dinner by heston blumenthal, sw1
so, dinner by heston blumenthal – what’s it like?
if you read restaurant reviews or uk food blogs/forums you’ll probably already have a view on this – there have been dozens of reviews, largely fulsome, gushing and full of praise, with hundreds of photos showing off the various dishes which make up the menu. a menu that, as you probably know, has been inspired by historic british gastronomy and which is delivered courtesy of a team led by ashley palmer-watts.
the setting is a room in the mandarin oriental hotel in knightsbridge, overlooking hyde park. despite the views and the millions it no doubt cost to furbish this space, the room is dreadful and, despite the much-vaunted glass-walled kitchen through which you can watch the chefs as well as the rotating spit which has pineapples caramelising upon it, the space is little more than a hotel dining room. the adjoining bar is similarly unappealing.
which is a pity because, although heston says this is something simpler than a fine dining restaurant, given the hype associated with his cooking and the fat duck’s position as one of the top three restaurants in the world since 2004, i wanted it to be special. and it didn’t feel at all special. thankfully, and predictably, the food more than makes up for this.
one of the most-written about dishes is the meat fruit – chicken liver parfait, covered with mandarin jelly and served as though it were a mandarin, with glistening orange peel and shiny leaves. despite appearances it is not a citrus fruit that sits in front of you – instead you get a beautifully rich yet light parfait that, spread on the accompanying chargrilled bread, knocks every other chicken liver pate that i’ve tried into the shade.
my starter was hay smoked mackerel. the incredibly fresh and delicately flavoured fish was served with an anchovy sauce (gentleman’s relish), paper-thin slices of lemon (confit?) and bitter leaves. every mouthful was delicious – the rich sauce contrasting perfectly with the bitter lemon and leaves and showcasing the mackerel to perfection. this was spring on a plate and i was very sad when it was finished.
my main, cod in cider, was similarly exhilarating to eat. my first mouthful was one of the “fired mussels” which was incredibly smoky and, once i tried the rest of the dish, i realised it was another perfectly balanced set of flavours. david’s black foot pork chop with robert sauce was a much simpler dish – a large piece of beautifully tender pork with a thin smoky gravy. this is never going to be the sort of dish i’d enjoy but he was very happy, especially when also tucking into a side of heston’s infamous triple cooked chips.
for pudding we avoided the much-hyped tipsy cake, instead choosing the taffety tart and the chocolate bar. my taffety tart was one of the best puddings i’ve eaten – i absolutely loved it. the combination of rose (crushed sugared petals), fennel (seeds), caramelised apple jelly, caramel jelly and a vanilla cream was wonderful but when you added the incredibly tart and intensely flavoured blackcurrant sorbet into the mix, then i was in heaven (apparently this is a dish from the fat duck). david’s chocolate bar was much richer, flaked with gold leaf and with a passion fruit jam in the middle of the bar plus ginger ice cream on the side.
the final flourish was a complementary earl grey and white chocolate ganache which was accompanied by a finger sized caraway seed shortbread biscuit. the ganache tasted like a very elegant version of condensed milk and the caraway flavour turned the shortbread into something very special.
so that was it – wonderful inspiring food in a pedestrian setting. i’d love to go back to try the set lunch (excellent value at £28 for three courses) or to work my way through a few more a la carte dishes (the starters appeal more than the mains). to do this will require ringing at 9am on the 1st of the month to try and get a table for a few months hence. not ideal but worth the effort.
if you want to see what these dishes look like, google is your friend - there are some lovely pictures online.
dinner by heston blumenthal
mandarin oriental hyde park
66 knightsbridge, london sw1x 7la
t - 020 7201 3833