasting headily floral and pleasingly bitter. There is clearly much time and effort spent on adopting new cooking techniques. But these techniques are cleverly employed and appear only to be used if they will give real benefit to the finished dish.

Every course was enjoyable, some standing out more than others. The Iced Pericon with Bee Balm was unlike anything I have tasted, the texture of the ‘ice’/meringue was phenomenal. The use of bitter/sweet apricot and sweetcorn with the Venison was inspired and well-balanced. The cherries were paired with hay polenta – it would be worth returning to taste that dish alone. There really was little to fault. The quality of food was matched by the service which was unobtrusive and friendly.

The differentiating factor of all the dishes we tasted were the use of herbs grown in the restaurant’s garden. Many of them are obscure varieties which are tediously difficult to grow in the Austrian climate. But all without exception elevated the food to an entirely different level. Fundamental to every dish, their unique flavour was prominent and memorable. Please be sure to try the tea trolley – where a blend will be made to your taste with a selection of herbs from the garden (pineapple sage was amazing).

It was refreshing to be served dishes which excited and intrigued in wonderful surroundings and I urge you to try and visit.

Wild Lettuce


Iced Pericon


Herbal Tea

Restaurant Steirereck, Stadtpark, Vienna

Food (For Two): €138

Dress Code: Smart

Reservations: Required

Recommend: Yes

Review: Do&Co Restaurant Vienna

My girlfriend Jane and I spent our summer break in Vienna last week. Normally before any break I will make enough restaurant reservations to sink a ship, leaving little time for anything else. This time I was under strict orders, instead having to rely on my own intuition when we arrived – never a good idea (I am the worlds most indecisive person). After a quick trawl through tripadvisor on Sunday afternoon I came up with Do&Co, making a reservation for the following evening. Although no menu was viewable online, the restaurant was close to the hotel and a light lunch at the restaurant’s street cafe the previous day was delicious and affordable (the chicken caesar sandwich is a winner).

Situated at the top of design hotel Do&Co in the Haas Haus building opposite the majestic Stephansdom cathedral – restaurant Do&Co arguably has the best views of Vienna.

First things first – make a reservation. According to several blogs the restaurant operates a ‘no reservation, no table’ policy, no matter how busy they are. I’m not sure if this is strictly true, but a group of guys who attempted to have a drink in the restaurant’s bar, situated below the restaurant, were unable to secure a table or a drink. We dined on a Monday night and there was barely a table to spare.

The restaurant is widely regarded as one of Vienna’s most fashionable. Unfortunately this meant a dining room full of loud, brash young locals. The dining room is spacious (maybe 60/70 covers) and backs on to an open plan kitchen and wok station. Weather permitting, ask to be seated outside on the terrace which offers panoramic views over Vienna.

The service was efficient, not overly friendly but prompt and quiet. I appreciate it must be difficult serving customers who do not speak your native language, so don’t expect a great deal of chit-chat.

Now to the food. It really was an eclectic mix. The menu read like a map of the world – from traditional Viennese, to Malaysian, to modern French. No doubt there to please the hotel’s international guests, the menu had little identity. My heart dropped when I saw the words Donner kebab – a step too far? After ordering I was left questioning the quality of food which may leave a kitchen offering such diverse foods.

I shouldn’t have questioned. Goose Foie Gras and Mango came two ways: pan fried and terrine. Although the reduction accompanying the pan fried liver was slightly over reduced, the square of micro-thin mango jelly cloaking the terrine was deliciously tart, offsetting the sweetness of the reduction well. This dish would have been just as satisfying without the pan fried liver.

Crispy Prawns with truffle and salad were equally as well executed. A mammoth bowl of prawns were covered in deliciously chewy batter and the salad was hiding under a pile of shaved truffle. The only issue was the salad dressing, which was a touch too acidic and drowned out the fragrance of the truffle.

Jane’s lobster with cauliflower puree and curry oil was pleasant on first taste, but soon got tiring. The lobster was overcooked and cold and the overall texture of the dish was too soft. The puree was well made, as was the curry oil, but both were a little uninspiring when coupled with beautifully sweet lobster.

My saddle of Veal with béarnaise sauce, green beans and fries; however, was fantastic. By far the most tender veal fillet I have ever tasted – it must have seen the water bath before hitting my plate. The sauce was deliciously tangy and the green beans were elevated to new heights by sweet shallots and crisp sweet pancetta (american style I believe).

I used to love chocolate fondant, but I have lost faith recently after nasty experiences of overcooked, over-sweet cake. After a bottle of Pouilly Fumé I took the plunge. Perfection, an oozing core of bitter chocolate. Faith restored.

The kitchen can clearly cook to a very high standard, which leaves me wondering why they choose such a diverse menu. I am all for choice, but when you see a Donner kebab next to Goose Foie Gras and Fillet of Veal you have to question. A little more clarity and direction would give the restaurant a greatly needed identity. Although a little pretentious, the decor, prompt service and quality of food makes the Do&Co dining room a pleasant place to be and I shall definitely be returning.

Restaurant Do&Co, Stephansdom, Vienna

Food (For Two): €114.80

Dress Code: Smart Casual (Jackets for Gentlemen)

Reservations: Required

Recommend: Yes