Is the Dorchester the designated grand hotel for fat people? The portions at its new grill say so

And, in the manner of a retirement community, everything is in large print, from the cars in the forecourt to the groups wandering the corridors

7 March 2015

9:00 AM

7 March 2015

9:00 AM

The Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, is a cake floating in space. All grand hotels create a parallel universe in which their guests are returned to some great gilded and unnatural womb with mini-bar and floristry, but the Dorchester feels particularly remote; has it overplayed its myth? Or is it a combination of the traffic (Park Lane has eight traffic lanes, three roundabouts, one set of unicorn-themed gates and a monument to the dead animals of war), the net curtains (the decorative equivalent of blindness) and the strange completeness of the building?

What does the Dorchester, with its curved beige frontage and yellow awnings, actually look like? Bournemouth. Or any retirement community. Such as Monaco, or Torquay. It looks like a seaside hotel with traffic lanes for an ocean, somehow both jaunty and depressed. As a street, Park Lane is overdeveloped and overwhelmed; it feels wracked. The remaining 18th-century houses are cowering survivors. Each deserves a novel. The name, of course, is a joke, for there is no lane and barely any park: it is mostly a concert venue now.

And in the manner of a retirement community, everything is in large print in the Dorchester, as if for emphasis. It is a hotel that shouts. The cars in the forecourt (Bentleys and Rolls-Royces) are large. The floristry is large. The corridor that doubles as tea room (gaudy with dim lighting for the surgically exalted) is large; the parties are large. The Dorchester attracts tribes of people, as cruise ships do, shuffling in packs and taking photographs of random things: Arab royals going shopping; soldiers in dress uniform; movie stars. (It is a favourite venue for press junkets; I once found three Charlie’s Angels in the lift and Sir Ben Kingsley behind a teapot.) The only thing about the Dorchester that isn’t large is the protest against its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, for instituting sharia law in Brunei. The protest was organised by the fashion industry, which promised it would boycott the Dorchester and use the Brent Cross Holiday Inn instead. It didn’t happen. Fashion is fickle. Or perhaps the protest is too small to be seen by the unfashionable eye?

The Grill at The Dorchester - Black leg free-range chicken, 'street corner' potatoes, toasted country bread high res
Black leg free-range chicken, ‘street corner’ potatoes and toasted country bread

The Dorchester Grill is in a salon off the corridor. It is, again, by Alain Ducasse, scrawling his name on every restaurant in London so long as it is grand. Sometimes I feel like The Spectator’s Alain Ducasse correspondent, or, if in America, its vice president with responsibility for Alain Ducasse.

The grill is newly refurbished in brown and gold. It is smooth and glossy; it looks like a box of Terry’s All Gold. (That is what chocolate boxes are! Small, edible grand hotels!) It has a Murano chandelier blown to resemble a chandelier wrapped in golden tissue paper because there is always something new; today the money is on the ceiling.

The food, again, is large. I do not know if the Dorchester is the designated grand hotel for fat people but the portions say so, and this is odd for a three-star Michelin restaurant. This is food for people who care about chandeliers — particularly large and dishonest ones. Cheese soufflé is a dense yellow soup with a rising dome; caesar salad is overdressed and overblown; smoked salmon is small, in mean lumps, without bread, butter, lemon or hope. A rib of beef is good but too large in scope, like everything else on Park Lane — it should not be on the plate as it is; it should be on a dish to the side. (They did put the remnants in a cake box though, for dogs and husbands.) We could not stomach-pudding.

Who would dine here by choice? The lazy and incurious, that is who; those who cannot be bothered to take the Bentley somewhere better, somewhere else.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

The Grill at the Dorchester, Park Lane, London W1K 1QA, tel: 020 7317 6531.

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Show comments
  • dalai guevara

    You will be familiar with driving a Mercedes S Class, won’t you?
    That, as a select number of other models in its category, is definitely an automotive product one has to grow into.

  • Ngaire Lowndes

    Amber coloured water glasses on the tables. Uncomfortable-looking armchairs. Seventies caramel brown everywhere, with awful foil wallpaper. That’s enough to put me off from the start!

  • Mister Rible

    The Dorchester is a stereotypical Arab owned Hotel, that caters for rich fat Arabs, filled to the brim with rich fat Arabs.
    It has lost all its’ quintessential britishness, as an institution.
    I used to stay there all the time in the 80’s as did my extended family. Not anymore, we despise it.
    Everything Arabs touch, turns into turds; see colour scheme above.

    • Just like the Left, in that respect.

      • T_H_E_R_I_O_N

        WTF’s “the Left”?

        • Dogsnob

          The other ‘right’

    • Dogsnob

      Shiney shiney shiney!

    • Fasdunkle

      It is owned by the sultan of brunei – not an arab – a malay – but similar mindset

      • Mister Rible

        Yes, you are of course right.

    • Pacificweather

      It was owned by a Middle Eastern consortium with the Sultan of Brunei from 1977 so if you were happy with it in the ’80s you were happy with Arab ownership. The chef was Swiss when I ate there last but more memorable than the food was the wines.

      • Mister Rible

        Back then they knew their place, in a western country, whereas nowadays Britain is practically an Islamic state, hotels included. Or did you miss the HAMAS/MB conference they hosted in the Dorchester Hotel in 2013? You must have, nobody reported about it as it would have been Islamophobic to deny christian- and jew-killing terrorists, a hate fest in central London in one of our capitals’ most famous Hotels.

        How low this country has sunk.

  • Jeez, Tanya, how did you get this gig? I wish I could be so sneering about the best, all in the name of earning a paycheque. Then again, I believe that praise should go where it’s due and I’m not at all sure that you do.

    And please do tell us — even those of us that would find the sultan most unappetizing: What would an ‘honest chandelier’ look like?

    Caesar salads are, by their very nature, always overdressed, and that is why I always avoid them. And who on earth would ever order a soufflé? It’s just setting oneself up to be the butt of a chef’s joke.

    • MaxSceptic

      With regard to fatsos: It takes one to know one.

      • Hi MaxSceptic.

        • MaxSceptic

          Hello Amandastarspangled.

          I take it you too find it bizarre to have the larger than life Ms Gold as our arbiter of good taste….

          • I try not to make very personal comments as I am sympathetic to the difficulty of being wonderful — most humans strike me as being somewhere on the continuum of ugly, despite being good-natured. But yes, there is a certain perplexity.

          • MaxSceptic

            I do try to b nice…

            But Ms Gold does insist on putting herself in the line of fire.

          • This is true!

  • P. S. Someone took a picture of the Dorchester food? Was the camera hidden in diaper bag? Will the photographer face a Sharia court as a result? Or, to sum it all up, when exactly did Britain lose its mind?

  • When you eat at the Dorchester: your money goes to the persecution of gays in Brunei.

    • T_H_E_R_I_O_N

      Damn I thought they said Uganda.

    • Fasdunkle

      And many other people

  • trace9

    Or are those vast chairs really meant to accommodate voluminous arab robes..

    There was a Place in London
    An hotel for One-&-All
    But now renewed –
    ‘Tis homlier viewed
    From within a Muslim’s Shawl..

    • ‘AN hotel’? Since when did we last pronounce hotel without the H? Even Jane Austen’s insistence on putting ‘an’ before any word with H, however pronounced, grates (e.g. ‘an husband’). In English we seem to give ourselves silly counterproductive rules while at the same time trampling on logical ones!

      • RoadrunnerNick

        I believe that the style book of The Times book prefers “an hotel”. It reflects the soft ‘h’ in ‘hotel’.

        • There ISN’T a soft h in ‘hotel’ (headslap): that’s the whole point!

          • RoadrunnerNick

            OK, I think that ‘unaspirated’ was the term used in the style book. My point was that there is some method in the madness, as you may consider it to be. I think that the ‘h’ of ‘hotel’ does make itself a bit scarce when preceded by the indefinite article as ‘an’. This may be chicken-and-egg territory.

          • I see it as a fetish, myself. I definitely aspirate the h in all instances, including herb, which Americans bizarrely pronounce ‘erb’.

  • Michael H Kenyon

    “Arab rich”. Also known as “nouveaux riche”. Informally, “gold-taps capitalism”. I greatly doubt we will see tasteful wealth expressed with dignity and magnanimity in the coming years. Nobody who seems to do well by the boom has any apparent class.

    • Big difference between inventing things and bringing goods to market, on the one hand, and raking in obscene sums simply because one’s patch of desert happens to have oil under it!

  • Nick

    I park my Aston Martin there every day when I go in for chicken and chips in a basket.

  • tartan pimpernel

    I can never tell, after reading one of Tanya Gold’s reviews, whether a restaurant is worth visiting or not. Luckily she doesn’t review any north of the border, or I’d be truly stuck. Help!