Alex Dilling At Hotel Café Royal
Alex Dilling At Hotel Café Royal
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Restaurant Review: Alex Dilling at The Hotel Café Royal

05/18/2023
4 minutes

The Hotel Café Royal is a glittering example of the 19th Century tradition of the grand café. Not much has changed about this opulent historic location in the years since. It still has its beautiful frontage, facing London’s Piccadilly Circus, and it still attracts the high society of the day. Once upon a time, it was said that stars and noteworthy figures frequented, from Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf to Winston Churchill. In more recent times, Princess Diana was known to visit often, as was Mick Jagger. These days, the crowd at Café Royal is altogether cooler, younger, and more international - brought together by great taste and the desire to see and be seen.

Perhaps the most notable name now associated with this 5-star, luxury hotel is that of Alex Dilling, a celebrity chef of extraordinary talent and provenance. Beginning his career under the legacy of Alain Ducasse at Adour in New York, before eight successful years at The Connaught and a stint as Executive Chef at revered The Greenhouse, London-born Dilling has flipped the switch on what it means to serve fine-dining. His namesake restaurant Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal is the holder of two Michelin Stars, an honour that is well deserved. We are proud to say that his truly special restaurant is now available to book on TheFork.

The decor at Alex Dilling doesn’t compete for space or attention - the food is the artwork here. A tastefully reflective ceiling adds to a feeling of spaciousness as you take your seat at suave, minimalist booth tables. A marbled wall runs the length of the bar, that is hewn from onyx or some other attractive quarried stone. In-front of this, a troupe of waiters and sommeliers in achingly smart uniforms busy themselves. One readies impressive canapés, another pores studiously over our wine list, while another conducts proceedings, having greeted us magnanimously upon entering. Professionals all, we get the sense we are in good hands for the evening. The lights are trained, like divine spotlights, at the centre of each round table, and the message is clear. It is pure coincidence that the wife of the wine merchant who founded Hotel Café Royal was named Célestine - as every dish served at Alex Dilling is heavenly.

To begin our meal, Canapés arrive and each is more impressive than the last. Duck rillette with truffle is a tantalising crunch that eases the tongue into its tasting journey. Mackerel with black olive tapenade and pork cheek provides subtle flavours that coalesce majestically. Jersey royal with crème fraiche, smoked eel and caviar - one of Dilling’s signature ingredients - offers a smokey liquid hit that is grounded by the earthy purity of potato. Sea urchin and prawn is served on a bed of crispy potato for a deep taste of the sea, and given just a dab of heat by a colourful rockfish and saffron sauce.

We are treated to a bounty of homemade breads before the next course arrives. Classic baguettes are baked to an impossible level of perfection, as is the black olive twist and a hearty cheese sourdough that we drizzled with silky butter from a silver dish. It was then that the first course proper arrived; stacks of Pâté de Campagne, with delicate layers of Boudin noir, Iberico ham and Andignac foie gras. The second course arrived in an even more impressive style - a perfect slab of smoked salmon, served with a filled mushroom that evoked the welcome flavours of earth and forest - all draped in a delicious dollop of garlic sauce.

For the third course, we were treated to one of Alex Dilling’s signature dishes. His Hunters Chicken features a plump breast cooked to a satisfying sear in a cast iron mould, with a delicate layer of chicken mousse, mushroom, foie gras and a slick of jus glaze with a light crust of bee pollen on top, all drizzled in Albufera sauce. This was a far cry from the provincial French folk dish, Chicken Chasseur, from which it loosely takes inspiration. This was Hunters Chicken elevated to perfection.

Dessert was an impressive follow-up act. We were treated to a stylish serving delivered by the team’s expert dessert chef herself. On this occasion, we enjoyed three perfect baubles of iced cream, topped with a perfect quenelle of sweet cream. Cracking into this treat with our silverware was like discovering a group of glinting gemstones in a perfectly preserved shipwreck - with scoops of black coffee flavour glinting as though made from obsidian. As a final and unexpected treat, an encore of petit fours was laid out, featuring pastry financiers of succulent lime, unforgettable creme florentines, and dark chocolate tarts that hit all of the right notes.

With the evening behind us, we left utterly satisfied, ruminating on the menu’s many memorable courses. In this temple to fine-dining that Alex Dilling has assembled within these storied walls, we found ourselves to be its newest converts, and we praised it long into the night.

BOOK Alex Dilling at The Hotel Café Royal

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