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Dinner Is Served!

Opening its door to the public this evening as of 31st January 2011 at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was probably the most highly anticipated restaurant opening in the UK in 2010. The problem was (?) that the opening scheduled somewhat in December did not take place. A month or so later, we are having him – them – Heston Blumenthal and his right hand man Ashley Palmer-Watts relocated from the SL6 of Berkshire countryside to the SW1 of London’s poshest end. The venue of this gastronomic rendezvous couldn’t be more grand, with the former dining rooms of Michelin-starred Foliage and Park restaurant conjoined to create this spacious 140-seat dining room boasting the Medieval-looking candle chandeliers, the see-through operational kitchen and, guess what, the pineapple grill!? The place, designed by Adam Tihany, once in full operation, will be serving lunch, afternoon tea and dinner and offer al fresco dining in summer.

Heston Blumenthal is, arguably, Britain’s most celebrated chef right now. His gastrono-genius owes much to his pioneering of the molecular cooking that earned himself not just a PhD, the three red stars at his cradle The Fat Duck but also the title “World’s Best Restaurant 2005″ on the revered San Pellegrino list. Ever since, Heston remained the World’s Second Best after El Bulli (2006-2009) until Noma took over the top spot in 2010 re-arranging the gastro line and making Heston’s Fat Duck the third best place to eat on earth! With the calibre came the high expectations: my meal at the Fat Duck a few years back was sublime, dreamy and theatrical; Heston’s pub grub spin-off next door to FD called The Hind’s Head was solidly amazing; his TV series Heston’s Feasts proved entertainingly popular; and his Waitrose pie range set the new height for affordable supermarket products. This masterchef, it seemed, could do no wrong.

Seated and finally I got to see the menu I spent all day studying online!!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, before I continued, was not trying to be The Fat Duck. Rather than serving the deconstructed memory food and childhood experience, the menu at Dinner traced back the more historic past, say, from 1390 onwards. Dishes were, for example, Rice and Flesh – saffron, calf’s tail and red wine – and Beef Royal, which took 72 hours to cook!!! On the back of the menu, we were invited to check out the historical sources of the recipes. Of course, the kitchen would not go without the modern gadgety, the kind of cooking that defined the man and many of his disciples. Therefore, this would be the marriage of the old, the traditional with the bombastically modern. It was a paradox but well it worked! Price-wise, the cheapest starter costs £12.5, the most expensive £16; £20 and £64 (to share between two) for mains; and £8- £10 for desserts. The set lunch fares better for budget diners and costs only £28 for a three course meal.

The bread, while I was waiting for the dishes I ordered. The menu itself was overwhelming and made my life difficult as I was torn between so many dishes. At the end? Well, I decided to go for a 4-course meal, so I could squeeze in that extra dish I couldn’t quite make up my mind having.

The first starters arrived. My other bib went for the Meat Fruit – mandarin, chicken liver parfait served with grilled bread – while I ordered Salamugundy, an 18th century dish the name of which I couldn’t quite pronounce. Let’s start with my one, the Salamugundy. It was composed of chicken oysters, bone marrow, horseradish cream and salad leaves. I admit, this was the dish I wasn’t so sure about of the evening. It was a cross between a salad dish and chicken pieces with dipping sauce. Looking back into history, this Salamugundy was meant to be a dish of many disparate things. Here all the combinations were top notch: fresh leaves giving crunch, perfectly cooked chicken pieces with crispy skin on, juicy bonemarrow, extremely silky and mild horseradish cream and batons of some roots I couldn’t quite make out what that added bite, and the vinegar-based jus. My only concern was that these were many things I didn’t find particularly gelling with one another. To me, the dish was lacking balance and would work better if there was a bit less horseradish cream on the plate, therefore allowing the dressing to bind ingredients together. Also, I felt if there were fewer kinds of the leaves, it would make the flavours less diverse. But, maybe it would miss the point of being a historic dish of many things?

That said, my other bib’s Meat Fruit, disguised in form of a Mandarin orange, was D-I-V-I-N-E!! Sweet with a subtle hint of zesty acidity from the jelly skin of mandarin. The parfait within the fruit was so heavenly smooth that I though I was tasting nutella. Maybe a bad association? I was not sure if there was a touch of foie gras incorporated but that did not matter it was the BEST chicken liver parfait I’d ever tasted. It went texture-perfect once eaten with the crunchy toast.

Then came the second round of starters, which I inteded to be the fish course. I had Savoury Porridge and my other bib Roast Scallops. Starting with the porridge, I thought the presentation was reminiscent of Heston’s signature snail porridge. Tasting it, it took me to another horizon. The lightly salted cod cheeks were cooked to perfection; the ribbons of shaved fennels provided a mouthful of freshness and crunch; the pickled beetroots was sweet with a hint of acidity, all of which married off well with the tender porridge that was at times smooth and tickling the taste bud. Overall, it was a refreshingly amazing dish.

The Roast Scallop dish served with Cucumber Ketchup and Borage was interesting. First, the borage? The herb neither of us came across before that rendered a taste of cucumber! Again, very refreshing. The plump scallops were nicely cooked and given contrasting textures from the marinated diced cucumber. The roasted/pan fried cucumber added another dimension of texture to the dish. Sadly, before I grabbed hold off the magic, my other bib shunned me away and accused me of food theft! Next …

The mains … at first we were raising eyebrows because there were three beef dishes on the menu and only two fish options. But, never mind, it was the Great British tradition. We just didn’t do seafood, did we? I went for a Spanish treat of Black Foot Pork Chop, Pointy Cabbage and Robert Sauce, while my other bib ordered Turkey Pudding, the dish that sounded most banal on the menu! My pork chop was sensational. The aroma of the charred meat hit first and got my mouth seriously watering, and tucking in, thiis black foot pork – of Spanish origin and fed with acorn, I’d reckon – boast the marbling effect of fat in the meat. It’s like the Wagyu beef of pork, seriously! Once cooked, the fat melted and the meat oozed juiciness and sweet grease. It was the star by itself. The Robert Sauce – made with white wine, onion, stock and mustard – was intense with a hint of fruitiness and added depth that complemented the pork so well, while the cabbage replaced the richness with a hint of neutrality. I couldn’t be happier  …

Actually, I could …

I had a bite into the unassuming Turkey Pudding, which didn’t quite look like a regular pud.

It looked like this ….

A bit posh, innit?

The turkey was prepared and transformed into this gelatin thing sweet, light and subtle in term of flavours and wrapped around with this crispy sheet of breadcrumb. The pud came with coxcomb and girolle mushrooms. I am not trying to explicate the flavours as, again, I had only a bite into this. All I could say was that that one bite made my perfect pork chop not-so-perfect any more :(

Desserts. I felt I should finish this meal soon before I start killing my other bib for outdoing my dishes!! So I went for this Brown Bread Ice Cream, which was essentially ice cream, salted butter caramel and malted yeast syrup. It would make anybody with sweet teeth orgasm thrice. It was sweet, very sweet and indulgent. Lots of contrasting textures from the sticky caramel base, the cinder toffee look alike and the luscious ice cream. My only criticism was that the size of the dish, especially when compared to my other bib’s dessert, was tiny. And, yes, greedy diners did get very, extremely envious!!

Perhaps, it was my glaring eyes that scared my other bib off from spooning me his Tipsy Cake. His was a spongy brioche-kind-of-cake filled with condensed milk and served with roasted, caramelised pineapple. Yes, those ones that were on the sticks. I didn’t get to taste this dish but the other half kept ooouuuu-ing and aaahhhh-ing. Gosh, I wish I could beat him to death with my teaspoon!

The spit roasted pineapple slices … damn it, see that caramel crust!!!!???

We were about to finish our meal and delighted by the coming of the tea list. Our rare and favourite Vintage Puer tea, recently extinct from Yauatcha was there. The rose bud tea from Iran was a lovely choice for those not wanting to cope with caffeine in the evening. The petit four – we were surprised there was one considering there was no amuse bouche or pre desserts at Dinner – of Earl Grey Tea and White Chocolate Liquid, served with ganache biscuit, was the perfect way to end the evening. It was sweet, aromatic and very robust. A tweak on a lovely English cuppa to end one near-perfect meal ;)

And yes we caught the happy chaps on the way out.

They were very accommodating and informative. Really wishing them all the success and also really wished I ordered that bleeping Tipsy Cake!!! AARRGGGHHHH!!!!

One warning .. the drinks are pricey but well it’s still the Mandarin Oriental at the end of the day.

AFTER THIS POST, WE HAD THE OPPORTUNITIES TO RETURN TO DINNER AND HERE YOU MAY FIND MORE DISHES NOT TALKED ABOUT BY CRITICS AND BLOGGERS.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “9 out of 10″.

DINNER BY HESTON BLUMENTHAL

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge
London
SW1X 7LA

Tel. 020 7201 3833

www.dinnerbyheston.com

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal  (opening soon)  on Urbanspoon

24 Comments

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  3. Looks and sounds amazing, particularly the little orange. good for you that you got in on the first evening! (I am sorry though that you got outdone by your better half, on the other hand you did not exactly suffer, did you?) I don’t think I will ever make it to the Fat Duck, so finally a chance for me to sample Heston’s cooking. 28 for the lunch menu is not bad really…

    • No, I didn’t suffer at all, though it would have been great to try some of those spit roasted pineapples!! Next time, maybe.

      Menu-wise, I’d say, Dinner to me was more interesting than The Fat Duck if you take the price – plus the fact that in my non-blogging life I study literature and history! – into consideration. It’s mainly because the menu at the Fat Duck hasn’t evolved much and may be outdone by other budding restaurants in the Continent in a matter of years. I will be going for lunch again but won’t probably splash out on drinks as much as I did last night. The drinks there can cost … A LOT!

  4. Stunning write up and great photos. We’re not booked in until late April but this has made me even more impatient to get there.

    In fact, what are the portions like? We were thinking of ordering a set menu to share alongside the a la carte.

    • Thank you for the comment. The portions are adequate but do note there are no freebies – amuse bouche or pre desserts – in between, so a three course there will fill you up nicely but not too well. I am on a diet so I fast all day for the meal and I didn’t find the 4 courses too stuffy. The mains are relatively generous. Some of the starters look smaller than others but by the time you finish the dish it will make you feel satisfied, I think. This is the case with the Meat Fruit which looks tiny but quite rich. The only problem I have with the size of the dishes is when it comes to desserts. My one – the Brown Bread Ice Cream – was half the size of the Tipsy Cake, which I think is unfair.

      I guess, you’re booked for lunch? If so, one set menu and one a la carte will suffice. Alternatively, get 2 set menus and one extra dish each from the a la carte as an intermediate course might be good and you probably won’t need dinner. Don’t want to make the reply too lengthy but I should add the flavours at Dinner are quite bold, meat-oriented and for desserts quite sweet, which are the kind of flavours I love. So, even if the portion might not be gargantuan, the richness of the flavours will make you feel comfortably stuffed.

      They also do filtered water, which I didn’t mention in the post, and it can help save some pounds and you can splash out on wine (not cheap!).

      Hope it helps :)

  5. LNR

    Thanks for the excellent and detailed review, I think it will really help my other half get to grips with what it’s all about, instead of the blind panic when he looked at the menu on the Dinner by Heston site!

    Can I ask how you took the photos please – by stealth, or were the waiting staff fully aware you were snapping away? I love taking photos of my dinners but always feel like it’s not quite the done thing! Definitely would love to capture a few key moments of the evening.

    Can’t wait til March :D

    • Thank you for your comment :) And that “blind panic” yes I felt the full force of that all afternoon before I finally went to Dinner and I still had to take time making my final decision!

      As for the photo-taking, the staff were accommodating so you can feel at ease snapping away some good dining memories. Quite a few others seated beside me were doing the same really! There are certain places that will stop you for doing so, but not at Dinner. Those are more likely to be celebrity-spotting venues and they forbid photography to secure privacy for their celeb diners, which is fair enough. I should add, if Heston is there and not too busy plating up dishes or supervising the kitchen, I’m sure he will be more than happy to be included in your photo memory! He’s one of the most unassuming, friendliest world-renown chefs I’ve ever come across.

      I hope you’ll love your meal in March! I would like to go back and try the cheaper lunch option so much :D

  6. Great post, I keep seeing pictures of the Meat Fruit over all the reviews but nothing else so it is great to see some of the other dishes. Obviously it is booked up for ages so I will have time to save, but do you think it would be worth going for the cheaper lunch menu, or is it all about those big name dishes so worth saving a bit more to go the whole hog? Love the blog by the way.

    • Hi Ben,

      Thanks for the comment and for the love :-D

      I can’t say for sure if it’s worth getting the cheaper lunch menu over the A La Carte but from my experience restaurants such as Dinner will still serve lunch that will not disappoint, though those dishes might be less complicated in nature. Depending on how much you usually eat, you can opt for the lunch set menu and order one extra dish from the A La Carte. Perhaps one Meat Fruit to share with the ones you go with? I seriously get hungry talking about this. If you couldn’t get a cancelled table before mid April, come back and check here for the set lunch update. I’m going again in April. Can’t wait as I don’t have to pay!

      As for the Meat Fruit comment, I totally agree. It seems all food bloggers and critics order it … what a boring bunch lol

      • Thanks for replying. I look forward to your set lunch review with jealousy that you don’t have to pay. Enjoy!

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