I am actually feeling quite benevolent towards Dover Street because despite all the pitfalls (or perhaps because of - it can be fun to slag things off sometimes!) we had a brilliant evening. And although much of the wine list is eye-watering, there is some quite nice vin de pays for £14.95 on page 11, and they did refill our jug of tap water without asking.
But this is a restaurant review, so I can't really overlook the extortionate prices or the worse-than-mediocre food. Occupying a basement on the eponymous swish Mayfair street, this place has been catering to the moneyed dinner jazz crowd for nigh on 30 years, and you wonder whether much has changed in the period. The decor features white walls, white table cloths, discreet candle light and black and white signed photos of jazz stars. Bizarrely it's designed in such a way that most tables have no view at all of the small stage -- perhaps in a bid to entice everyone onto the tiny dance floor. It emerged after we'd ordered that there was only one band on that evening, which meant the music -- the venue's chief attraction -- would only start in another two hours, at 10.30 pm. When it did start, it was pleasant enough jazz standards but sadly lacking in any wow factor.
The menu starts with £5.95 for the "potage du jour" and goes up to £28.95 for the dover sole. With prices like these I feel you might as well order something with more expensive ingredients as it represents comparatively better value-for-money. My carpaccio of beef comes in six thin, red petals. I love the pepperiness of the pile of rocket on top, but alas it rather overpowers the fairly bland meat. It's OK, but it costs £9.50 and it's not a patch on the carpaccio feast that can be had in Cafe de l'industrie in Paris (the link is to an old food site I did back when we used to live in Paris...ah the good old days!).
The husband opts for the "scallops with the embeurree of leek and celery" (£10.95). What he gets is an elongated white dish with three scallops swimming in a white sauce which tasted quite strongly of... vanilla. It sure as hell didn't go with the scallops, and I thought it was pretty vile, but he claimed it went OK with the bread as a weird kind of mid-dinner sweet course. Following on in the expensive ingredients vein, I had the £21.95 foie-gras-topped fillet steak Rossini, served with "pomme fondante" which turned out to be a rounder, posher version of potato croquettes. It smelt temptingly of truffle, though I couldn't spot any of the advertised truffle shavings. I've only sampled this dish once before, in an Italian restaurant in Carlisle, and I have to say it was much nicer there. The husband's "roast best end of lamb" (£17.95) looked a lot better than it tasted.
The last kick in the teeth came with the bill which added a £2.50 a head cover charge (for a couple of bread rolls) to the 12.5 percent service charge. I queried the cover charge, saying I had not seen it mentioned on the menu. The waitress came back and showed me where it was - in small black print, on the bit of the menu which was shaded black by the musical leitmotif. Oh, how did I manage not to spot it?! Still, sometimes they do deals which makes the food cheaper and sometimes they do have truly amazing acts. And as I said at the start we still had
a good night. So while I am not awaiting a return visit with anticipation, I haven't entirely ruled it out as a possibility. Not that they probably care too much - the place was full on our week-night visit, suggesting there's no shortage of moneyed punters who like their grub expensive and aren't too bothered about the taste factor.
Dover Street Restaurant and Jazz Bar, 8-10 Dover Street, Mayfair, W1S 4LQ; Tel: 020 7491 7509; Tube: Green Park; www.doverst.co.uk