The listed plane tree with its elegant, arching branches is what you notice first.
Then, as the breeze causes the leaves to dance, you start to make out the lines and form of the iconic, landmark building beyond.
The Dorchester, in Park Lane, Mayfair, is one of London’s most revered hotels and the plane tree which has marked the entrance since this famous building opened its doors in 1931 is perhaps equally well recognised.
As we make our way to the doors (to be met by staff whose manners are as impeccable as their uniforms), there are two red Ferraris, nestled, side by side in reserved parking spots. Would you expect anything else?
The cars could be said to be a little flashy, but there is nothing overtly showy about The Dorchester.
Yes, it is gloriously fabulous with a decor that takes your breath away – the first glimpse of The Promenade with its potted palms, Italian marble columns, plump sofas and banks of fresh flowers does render you speechless for a second or two.
But there is an understated tastefulness that seems to resonate back to a bygone era of chic and elegance.
Today’s treat is lunch in The Dorchester’s famous Grill – just one of its award-winning restaurants.
Welcoming staff settle us into our seats. Pristine, starched, white linen napkins are placed across our knees and as we sip on iced water and tuck into a basket of assorted, freshly-baked breads (Stilton being our favourite), the serious business begins.
I’m not known for my ability to make decisions when it comes to menus, so this is going to be a real test: the Lunch of the Day menu, the Spring Lunch Menu, the Tasting Menu. I’m just glad it’s not a Sunday otherwise there would be another couple of menus thrown into the mix.
Whatever our choices though, we are confident we cannot go wrong, for we are in safe hands.
Head chef Brian Hughson’s modern British cuisine puts a fresh spin on traditional Grill dishes and alongside there are timeless classics such as grilled Dover sole and Rhuig estates salt marsh lamb loin. So we know, whatever we choose it is going to be delicious. And our choices definitely do not disappoint.
I plump for a starter of Aldwych goat’s cheese, herb puree, bric pastry, creme fraiche sorbet and Jersey Royals. It may sound like a plateful but all these flavours and textures are combined in a gastronomic concoction which is delicate and dainty.
It looks beautiful on the plate, it tastes exquisite on the palate.
Next I order new season lamb with sweet English peas, broad beans and morels, all pooled in a light rosemary-infused jus (that’s gravy to you and me) and just because I think they have been tip top this year and I can’t get enough of them, a side helping of minted Jersey Royals.
Each mouthful brings a new tastebud-tingling sensation – not surprising that The Grill has the reputation it does. And with the Menu of the Day starting at £23 for two courses (£27 for three), it is terrific value.
Dessert for me (after further indecision) is an exquisite lemon meringue tart with basil sorbet. Satisfying, refreshing and cleansing. My daughter plumps for chocolate and apricot with praline crunch – but chocolate and apricot what?
We are soon to discover as the plate is placed in front of her. On it is something you can only describe as a chocolate tennis ball. Our waitress then pours hot chocolate from a silver jug over this sphere, the case of which melts away to reveal . . . a perfectly ripe apricot. There are oohs of appreciation from fellow diners.
Over coffee and home made petit-fours we savour our surroundings; a decor of Scottish-influenced red, golds and Tartan, offset by beautiful linen, china and subtle lighting.
This year The Dorchester is celebrating its 80th anniversary and is (pardon the pun) going back to its roots.
Inspired by that beautiful landmark plane tree, (which incidentally was designated one of the Great Trees of London by Trees for Cities in 1997), it will oversee the planting of 15 “future great trees” along Mayfair and St James’s which will form The Dorchester Anniversary Walk. A further 65 trees will be planted across London.
The Dorchester has an enviable reputation and it’s no wonder. It is first class, faultless and a feast for all the senses.