A Legendary London Institution Reopens: The Grill at The Dorchester

The Grill at The Dorchester
The Grill at The Dorchester

“I wanted to build on the heritage of the restaurant while staying true to The Dorchester’s ethos of using the finest, locally sourced ingredients wherever possible,” explained Christophe Marleix, Head Chef at the Grill at The Dorchester in London. In an interview tied to the recent reopening of the restaurant, we discussed the historical legacy of the establishment, its revitalized interior and design, and its wide array of new, authentic dining options.

Since the Grill first opened in 1931 as part of The Dorchester, how would you describe the evolution of the restaurant into an historic London institution?

Since the hotel first opened, the Grill at The Dorchester has famously been the home of culinary greats and a meeting place of celebrated personalities, world business leaders and royalty. It has been home to some of the earliest innovative chefs in the UK: Eugene Kaufler, Anton Mosimann OBE, and Willi Elsener.

The Dorchester Grill was originally designed by Oliver Ford in 1931, nicknamed the Spanish Grill on account of its ornate red and gold Hispanic décor modelled after an old Spanish palace, and adjoining sherry bar.

2014 marks the next epicurean chapter for The Grill at The Dorchester, which will offer informal but great food in a beautiful environment.

When was the decision made to completely redesign the establishment, and how have you balanced the history of the restaurant with its new look, feel and dining?
The renovation is part of Dorchester Collection’s ongoing commitment to enhance a world class icon and the hotel’s position in the London market as a top dining destination. Interior architect Bruno Moinard, the creative talent behind the renovation, has worked in collaborative effort with The Dorchester on his vision for the space.

The original ceiling and ornate doors remain an integral part of the current design paying homage to the heritage of the restaurant and discerning diners will notice that the new wall panels echo parts of the ceiling in order to bring past and present together.”

The Grill at The Dorchester: Up Close
The Grill at The Dorchester: Up Close

Turning to the renovation, how has the interior changed?

The six-month design project incorporated a full redesign of the restaurant and resulted in a complete transformation. The new, timeless interior design features layered textures and contrasting materials: zinc, bronze, copper, marble, leather, Murano glass chandelier and oak parquet flooring. The color palette features accents of amber, grey brown and caramel to add warmth.

Upon entering the room, the eye is drawn to the most striking feature: a dramatic branching, bespoke chandelier commissioned for the space. Made from amber-colored Murano glass, the light fixture is composed of large baroque forms imported from the Venetian island.

The Grill at The Dorchester: Grilled, hand-dived scallops and autumn salad
The Grill at The Dorchester: Grilled, Hand-Dived Scallops and Autumn Salad

The defining design feature of the new-look restaurant is pivoting wall panels, which create a separate ambience by transforming the light from morning to evening. The interiors reflect the all-day dining concept of the restaurant. Counter top-style seating and an open rotisserie add to the lively experience.

In terms of the menu, where did the inspiration come from for the new dining options, and what kinds of dishes will be unique to the Grill?

The Grill at The Dorchester: Vegetables from a 'Pot au Feu' with Vintage Vinegar
The Grill at The Dorchester: Vegetables from a ‘Pot au Feu’ with Vintage Vinegar

As Head Chef, I wanted to build on the heritage of the restaurant while staying true to The Dorchester’s ethos of using the finest, locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The A La Carte menu highlights the best of British terroir, with an abundance of produce sourced from within the United Kingdom. The signature Lobster Chowder features Scottish lobster medallions from Chamberlain at Billingsgate market, confit potatoes, button mushrooms, chives and fragrant bisque gently poured over at the table. Other specialist starters include hand-carved Hansen & Lydersen Smoked Salmon vertically cut from four different parts of the fish each with its own texture and flavor and a nod to fish & chips, Lemon Sole Goujonettes.

For dessert, those with a sweet-tooth can indulge in an extensive Collection of Sweet Soufflés – the first of its kind in London. Made à la minute, the soufflés are created using the finest ingredients featuring flavors from around the world such as Sicilian pistachio, Tahitian vanilla, Sao Tome chocolate and Cuban rum.

Finally, what’s your favorite dish on the menu?

The Grill at The Dorchester: Dover Sole
The Grill at The Dorchester: Whole Dover Sole with Lemon, Capers and Croutons

The Dover Sole – it is an honest classic British dish and a pleasure to create. The theatre behind the serving of the dish is also great to watch!

Rahim Kanani is the author of critically-acclaimed hotel management book and hospitality management book A Wealth of Insight: The World’s Best Luxury Hoteliers on Leadership, Management and the Future of 5-Star Hospitality.