William Cash enthuses over the sartorial make-up at The Grill, where he took Sky News' Ed Conway and Savills' Rupert Phelps for a celebratory souffle post the recent Spear's awards.
Following the Spear's awards at The Dorchester, I took presenter Ed Conway of Sky News and Rupert Phelps, co-chairman of the Spear's Advisory Board to dinner at The Grill.
As I said in my opening remarks to the audience seated at The Dorchester's ballroom (we had around 750 guests) that Spear's had moved up the ranks of corporate hospitality from a kebab shop diner on Notting Hill Gate (under our first offices) to The Dorchester in ten years was fitting. Mayfair always was the 'spiritual heartland' of Spear's.
The Dorchester has always been the most literary of the swanky hotels, so again it was a natural Mayfair choice for Spear's which has been described as The New Yorker of financial titles. Somerset Maugham took a suite on the top floor during the war when the lobby was often full of important figures in pyjamas and dressing gowns - including politicians, financiers, spies, and socialites - mingling and gossiping at all hours as they tried to access the hotel's famous gas-proof underground bomb shelter.
On one occasion Maugham - wearing silk pyjamas - encountered his divorced wife Syrie (a famous interior decorator) who had just escaped Paris. At the Spear's awards, I had a similar sense of social anxiety as I knew both of my ex-wives were 'in town'. In the event, I did encounter an ex-girlfriend at the champagne reception but dinner passed without social incident and our small party had a most enchanting evening.
I had taken my wife to The Dorchester Grill two years ago shortly after it re-opened under the design and direction of Bruno Moinard.
The evening was to celebrate our first anniversary (something to genuinely celebrate with my track record) and Laura said she wanted to come back. With the iconic ornate gold doors of The Grill surviving the re-invention, along with 'pivoting' wall panels which change the design and atmosphere of the dining room from dinner to lunch, The Grill has always evoked the super luxe 1930s atmosphere of a grand luxury Transatlantic cruise liner. The head chef is Christophe Marleix, protege of Alain Ducasse.
And when you are dining off The Grill's famous 'blue lobster chowder' followed by the most delicate but rich wild venison, pan-seared and braised pigeon, or the Highland Wagu sirloin - or any of the choice of 'for two' dishes that include whole Dover Sole for two and prime rib Aberdeen - you definitely feel as if you are not only in the first class dining room. Even more importantly, you are being transported back to a time when 'top people' had more leisure and actually took the time to enjoy the Alain Ducasse-inspired Sao Tome chocolate souffle - which takes a good twenty minutes to arrive.
Time to relax, and order another bottle of wine. Which we did.
Sitting back in your biscuit leather chair to enjoy the The Grill is what the Dorchester is all about. No need to rush back to your cabin. The Souffle menu is unique of London's grand hotel restaurants.
At £14 each they can be enjoyed almost just with a starter. One of our party had the superb looking 'Diplomatico Reserva' rum and raisin ice cream souffle, while another had the Sicilian pistachio and salted caramel.
Well, The Grill certainly didn't disappoint. The food was a diving combination of the classic with modern French cuisine avant-garde. I particularly liked the throwback to the 1930s art deco world - with parquet flooring, butterscotch leather chairs, and a hand-blown Murano glass chandelier. As my wife said, 'The moment we sat down I felt was on holiday.'
So how good was The Grill ? Whenever I go to the Dorchester, there always seems to be some some of judging element to my experience. My critical senses and synapses are stretched. For years, one of my favourite social events of the year was the Cartier Racing Awards at The Dorchester - so good was the exquisite ballroom cuisine and wine (always French and chosen personally by Cartier's executive chairman Arnaud Bamberger).
I admit we did get some inspiration from Cartier. Their awards formula is clever, and I had thought of it when we chose to switch to The Dorchester from the Savoy (having previously been camping put at various 'dry hire' auction gallery spaces - including Saatchi, Sothebys, Christies and Phillips - that never really worked as the DIY kitchen was too far from the guests).
The Cartier awards always succeeded because Bamberger's philosophy was that if you can create enough social A-list fire-power in the room, along with fun, glamour and chicness, nobody really minds if they win or lose. Cartier sets a very high standard but above all Bamberger always ensured there were not only 'industry' guests from the world of racing. He always sprinkled some magic dust by inviting social A-listers so the awards felt like you had walked into the Royal Ascot enclosure.
Oh, and I nearly forgot the memorable wit and banter of the award presenters - Arnaud himself and Harry Herbert of the Highclere Stud (himself featured in the Spear's 500).
I hope Conway and myself (who did the warm-up speech) succeeded in reaching the awards presenting standards set by the Bamberger-Herbert double act. Conway certainly pulled off the combination of 'wit, glamour and authority' that I had promised in the programme.
With a little help from our friends at Hackett, Conway began with a hilarious self-deprecating anecdote about how within an hour or so after we had first met for breakfast in Westminster to discuss the format for the awards, he had then received an email from our events team asking if he had any objection to being 'dressed' in a new suit by Hackett (one of our sponsors). 'I had noticed William taking an uneasy look at my very slightly worn suit cuffs,' he told our audience on Tuesday night. He was joking. But I am glad to report that the sartorial makeover at The Grill - like that of our host - was a triumph.