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The weird and wonderful meet in a revamped hotel classic

<b>DORCHESTER GRILL</b><br>53 PARK LANE, LONDON W1K 1QA<br>TEL: 020 7629 8888<br><b>FOOD</b><br><b>SERVIC</b><br><b>EATMOSPHERE</b><br><br>Cost per person without wine: 35<br><br>THE Dorchester Grill has got to be one of the most luxuriously Scottish-looking rooms in London. It is a feast of plaid, banquette sofas for one and armchairs in rich hues. Though there aren't antlers up on the walls, there really should be.<br><br>This makes it a distinctly wintery sort of restaurant. In fact, located as it is off the hotel's dark, gaudy Promenade with its potted palms and golden fixings and green thrones, it's the last place you'd imagine yourself in summer. To get to the Grill, you duck off to the right from one dark, overdecorated space to another. The clashing styles can take a momentary toll on your appetite.<br><br>One of the grand-dames of hotel restaurants, The Grill has been revamped and re-cheffed, now with Brian Hughson formerly of Rhodes W1 at the helm. The menu is both avante-garde and old-school - and, whichever guise it adopts, desperately British. The result is oddly good in places, and just odd in others. Or maybe that's just because of the way we ordered.<br><br>There's an impressive "grill" section, of course, which serves great hunks of animal, and there's a reasonably priced set menu which our waitress democratically told us is what Top Table customers usually go for: two courses for 19.50; three for 25. There's also a tasting menu that seems superfluous but isn't badly priced either, at five dishes for 45.<br><br>Quite a few of the starters are unusual. Neither of us had ever come across smoked mackerel ravioli and brown bread sauce (these accompanied milk-poached chicken), or sardine pie, which came with seared scallops and cauliflower puree. I was very excited for the sardine pie, and was disappointed by its delicacy: it was a thin strip of puffed pastry with a modest filling that lacked that pungency of sardine. As for the poached chicken: there was something quite 1980s about it (one almost expected a pineapple to appear in it somewhere) but it was very nice, the chicken soft and creamy and melting and the ravioli delicious.<br><br><b>GIGANTIC HAM</b><br>Mains keep up the mixture of solidly British with rather wondrously odd: pigeon with swiss chard on one hand; artichoke and leek stew with herb dumplings on the other. But we knew in a second we wanted the retro honey glazed ham for two, which came with parsley sauce, lardons, buttered cabbage, potatoes and scotch eggs. It was a porcine dream, not to mention a happy recession experience: the gigantic ham all sweet and tender, carved before us and studded with cloves. There was just too much of it. So, figuring they must get Americans in here all the time, I did the most American thing you can do and asked for a doggy bag I was smilingly indulged.<br><br>Eating here you are at risk of overdosing on richness. Take the grilled cheateubriand: it comes with truffled mash, wild mushrooms and snail aubergine bearnaise. Or fillet of Angus beef with fried quail egg, duck liver, braised short rib and artichokes. Hard to know how the digestive system can handle that kind of thing.<br><br>If you have space for pudding, we had a very nice cinnamon sponge and a less nice (but still pretty enjoyable) mint and chocolate parfait: a scoop of mint sorbet on a strange, flat triangle of cold choc-mint goo.<br><br>The sommelier, by the way, was wonderful. A plain-talking Englishman, he's not afraid to call certain types of champagne "grape juice on steroids."<br><br>It was an unusual evening but a worthwhile one. The Dorchester Grill is certainly unique and there is little chance that you'll leave hungry.<br> <br><b>In a nutshell:</b><br>Staunchly British cuisine spanning a range of styles and possibly decades in a classic old room at a classic hotel. Food is well-balanced between meat and fish considering this is a grill. Good value to be had on meats: almost too good value. Much of it is so rich you have to know when to stop.