As an act of witless cultural vandalism, the Dorchester’s Grill’s new look takes some beating. Out goes the characterful Spanish Baronial styling of 70 years’ standing. In comes a riot of Tartan High Camp that would not disgrace a Marriott in a Scottish golf resort. Dr Johnson’s observation – ‘The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!’ – may have been a reaction to horrors such as these.
And it gets worse. The food – previously a bastion of grand traditional Anglo-French fare – has become tedious and expensive. Frenchman Ollie Couillard helped establish a formidable reputation for La Trompette. But what is excellent in Chiswick at £45 / head is disappointing in Mayfair at half as much again. When it comes to English traditional fare, Monsieur C loses his way completely. A set lunch, for example, comprised a tepid brandade, an indifferent plate of roast beef (from the trolley), and an insipid, over-fancy apple crumble (with cream!). Desserts are no better from the carte: the sticky toffee pudding is no better than at any respectable gastropub, but costs a whacking £10.50.
Service – formerly a textbook combination of efficiency, old-fashioned style and easy charm – has been made ‘modern’, matey and sloppy. You should not have to cast about to find a waiter’s eye in the half-full dining room of a five-star hotel. Nor should you have to re-scan the bill because – although it is stated that 12.5% has been added for service – no service charge line actually appears. It is especially important for an establishment to be clear about such things when a blank space on the credit card slip invites you to tip again – not, oddly, an invitation we felt it necessary to take up.