Critics give superchef Ducasse a skewering

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Indy Lifestyle Online

At £250 for a meal for two with wine, great things may be expected of Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester. But one of the world's top chefs has been blamed by critics for being behind one of the most disappointing restaurant openings of 2007.

With a restaurant empire spanning from Tokyo to New York, the 51-year-old Frenchman was the first person to achieve three Michelin stars on three continents. In total, he has 15 Michelin stars, three more than Gordon Ramsay, and his Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo is venerated by one of the world's great temples of gastronomy.

But his expansion to Britain has not gone smoothly. The eponymous restaurant opened in late November, yet reviewers have made disparaging comments about Ducasse's dishes at the five-star hotel and aimed colourful phrases at the beige dcor.

The pricing has most irritated the critics. Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester charges £84 for three courses, excluding sauce supplements, wine or coffee. The non-house wine ranges between £50 and £6,000.

A meal for two could only be kept under £200, complained one writer, if the diners drank tap water. Sat near Dame Shirley Bassey, The Independent's Tracey MacLeod suggested that, at £270, her meal for two was worthy of a rendition of "Hey Big Spender".

Time Out's food editor Guy Dimond estimated the establishment was overcharging by 50 per cent. Criticising a lack of the "thrill factor," he wrote: "There is much to enjoy about Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester; attentive, friendly service; perfectly executed cooking: a room that allows you to talk quietly and still be heard ... But it's the greedy pricing that ultimately spoils what would otherwise be a good meal out."

Not everyone has been quite so mean. Terry Durack, of The Independent on Sunday, praised its technique and enjoyed the squid bon bons and a "perfect tranche of venison." The Daily Telegraph's Mark Palmer welcomed a restaurant for dedicated followers of food fashion and "people with generous expenses."

But most reviews have been lukewarm, at best. Fay Maschler of London's Evening Standard complained that her truffle creme Chantilly tasted like cream squirted from an aerosol can and repeatedly referred to 10 supplements for sauces.

Jan Moir described her meal as "pretty average" and railed against the "corporate gourmet roll-out concept."

"What this place needs is some bone shaking soul," she wrote, "a proper restaurateur on the floor to add a spice of life to the proceedings, a kitchen sending out sparky dishes instead of these cooking by numbers gourmet specials, and a boss who will concentrate on spending money on quality ingredients instead of sculptures of carrots."

Ducasse's spokeswoman Maureen Mills said the chef was in his early days on the London scene. "He is an international chef and probably under more scrutiny than others," she ventured. "Any restaurant, in its first few days and weeks, is still in its teething stages. He takes all comments very seriously, good or bad."

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