105-107 Talbot Road,
London, W11 2AT
(Nearest tube: Notting Hill – 20 minute
BY NEAL MARTIN | DECEMBER 29, 2023
and red mullet with sea urchin sauce
fig, cauliflower mushrooms and Guanciale
with parsley sauce
Koehler-Ruprecht Kallstadter Kabinett trocken
bills itself as a “local bistro”. I always take the description with a pinch of
salt. What does that mean exactly? Will there be some bouncer on the door
asking for a utility bill to prove I live no more than a ten-minute walk away?
If only I did!
The Dorian interior
upon entering Dorian’s doors and surveying the clientele, I recognize no fewer than
four acquaintances who live a stone’s throw from its entrance. There’s the former
chairman of Manchester United, a wine-lover with whom I’ve shared a few fine
bottles, dining with a Masterchef champion who attended one of my book dinners
in May. Next table, a food/travel writer that, if memory serves, I last met for
lunch just around the corner about 15 years ago. Ah, there’s Aiste Misevicuite,
a super-model turned food writer (whose Luxeats social feed/website I
highly recommend, especially for those interested in the fine dining scene in
double-check that Hugh Grant isn’t sharing a gazpacho with Julia Roberts.
Dorian’s credentials as a “local bistro” are therefore confirmed before I’ve even sat down, before proprietor Chris d’Sylva bounds over to our table brimming with bonhomie. I like this. The only other person who does the rounds of the table is Michel Roux Jr. in the now-shuttered La Gavroche. D’Sylva is already well-known in restaurant circles as the proprietor of Notting Hill Fish+Meat, so one can expect top-notch ingredients. Dorian’s other credentials stem from the staff. Chef Max Coen is ex-Ikoyi, currently one of the capital’s hippest restaurants, the bar run by Ale Villa, formerly of Clare Smyth’s Core, just round the corner. By now, you can deduce that Dorian is the place to be seen and hearing that the wine list was worth investigating, I booked a table. I was asked to pay £50 in advance, which has bristled some of my friends, though I understand given the number of no-shows these days. I became accustomed to paying in advance in Japan, where the practice is more common, and I suspect it will become more widespread here. The interior is comprised of a lengthy bar and a counter where customers can pop in for an impromptu bite, tables close but not too close together and olive-hued banquets round the side, so comfy that your backside will refuse to budge for three or four hours. The large window frontage lends plenty of natural light. It’s buzzy, not noisy, a reassuring background din of chatter, the clatter of pans and the occasional rattle of cocktail shakers.
The menu here is top-notch. Half-a-dozen Gillardeau oysters, which seem to be the Oyster de Choix at the moment, are tangy and saline and commence lunch in the perfect way, except I could always eat more.
Sea urchin rösti
Dorian instantly became renowned for its rösti. Back in my student days, rösti were the ideal hangover cure, a sponge to soak the previous evening’s excess vino. Dorian seeks to reinvent the dish and does it with style. The prawn rösti are pink with an almost diaphanous gleam, yet they are so nuanced in flavor. The sea urchin rösti takes it to another level. Sea urchin is one of those delicacies where sourcing must be uncompromising, and these really are fabulous. It’s not just the flavor but the texture that makes great uni (I tend to use the Japanese word as I tend to eat them more over there). Who knew? The seafood delicacy makes a great rösti.
Scallop and red mullet with sea urchin sauce
urchin theme continues with the scallop and red mullet that comes with a sea
urchin sauce, all served in a shell. A little spicier than expected, this has a
real kick that almost overwhelms the red mullet, but overall, it retains
balance and is one of the highlights.
Partridge, fig, cauliflower mushrooms and Guanciale
from sea to field, the partridge is served with fig, cauliflower mushrooms and
Guanciale. The gaminess of the bird comes through nicely, well-cooked and lightly
seasoned, though I am more taken by the succulent fungi that simply ooze flavor.
Turbot with parsley sauce
main, it has to be half a turbot. Inevitably, one compares the fish to Tomos
Parry’s at Brat and now Mountain restaurants. If forced to
choose, I’d probably still go with Parry’s, but that’s not to take anything
away from this beautifully cooked fish whose meat slides off the bones and
whose flavors are lifted by a punchy yet balanced parsley sauce. The difference
between them is probably just the umami sensation that Parry imbues his turbot
by cooking over charcoal.
finish, it has to be good old pecan pie. Outstanding. It’s a perfect denouement
to lunch, a bit old school, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The Miyagawa
sorbet is a refreshing way to finish; Miyagawa is ostensibly a seedless
mandarin from Japan that delivers bite and bitterness. The sorbet is the kind
of dish that wakes you up if you’re about to depart for an extended lunch.
the wines. Dorian is serious about fermented grape juice and has a wide
selection of wines to choose from. When they first opened their doors, the wine
list was overseen by Dan Keeling and Mark Andres from Noble Rot, though the
sommelier informs me that they have expanded their selection, as well as
listing mature bottles from shareholders’ collections.
get this out of the way. A cursory glance at the list demonstrates why Burgundy
is pricing itself out of the pockets of all but the super-wealthy. Even a
selection of regional Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc easily top three figures. I look
on incredulously when I spot a 2013 Bourgogne Rouge from Roumier for £600. I
know it’s a blue-chip producer, but surely there’s a limit? Flip the page to
Bordeaux, and even some of the Grand Cru Classé are less than half the price.
Interestingly, if you’re prepared to shell out more, I do find some mature
clarets for very reasonable prices, and if I wanted to splash out, then I would
go for that 1962 Cheval Blanc. There are plenty of wines from other countries,
if that Roumier is above your budget, with some wines in 500ml servings, always
a useful measure for two.
for the 2021 Kallstadter Kabinett Trocken from Koehler-Ruprecht –
10% of the price of the Roumier. German Riesling like this should be flying off
shelves: taut and linear on the nose at first, it opens wonderfully with orange
rind, linseed oil and litchi scents, gaining delineation with every swirl. The
palate is beautifully balanced with a razor-sharp line of acidity that lends it
perfect freshness. There’s real depth and a slightly honeyed finish to this
Trocken, the kind of wine that you have to resist drinking too fast. Thankfully,
at 11% alcohol, you can drink as much as you like with fewer consequences the following
vintages of Maucaillou can be excellent. Alas, the half-bottle of 1990
Maucaillou was so oppressed by Brettanomyces that it was difficult to discern
the fruit, however hard I tried. You can tell there is actually a very decent
Moulis in the glass, but the palate is, again, hampered by Brettanomyces to the
extent that I cannot finish even this demi-bouteille.
is a great place to visit for either lunch or dinner. I might prefer the
former, but then again, I’ve not been at night. It’s very…Notting Hill.
Everyone here seems to have done splendidly in life and appears determined to
restore the tradition of a long and slightly boozy lunch, one that gobbles most
of the afternoon. Dorian is not inexpesive. Then again, nothing is in this part
of London. If it’s a local bistro, then it knows that locals won’t balk at
paying premium prices, not least one that comes with plenty of atmosphere and
the food reaches high standards without Michelin-starred pretensions. For
oenophiles, the wine list has plenty to offer. We’ll ignore that aforementioned
Roumier because it’s an extensive list for a bistro, blue-chips cohabiting with
more affordable names like the Riesling I ordered.
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