NEW VIDEO: 'I think we know where we're going, where we want to be in a year's time'

Alex South

Alex South



Alex Dilling is the next LAFONT featured chef, he talks to The Staff Canteen about his two Michelin-starred Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal restaurant, the inspiration behind his food, and the competition around being one of the industry’s most in demand chefs.

Delivering his vision of perfection since opening in the Summer of 2022 Alex’s culinary expertise has continued to help the push the boundaries of fine dining in the UK.

Exquisite in appearance and packed full of character, the executive chef’s take on modern French cuisine remains nothing short of original, with individual dishes and pairings transcending and challenging our traditional opinions on food and flavour.


Born in England but raised in the US, Alex’s career in hospitality began when he started working for French gastronomy’s most respected servant Alain Ducasse, under the direction of Didier Elena and Tony Esnault, at Adour in New York.

During his time at the popular Manhattan destination, Alex was credited as part of the team who helped deliver three Michelin stars in 2008 and two stars the following year.

Continuing his culinary journey stateside, Alex was appointed chef de cuisine at New York’s Caviar Russe where the restaurant won a Michelin star under his leadership in 2013, before moving back to London to join Hélène Darroze at The Connaught as Executive Corporate Chef.

Revealing his biggest industry inspirations, Alex explained: "I think my time with Hélène Darroze and Alain Ducasse would be the biggest influence to me firstly because they're just great figures in French gastronomy, and also they're both from a similar region in France so I do draw a lot of ingredient pull from that region being around the south west of France, so they have the biggest influence on me and my culinary DNA."

In July 2018, Alex succeeded The Greenhouse's former executive chef Arnaud Bignon, who spent six years at the helm and earned the restaurant's second Michelin star, before later launching Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal Restaurant on 1 September 2022.

Describing his vision, Alex said: "We’re a restaurant that’s really focused around product. We’re simpler in the way that there’s a lot less on the plate, we really have the confidence to put one piece of protein on a plate with a sauce and feel that’s ok and that makes sense, so we’re really a modern interpretation of a grand French restaurant."

Commenting on his decision to implement strict service times, Alex added: "As we’re a small dining room, we wanted to do this so that the room would be full at any one moment and that everyone can experience the atmosphere. It’s quite an intense service for the kitchen and the front of house, but I think that energy is when you’re at your best in a restaurant."


Describing what his Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal restaurant represents, Alex said: "The vision for this restaurant is the dream restaurant that I've always hoped to have and hope to be a part of. We really want it to be a great fine dining restaurant, a great French restaurant, somewhere you can come and have a spectacular meal cooked with incredible products that can be for a special occasion, but we don't want it to feel so formal that you can't come regularly and it has to be for something monumental in your life or a career."

Pâté de Campagne, served with a black truffle croissant

Featuring ingredients sourced from the south west of France, Alex’s menu is a combination of rustic dishes and traditional French cuisine, transformed and tempered into a truly unique incarnation of taste and elegance.

Diners can expect showstopping dishes such as Alex’s Pâté de Campagne, served with a black truffle croissant; steamed wild bril, served with cuttlefish and a smoked eel emulsion; and Limousin veal sweetbread, served with celeriac, black truffle and green peppercorn.

Explaining the restaurant’s focus around food and the vision for dishes, Alex said: "We get excited when a product is coming into season. For example, it's going to be asparagus now that is coming up, so we'll say ‘ok what do we want to do with that product?’ that's our base stuff, and then ‘how do we want to work around that on a plate?’. It's just about an ingredient we want to work with. It's the product, and then after that we like to challenge ourselves with techniques and different flavours, but we're solely driven by the ingredient we want to have on that menu."


Oozing pure talent, class and substance; you would be naïve to assume the thought of competition would be an alien idea for a chef as skilled as Alex, however the fact of the matter is the higher you climb, the more intense the pressure from your peers gets.

There is no denying that Alex’s skills are some of the best in the country, skills that were recognised at the Michelin Awards for 2023, where Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal was one of three new two Michelin star winners in this year’s guide, despite opening less than a year prior.

Steamed wild bril, served with cuttlefish and a smoked eel emulsion

However, with the UK’s hospitality and fine dining industry taking giant leaps every day, restaurants can no longer rely on accolades of the past to distinguish themselves from their competition, with Alex recognising this all too well.

"There's thousands of restaurants in London. You have to be sure that chefs are going to come here and do all these hours, and they're going to learn some stuff that they can't learn at the next place down the road, and I think we do offer that. I think our cuisine is quite exciting, so if you're the right fit for that it's a really great place to work, and also educate yourself on this type of cuisine," he explained.

Discussing his team and how he’s attracted some of the best staff in the country, Alex said: "We’ve been really lucky here that the opening team in the kitchen side has been the same from when we opened, to do this it’s about having the fair hours. It’s not a secret that when you’re working at this level, you’re going to work a lot of hours and I think anyone that comes and applies to work here is aware of that, but if a young chef is going to come work in a restaurant like this I think the best way to give back to them is by teaching them how to do new and interesting things."


The future for Alex’s restaurant is beyond bright, with the chef already achieving for many what would represent a lifetime of success, in just six months of opening.

Moving forwards the aim for him and his team is to ensure the restaurant is full every day and that it continues to remain profitable in what feels like an impossible industry to navigate.

Limousin veal sweetbread, served with celeriac,
black truffle and green peppercorn

Discussing the immediate priorities for him and his team, Alex said: "Ingredients cost more money, staff want more money, so getting those things ticked off in the point where the business runs and runs well, and you don't have too much stress about it. After that, there's the accolades, which are also really important. I think any chef who's working at any level would be weird to say that they're not important, we all want them, it's a huge pat on the back for the team, so that's important too."

Thanking his team, Alex added: "I think we know where we're going, where we want to be in a year's time and those points of success, I think will come shortly. I'm really happy with where we are, I'm really proud of the team, I think they do an amazing job, their commitment is just incredible, and I look forward to tomorrow and the next day and to see where we go."

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Alex South

Alex South

Editor 19th May 2023

NEW VIDEO: 'I think we know where we're going, where we want to be in a year's time'