September brings a whole host of new restaurants to London and perhaps the big new opening of them all is Alex Dilling at the Cafe Royal hotel. It’s not the most mysterious restaurant name – as you might have guessed, the chef is Alex Dilling and his new restaurant is located in the grand five-star Cafe Royal hotel in Piccadilly.
If you don’t know Alex Dilling, he was previously at the two-Michelin-starred The Greenhouse (now closed) and before that worked for Hélène Darroze, alternating between her London and Paris restaurants. His new restaurant at the Hotel Café Royal is very much in that vein – it’s not a chef looking to retreat to a country pub to cook rustic dishes – offering a choice of multi-course tasting menus who aim for Michelin stars from the start. beginning.
The restaurant is a small, quiet, intimate space on the first floor of the hotel with a bank of windows overlooking Regent Street — tables with these views are the best of the bunch. It’s smart and luxurious but perhaps a bit muted for some tastes, with a mostly white and gray color scheme throughout.
The food is anything but muted, however, this is seriously accomplished cuisine, full of creativity and color. It leans on the classic French style, but with a much more modern and lighter touch than you might think. Nevertheless, if you are a fan of caviar, sweetbreads and pigeon, you will be well served here.
At lunch there is a three course menu for £65 but at dinner you can choose between a signature tasting menu at £155 and a ‘connoisseur’ tasting menu at £195. We opted for the signature menu, which starts with a few small snacks to start, our favorite being a smoked mackerel terrine presented almost like a wedge sandwich.
The first three courses were the best of all (not to say the last were bad), including a huge dollop of caviar layered over a cream of smoked oysters; slices of mackerel with great precision with cuttlefish and buttermilk; and mushroom pâté accompanied by a shiny sphere of foie gras. There’s also incredibly good bread and butter – you’ll have three breads to choose from but you won’t want to miss the caramelized onion brioche.
Next, we lapped up a delicate clam chowder with Dorset clams and candied potatoes, plus Limousin sweetbreads in a rich, well-indulgent sauce of aged parmesan and anchovies. Bring a spoon to finish it off. A whole roasted monkfish tail is presented to each table on a silver platter before being taken away, like a Peking duck, and reappearing later served with red cabbage and hazelnut butter sabayon. Our final savory dish was a Breton pigeon blanc parfait with candied truffle and Albufera sauce.
A dessert described as “noisette du Jura” is a white sphere of sponge cake, hazelnut, cognac and vanilla cream, tasting almost like a mini Ferrero Rocher cake – a good thing in anyone’s book. The meal ends with a flurry of pettit fours, the best of which is an incredible salted caramel chocolate.
At a time when classic gastronomy seems to be going out of fashion, Alex Dilling showed that there was still a lot of life. It’s classic and it’s not cheap, but it has some really great food on display. We’d be amazed if it didn’t get a Michelin star in the next guidebook and might even go straight for it with two. Better get there quickly before you can’t get a reservation.
68 Regent Street, London W1B 4DY